“The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog”

To my 13-year old eyes, it was a huge grey hulk of a machine.

Must have weighed at least 10 kilogrammes.

A typewriter.

Remington Typewriter. Originally uploaded by alonso_inostrosa. . CC-BY-SA 2.0.

Till then, I had never seen one up close before. Pa brought it home from his office. Said the office didn’t want it any more. He taught the three of us how to type on the QWERTY keyboard.

The proper way.

Left pinkie on ‘A’, the third finger on ‘S’, the middle for ‘D’, index finger for ‘F’ and ‘G’.

Rather unnatural at first. But my father said it was necessary to learn the proper fingering. If we wanted to type without looking at the keys.

I spent hours typing on that machine.

Became proficient with “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog“. That was the first sentence Pa taught us to type. Said the phrase contains all of the letters of the alphabet (the very idea blew me away!)

For practice, I copied chunks of text right out of books (upon hindsight, I should have copied from my school text books).

Sometimes I invented my own stories.

One time I liked a short SciFi story so much that I reproduced the entire text on the typewriter. My very first act of copyright violation, I think.

One day Pa remarked that my typing speed had improved. He observed that I could type fairly quickly and error-free without looking at the keys. But he noticed I didn’t quite follow the standard fingering.

Still, Pa said: “As long as you get the same results, it doesn’t matter”.


Lear-Siegler ADM5 video display terminal

Lear-Siegler ADM5 video display terminal. Originally uploaded by LevitateMe. . CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0.

When I discovered OPAC terminals at my public library, I found one more reason to visit the library on a regular basis. I would queue to use the terminal. Just to type on its keys.

The OPAC was a big clunky machine (in those days, it seemed everything was big and clunky). Old-style “dumb-terminal”. The keyboard produced a distinctive ‘whispery clacky’ sound. I just found it fun to type on it.

Library Geek.

Mazovia 1016, Polish PC XT clone, pt. 3. Originally uploaded by Marcin Wichary. CC-BY 2.0.

At 17, after I enrolled in a polytechnic, I started using computers on a regular basis. For my Business Studies course.

Top-of-the-line machines back then: XTs and 386s.

Students had free use of equipment if there were no classes scheduled in the lab. First-come-first-use. No time limit. Free use of the printers too. Dot-matrix. Noisy buggers.

I would pop into the computer lab between classes. Switched on the computer, fire up the Word processor (heard of Wordstar?) and just typed stories for practice.

The lab was usually unoccupied (I suppose it was because the Internet was not available in those days). But one day, after I had been in the lab for about half an hour, I found the lab fully occupied. Maybe there was a deadline for assignments.

A girl was waiting behind me, looking over my shoulder.

I continued typing my story, but felt increasingly self-conscious. So I got up and left.

She must have seen what I was writing (a science fiction story). Because as I left, she remarked loudly enough: “Students who are not from this course should not use the computers here”.

I didn’t want an argument. Though in my mind, I thought there was no rule against using the computers for purposes beyond coding Dbase programs or whacking out class assignments.

20090823-Typewriter-3. Originally uploaded by rahego. CC-BY 2.0.

No, I wasn’t obsessed with the keyboard.

I think it was because I liked to get ideas out of my head fast. Writing by hand was rather tedious. It always reached a point where my writing speed slowed but the thinking process increased. Then the quality of my handwriting deteriorated.

Typing became a more productive exercise in creation. Taking less effort in transforming formless ideas in my head onto something more tangible, magically appear on paper or on a screen.

But yeah, I do admit that at some level I like the feel of the keys. The sound that the keys made.

It just adds to the “writing” experience.

3 thoughts on ““The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog”

  1. Oh yes. I learned to type on a typewriter, too and I’ve also heard of Wordstar, but I much preferred WordPerfect.

    Like you: I prefer to type because the ideas come out of my head faster. I can’t remember the last time I actually wrote any substantial amount of text out by hand.

  2. When I was 17 yrs old, I work during the Dec school holiday at a typewriter company in Pasir Panjang. I was taught to press the keys “The Quick Brown Fox Jumps Over The Lazy Dog“ to check that all the keys are ok. Later on, I learnt how to type properly on a typewriter during National Service. Learnt Wordstar and Dbase too… Two years ago, I bought a used typewriters to show my kids how this machine looks like.

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