They call it keyboarding these days, but when I was in high school in the sixties the name of the course was typing. Despite being a college prep student, I took a full year of typing, sitting among the future stenographers of America. I knew it would be useful during my future career as a writer.
I was wrong about the career. There were periods of professional writing, such as my brief stint as a journalist and a few magazine pieces, but my livelihood comes from the classroom. Nevertheless, keyboards are a big part of my life and it helps that I can rattle off text with aplomb, speed, and accuracy. It was a big advantage when I returned to grad school for a math education degree.
Last month I was reminded about my weeks in typing class when I started digging through one of the archive boxes evicted from my parents' basement. Mom wanted to reclaim some space, which entailed certain adult children taking responsibility for material left behind. I started sorting through the box's contents and found myself looking at ancient documents from high school. The forty-year-old papers included some sheets from my typing class. Doodling!
Did you know you could doodle on a typewriter? I was already a self-taught typist when I began the typing class and picked up speed rapidly. My instructor didn't care if I finished the in-class assignments early as long as I did not distract my slower neighbors. Therefore I often banged out random short stories. (My preferred genres were science fiction and mystery.)
I also, however, tried my hand at some typographical humor. The source of my inspiration is unknown. Perhaps I had seen previous examples, but I don't recall any. All I have is the silent testimony of two pages of typewriter doodles. The players are characters from the keyboard and their dialog floats above their heads. Here's an example:
How did he lose his leg?
Y X X
I seemed unduly fond of amputation humor. Perhaps it just suits the medium:
Victor, you don't have a leg to stand on.
They had to amputate his foot.
E E F
How delightful. The surgical vein continues.
I happen to know that it's silicone.
p p P
And the Queen said, "Off with his head!"
8 8 o
Oscar, I don't think that Clyde is all there.
O O C
Of course, I was in high school. The local scene must have inspired this one:
Shocking! And in public, too!
I I X I I I I
It's tricky trying to replicate some of these typewriter gags on a computer. For example, here's a joke that depends on an overstrike, which is easy on a typewriter. Not so easy with a word processor or on a blog. The image is a scan of the original document:
Good typewriters also offered half-line spacing for convenience in creating superscripts and subscripts. I'm sure I used half-line spacing to place the feathers (apostrophes) close to the horizon (underline characters):
Just think. Had my mother simply trashed the contents of her overstuffed basement, these gems would have been lost to history. What a precious gift they are to us today, four decades later!