The article “Whatever happened to the good old typist?” by M. Thiagarajan (Open Page, June 6), took me down memory lane. Sixty two years ago, after passing out from school, I joined a typewriting institute so that I could get a job as a typist. Even while pursuing my Master's in Geology, I continued to learn typing.
I found the skill very useful while doing my higher studies in the U.S. I continue to use my 41-year-old Olivetti Underwood Lettera 32 to draft research papers for publication.
I still remember how, when I joined a private company in the1960s, I used to look with awe at the typist whose fingers danced over the typewriter keys with his eyes scrolling the papers. A typist had an edge over other staff as he or she had easy access to the boss. We relied on him or her to tell us about the boss' mood before treading cautiously into his cabin. In many organisations, steno-cum-typists were de facto bosses. With the advent of computers, typewriting institutes have gone into oblivion. When my company decided to bid adieu to typewriters, the once revered machines were sold for a song.
R. Thirumalai Muthu,
In the 1950s, parents of middle class households made their children acquire typewriting skills soon after they passed out of school. Typing was a passport to a good and comfortable job.
Stenos were the envy of the other staff since they always rubbed shoulders with the higher-ups. Thus keeping the boss' steno in good humour was also important.
Seshagiri Row Karry,
The good old typists are all still around. They occupy a more exalted seat in front of computers, with the same jumbled alphabets on the keyboard. They are more skilful, efficient and fast. The typewriter and the typist have made place for the computer and the operator.
K Nehru Patnaik,
The extinct species called the typist was a condemned lot. Even the best among the typists was shouted at by his/her higher-ups for minor errors. Only very few typists were fortunate enough to have kind, compassionate and efficient bosses. Innovative thinking and its implementation were the hallmark of good typists and they became an asset to not only their superiors but also the organisation.
T.S. Pattabhi Raman,
It was truly a spectacle in those days to see girls and boys hurrying to typewriting institutes in the early morning. Many typists rose to the top rung of the management. Today, typewriters are huddled in the corners of big offices and like grandmas, they watch the modern lifestyle of the young.
The article reminded me of typewriting institutes bustling with students and my formative years as a stenographer. Those were the days when the institutes were considered a second college for graduates and under-graduates. Job-seekers aspired to get through the typewriting and stenography examinations to brighten their opportunities.
My father who worked as a typist in a government office for three decades in pre-independent India had an amazing vocabulary in English.
Although he was lowly paid, he grew to be a legend in his lifetime for his extraordinary prowess in drafting letters, petitions, documents, representations and memoranda. He was highly sought after by his friends and relatives. I was greatly inspired by him and developed a passion for writing.
I started my career as a stenographer and had the privilege of working with stalwarts whose English was impeccable. If I am able to write this letter, it is because of my association with them.
Most people preferred to learn typing as it did not entail any homework. Whereas, learning shorthand did require one to do homework. I still remember the days when I used to practise shorthand. My brother used to dictate The Hindu editorials with instructions to transcribe.
Mr. Thiagarajan is baffled by the ‘qwerty' arrangement of the English alphabets in the typewriter keyboards. The typewriters manufactured first in 1868 did have keyboards with letters arranged alphabetically. But, with a quick pace of typewriting, the machines threw up mechanical problems. The hammer levers fixed with the reversed letter heads striking the paper got cluttered and jammed frequently. To do away with this mechanical problem, the inventor rearranged the keys in such a way that the keys of the frequently occurring combination of letters did not lie adjacent to each other, but were separated by one or two letters.
But with Tamil keyboards for computers, the designers have taken liberties and we have many layouts to choose from.