Thursday, September 15, 2011

Typing An Ode

Here's a wonderful article that I read about typewriters: Typewriter lives on in India.

As I read it, I was transported back to my days, not too long ago, when I was learning typing. I was just out of school and my mom wanted me to learn typing. Even then it was considered one of the things that girls ought to know. I had readily signed up for the typing class, not because it was a girl's thing. But because it was something exciting, something new, something that connected me to the outside "office" world.

For so long, typewriters, typewriting, and the typewritten word have been associated with the "official" world. A world that included so many memos, proposals, calculation sheets, orders, accounts, receipts, and bills. It also included legal notices, affidavits, lawyers, laws, and bureaucratic work. It was a representation of governmental procedures, and rules and regulations.

I remember going to the class early morning to start hammering away on the typewriter. It was only then did I realise the importance of the little finger on my left hand that's used to type the "A." And it pained so much! I started with the middle line on the keyboard. A, S, D, E, F, G had to be typed with the left hand using the little finger, ring finger, middle finger, index finger, and index finger again respectively. And then, ',  ;, L, K, J, H had to be typed with the right hand using the little finger, ring finger, middle finger, index finger, and index finger again respectively. It was so damn hard.

Once I had fairly grasped typing the much-harder-than-computer keys, I proceeded to learn the upper and lower lines. Till then all my fingers had gained the power and strength to type all those keys. As I continued individual letters, I was waiting to move on to the next level of typing words, then sentences, paragraphs, followed by those letters, memos, notices, and what not.

I progressed on to type smaller 3-letter, 4-letter words. In between, there were those dreaded how-many-words-can-you-do-per-minute exams. I never fared well in those exams. Perhaps it was the teacher. She looked so sinister, and so old-worldly. So much like those typewriters whose prime time was gone. Or I think it was the machine, it was so old, it took time to print the word on the paper after I had typed it.

Whatever it was, once I had grasped the complete keyboard, I didn't take too many efforts to attend the class regularly. I ended up using my typing knowledge to type less harder keys: the computer keys.

Today we talk about the QWERTY keyboard for mobile phones. But we must remember that it was the typewriter that gave us that keyboard and made life easier for us.

In its own time, the typewriter had its glory. It was a status symbol to have a typewriter. A status symbol to let your neighbours hear you hammering it on those keys, and showing off the immense important work that you were doing. And rightly so. It was one of those machines that made life easier, creating multiple copies of your writing using a carbon paper, providing a standard of fonts, types, and stationery that made your work look so very "official."

Typerwriters have had their claim to fame in Bollywood movies too. Movies of the 1960s and 1970s showed the film heroines as typists for a multi-millionaire, whose spoilt sons would ultimately win the heroines. Or it would be an office romance, where the girl is a typist and the boy working on some post in the office.

One such movie of office romance is Choti Si Baat. It is a wonderful light, heart-warming comedy. The opening credentials are actually shown as being typewritten. The story talks about large financial firms in Mumbai in which the girl and boy work. And as the narrator talks, we can hear the background of hundreds of typists typing away gaily on their machines.

But not all the times were typewriters used for love (letters). There were incidences when typewriters were used to obscure the identity of the perpetrators of crimes. Notes of abductions, ransom, murders, unnamed posts, all were typed rather than hand-written. Of course, people from the investigative departments also were specialised to recognise the make of the typewriter, and find out the individual characteristics of each typewriter. The method of obscuring the identity is in fact now easier. You just need to create a fake e-mail address and send out terror e-mails out to the world. Power in the wrong hammering hands!

Typewriters are now replaced with computers. Life moves on. But in between, things do remind us of our glorious past, making us nostalgic, happy, and content.

Salaam to the typerwriters!

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