Jan 252009

Yesterday was a family day. We drove about 65 miles to Apache Junction for dinner with Terry’s parents, sisters, and a couple of other family members. Great food with great people that you love – it just doesn’t get much better than that.

Terry’s dad and mom, Pete and Bess Weber, are active and always a lot of fun to be with. Can you believe that at almost 79 years old, Pete took a job a while back as a WalMart greeter and stocker?

Terry’s youngest sister, Lisa, and her husband Jim were there, and I never pass up an opportunity to tease and flirt with Lisa. She’s absolutely gorgeous and a favorite of mine. Brother-in-law Jim is an easygoing guy whom I always enjoy visiting with.

Dani, the middle sister, is a beautiful woman that has worked as a flight nurse practitioner for an air evacuation company for years. A while back Dani took an administrative position with the company, but she still gets some flight time in now and then. Several years ago Dani was featured in an A&E television program on paramedics and other emergency medical professionals.

Dani’s daughter Lauren was also there. Lauren is a journalist who is a rising star in the Phoenix media scene. Since I’ve been involved in the newspaper business for so much of my working life, I always enjoy talking to Lauren about her work.

I’ll admit that this young woman managed to remind me just what a dinosaur I am, though, when she said she was fascinated by old time manual typewriters. “Old time?” I learned to hunt and peck on one of those old clunkers, but I guess to someone who grew up in the computer age, it really is ancient technology.

The equipment may have changed, but I’m afraid that I have not. I’ve never managed to get past being a two fingered typist, even with all of the hours I sit in front of a keyboard every day. I wish I really knew how to type. Between the blog, articles for the Gypsy Journal, my three websites, and my ongoing book projects, I crank out anywhere from 500 to 5,000 words a day with my primitive typing method.

Actually, I’m pretty fast with my pair of pudgy little digits, and thanks to my computer’s spell check feature, sometimes I can even read my work when I’m done. But I have always regretted that I never took a typing class. I keep wondering if one of those Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing lesson programs could teach this old dog a new trick or two. Has anybody out there ever tried them? If so, how did it work out for you?    

 Thought For The Day Always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

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Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  15 Responses to “Family Time And Typewriter Tales”

  1. I’ve tried those typing programs several times in the past. I got to the point where I type with three fingers on my left hand and one finger on my right — go figure.

    I think I just didn’t stick with it long enough; figured I made do well enough with my funny way of typing that my wife laughs about. Now that I’ve been retired for a couple of years, maybe I out to give it a try again — or not. 😉

  2. When I was in college in the 1970s, I was a pretty fast two-finger typist, enough so that one librarian made a joke of it. In the 1980’s, I got my first computer, a Commodore 64. In a computer magazine of the day, I read a article written by William F. Buckley about how he learned to type.

    As he was going away to college, his father’s secretary game him a sheet with the typewriter key positions drawn on it, and she told him to paint over the keys on his typewriter. If he was hunting for a key, he would have to look at the sheet, and not at his hands. It worked for him.

    I cut little pieces of electrical tape, and covered all the letter keys of my brand-new baby. This worked a bit for me. i still looked at my hands a a lot, to see which finger I was using, but was beginning to understand that J was next to K, and so on.

    I really learned to touch-type in the 1990s after I got my first IBM clone, and was using a Morse Code program to practice for ham radio tests. The computer would play a letter in Morse Code, and I had to type the letter in response. As it went faster and faster, so did I.

    I have since used a typing program a little bit to get my speed up. I think it was called Typing Tutor or something like that pre-Mavis Bacon, I don’t remember. Ten years ago, I had to take a typing speed test for work, and needed to qualify at 20 WPM to get job security. I got off work, and had 1 hour before returning for the test. I sat down and tested at 16 WPM according to the program. After 45 minutes of uninterrupted practice, I was at 20.4 WPM, and left for the office. The test was actually easier than the program (no funny characters), and I tested at 22 WPM. WooHoo!

    I still look at my hands quite often today, because they don’t always return to the home keys, especially after using the mouse. To answer your question, typing programs can work, but so can other tricks.

  3. I’m one of those nimble 10-finger typists and was a typesetter for many years. It is a useful skill. However, the current keyboard layout (qwerty) was set up back in those manual dinosaur days to keep typists from going so fast they made the keys stick together. A friend of mine who’s a medical transcriptionist made the transition to a different layout (that I’ve forgotten the name of) which distributes the burden more evenly. If you haven’t learned qwerty, it might be better to learn another method, though you’d have to put new labels on all your keys.

    On the other hand, at this point if what you’re doing works, shrug and go on.

  4. Nick:

    There are lots of online typing web sites that are free. Just Google “typing instruction”. One site that came up on top was http://www.learn2type.com/SiteMap You don’t need to buy a commercial program.


  5. Nick,

    I wouldn’t worry about “proper typing”. I’ve seen your two finger hunt and peck, and you do it faster than most people who have had proper training.

  6. There are free ones, Nick. At one time I could type over 90 words with few mistakes – not any more, though. One thing to look for in any of them is techniqes that stress natural phrase methods, not rote key layout/sequences. Most of those also do not stress home key positioning, but free form hand position with the space key under the thumbs as home. Any that use this method or some derivation would teach most to touch type fairly well in 4-8 hrs of training. JMO. As to DVORAK or not, if I was starting out on a desktop I’d go DVORAK, but it is kind of a personal choice. Almost all keyboards are QWERTY so unless you are just on yours I would think it a problem to switch back and forth. It is probably more practical to stay with QWERTY. JMO…..

  7. Nick, my bet is that you would never type as fast using 10 fingers as you can using two. I’ve seen you newspaper guys and am always amazed. Remember the old saying, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

    On yesterday’s topic… as I read the comments this morning I realized that what I never hear anybody talk about for the coaches is a mini trash compactor! Wouldn’t one of those in place of a small under-the-counter cabinet be wonderful? I think so. We have one at home and it is amazing how much stuff we can keep cramming in there. The coach would just need a small one (do they even make little ones?) to crunch down the two or three little bags we accumulate every day. Then those little bags wouldn’t be rolling around the coach or sitting at the front door while we are driving cross country looking for a garbage can. I am positively certain that we have another full bag 10 minutes down the road. Where does all this come from???

    Has anyone else ever commented on this? I’d rather a compactor than a dishwasher.

  8. Nick, I use Mavis to teach my clients AND I have used it. I ended up a three finger (each hand) typist. I at aabout 28 wpm with 100% accuracy. That’s because I read and look at every word typed. I liked Mavis as you can play a game with it, like Frogger, type the letter that is falling. Helps your speed. Check it out !

  9. My daughter took a required keyboarding class in junior high, and I followed along a bit at home. Keyboarding is the modern equivalent of my taking typing back in the dark ages. My daughter’s keyboarding instructions helped me. I hope you’ll look into it. It makes life a bit easier to have even a little skill at the keyboard, which is actually all that I have! But I use all my digits now, not just a couple anymore, and I get things done a little faster.

  10. Nick,

    I’m also a two fingered typist, makes my wife crazy, but at 64, I figure its worked for over fourty years so why change now.


  11. Nick,

    We purchased Mavis Beacon back when our now 35-year-old daughter was in junior high to give her practice developing her typing skills. I learned typing back in high school, but the program was good for beginners and those skilled but who wanted to improve their speed.

    Old habits die hard, so my husband is very happy with his two-finger typing. However, typing is very much like a bike, once you learn it’ll come right back to you.

    If you’re committed to spending time to developing the skills, I think you would benefit greatly from it. It’s really nice to be able to type without having to be constantly looking and pecking at the keys.

  12. Nick,
    As a clutzy two-digit keyboard pummeler and writer, I am inspired by your interest in learning to type after spending so much time as writer yourself. I feel that if there is hope for you there’s hope for me. I’m going to take out one of those old “learn-to-type” CDs that came free with one of my computers and fire it up.
    Me typing with all digits is akin to the second coming of you-know-who during my lifetime, but hey, anything is possible once you buy into it . . . .
    Larry Clifton

  13. Hey Nick I too, am a two-digit typist and it works for me! I actually got thrown out (asked to leave and not ever come back) of typing class in hign school due to making fun of everyone with their elbows sticking out. The whole class got to laughing and waving their elbows like the chicken dance! The teacher really had no sense of humor.
    Why no pics of the family?

  14. I tend to agree with the ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’ … but, if you want to play with a typing tutor program, I use a free one at
    when I get a computer student who wants to learn to type.
    It’s for kids, but hey! If the shoe fits … and, it’s by the BBC so the british accent is really cute!

  15. Where I went to college years ago there was a very strong writing requirement. The research papers and other compositions that this non-typist kid had to crank out caused me to become pretty speedy with two fingers on my old Olympia portable typewriter.

    Over the years I often thought that I should learn touch typing and, in fact, I got serious enough several times to actually try it. But every time I was a guilty failure. The learning process slowed me down too damn much, and besides, I found that my fingers could hunt and peck for keys as fast as (or sometimes faster than) my brain could hunt and peck for coherent thoughts.

    And then, in 1995, following a major heart surgery, my restless leg syndrome symptoms got so bad that I was sleeping only 1-2 hours per night and my life was an exhausted agony. Somehow I found that working on the computer bypassed the brain circuitry that caused my problem and I could focus. I got a copy of Mavis Beacon’s touch typing program and set to work. By setting my own level it was both challenging and fun and I made rapid progress. I became a half-way competent novice typist, although I never tried to learn the number keys.

    When your fingers are nimble and your mind is agile, touch typing has a rhythm and ease that is very satisfying. The speed of the mind/hand connection that transfers thoughts onto the screen without you even looking is almost magical. That is the good side.

    On the side of reality, however, is the fact that when you have used two fingers for years and been successful at it, the requirement in time and perseverance is enormous. The tendency to regress is also ever present. My advice, Nick, is to relax, picture Walter Winchell and don’t feel guilty! LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO LEARN TOUCH TYPING.

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