News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Liz Ciancone

August 9, 2011

LIZ CIANCONE: Coming to grips with typing technology

I was asked the other day if I still used a typewriter.

Actually, I am trapped somewhere in the 20th century. I use the familiar typewriter keyboard, but now it is attached to a laptop computer. There are so many keys I don’t understand at all, but I don’t poke at them to see what happens. So far, a combination of what I learned in high school and the new miracle of writing and sending it off into thin air works for me.

I am thankful that I do not have to write in longhand and work with a quill pen. Just thinking about taking pen in hand and writing “War and Peace” or “A Tale of Two Cities” gives me writers’ cramp.

Taking a year of high school typing wasn’t my idea. Dad, who was trapped somewhere between the 19th and 20th centuries, thought everyone should learn to use a typewriter. He thought it was the path to fame and fortune. He even insisted that Ed take typing and that served Ed well in the Navy where he qualified to become a “feather merchant.”

So, my junior year of high school I sat down before an old Underwood typewriter in the “business lab.” It doesn’t take long to learn the keyboard which is really rather logical. Keys for the most-used letters are easy to reach with the strongest fingers. What did me in was the required timed tests which we had to pass with minimal errors — not just once, but a half-dozen times.

I couldn’t seem to eliminate those pesky errors so got only a half credit for my year at the Underwood. But, I was offered a deal. If I came back in the fall and passed the timed test as required, I’d get the other half credit. Dad insisted.

I spent the summer typing address stencils. They were framed in cardboard and fitted into a bracket. The object was to cut the name and address through the stencil. If, after a test run, the ink didn’t pass clearly through my work, I’d get the stencil back and do it again. I hated that job.

But, it developed my speed and my accuracy and that fall I aced the test.

Liz Ciancone is a retired Tribune-Star education reporter. Her column has been published on this page for more than 20 years. Send e-mail to Ciancone at

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