• D A Howe

I break another keyboard

Updated: Jun 1

I was just young enough back in the old days to find myself being forced to attend typing class in high school. We were taught on solid metal typewriters designed for the office. They were so heavy it took two people to move a typewriter to another desk.

You also had to hit the keys hard. This was mainly to compensate for the use of carbon paper sandwiched between several sheets of paper. The only way to transfer the carbon was to hammer the keys with fingers that became freakishly strong over time.

At the time I hated it. The teacher was a stickler for posture and the ability to touch type without looking at the keyboard.  As part of our training to be future office workers in a secretarial typing pool, the typewriter keyboards were covered. You put your hands underneath to type. No peeking allowed. I failed this course and was told I had zero chance of a future in a secretarial typing pool.

Oh, no, color me upset.

By the time I left high school, offices had started to move to electric typewriters and shortly thereafter, computer keyboards.

Rather conveniently the class I hated the most (apart from math) saved me. Moving to computer keyboards after a manual typewriter was a doddle, and more importantly I could type faster than any of the other computer operators. Bonus number two was that I never experienced repetitive strain injury (RSI). Remember that? Everyone was trying to type on keyboards with shitty typing skills. I was fine no matter which keyboard I encountered because the correct wrist and finger positions had been drilled into me by the drill sergeant of a teacher.

However, over time I realized that my heavy handed pounding of the keyboard regularly broke them. I think I’ve broken a keyboard every year since I started using a computer.  Mechanical keyboards seem to last a little longer but not by much. The ‘n’ key stopped working on my last one yesterday, and six months ago the cursor keys started flying off and pinging around the room.

Anyway, I bought a new keyboard today and I look forward to this one surrendering sooner rather than later. I think my only practical solution is to buy a reconditioned IBM keyboard or something similar. I used them back in the day and they were impervious to everything, including a data entry operating pool made up of heavy smokers who typed and smoked at the same time. The cigarettes dangling out of their mouths dropped enormous quantities of ash onto the keys while they typed. Cleaning those keyboards was a terrible task.

Other things I am grateful for: I never had to use Pitman shorthand in real life.