When I had to make my choices at age 15 in school, I wanted to be in the practical stream so that I could learn what I thought were more valuable life skills – domestic science and typing/shorthand/bookkeeping. Instead I was forced into the academic stream, where I studied mathematics and Latin. I still maintain that more practical skills would have served me better. Being a teacher myself, I know that parents are supposed to teach us household skills, but not all parents do. My mother taught me to wash, iron, and sew but she would never allow other people in her kitchen so my cooking skills are basic. My father taught me to wire a plug, change a tap washer and a car tyre, but he felt that other things were ‘men’s work’. Even today I battle with taxes.

My luck turned up though, because I learned typing and shorthand (T-line) when I trained as a journalist. I learned on old manual typewriters. And later, when I taught CARR (Computer Aided Research and Reporting), I taught 500 first-year university students how to type on computers. Nowadays it is a skill that everyone has, but back then, it definitely it wasn’t.


If any of my readers has typed on an old manual typewriter you will have memories of

  • having to hit those keys hard
  • tangles of keys
  • worn out typewriter ribbon
  • carbon paper
  • typewriter correction pencils (pre-Tippex)
  • the carriage return bell
  • the carriage return lever (the origin of the return key)

So I was delighted to see this gorgeous little charm on Etsy.It’s a manual typewriter with pearls, sapphires and rubies.

I also have a little typewriter charm on my vintage bracelet (complete with carriage release handle)

There is also this gorgeous Kate Spade typewriter bag

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

6 thoughts

  1. I learned to type in the Royal Navy, on a typewriter with solid white keys (nothing on them at all) so it was trial and error until you learned where to place your hands to begin and keep looking at the paper to make sure you made 0 mistakes. Oh the fun and joy we had every day learning to touch type.

  2. I learned to touch type on an electric typewriter, in 6th form at school. The teacher was a lovely Scottish lady with a very soft Scots burr. I still remember the drills when learning combinations of characters, to train the brain/fingers … dcd dcd ded ded fgf ftf fvf… and then working up to whole sentences on the home row… a sad lass falls …

    It obviously stuck because normal English text now flows from the fingertips without conscious intervention at about 70wpm!

    1. When I trained as a journalist were sent to the local secretarial school for shorthand and typing lessons. There was a scary woman called Mrs Coetzee who used to yell ‘AZA! Lift those wrists! AZA! Lift those wrists! Once we got to 50wpm we were released from her classes. She gave me one of the most useful skills of my life.

  3. I love typewriters! My mother was a secretary in the 70’s and she had one. She could type at the speed of light. When she got a computer, her typing speed increased even more and when she tried using her old typewriter again, all the keys kept jumbling.

    When I was a kid, I used to love playing with her typewriter. Then at the university (I graduated in 2000), we had information technology classes and our (Scottish) teacher taught us how to type without looking at the keyboard. It was so hard and now it feels so natural!…

    I absolutely love that red Kate Spade typewriter bag! It’s so pretty!

    1. When I was teaching typing, the hardest thing to teach (by far) was to not look down at your hands. Once they started looking at their screen instead of their fingers, it was downhill all the way. I learned on a manual but luckily I could teach on computers.

      1. My poor Scottish teacher had trouble to get me to not look at the keyboard but eventually it worked! I’m glad you could transpose your skills to computers!

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