In grade ten, I took computer keyboarding, a.k.a typing. For many weeks, we drillled eeeeee...ffffffff.....gggggg...hhhhhh....eeeeeee...ffffffffff...gggggg.....eeeeeee...ffffffffff...
In 16 year old terms and any other terms you can think of it was monotonous and boring, but, just like learning scales can be boring, learning how to type in the age of computers has yielded dividends. I'm still kicking myself for quitting piano lessons all those years ago, but I am so happy that I was driven by getting good marks and did not think to quit the other kind of keyboarding. Now, it is hard to believe I was not kicking and screaming to get out of keyboarding. The emerging feminist in me did not object, perhaps because even then, pre-email and Facebook, keyboarding was not perceived the same way as "typing" had been in years previous. The word "computer" changed "typing's" image. The typing pool was already an archaeic thing and the demand for typing well, not necessarily fast, was starting to be one shared by both men and women. The sheer practicality of knowing how to type in a world where even making a phone call requires it now, was not even vaguely even hinted at when I took that course. Back then, the only things that were being typed were reports/charts/term papers and, oh yeah, dot matrix "happy birthday" signs. There were no signs that it would be such a prevasively required skill.
Not having to look down to type, much like not having to look at a keyboard while you play music, is an ability that has influenced how I write. It is practically a medium in this day and age. Throughout my teens and early twenties, I kept handwritten diaries that I laboured over. In many ways, I was more concerned with how the text looked than with what I poured onto the page. I guess that is a bit like agonizing over the font when you type something. I still make an effort to write letters but the volume has been reduced. When my second child was born and I was starting to make forays into Facebook, I realized that keeping an online diary was way more practical and it made the difference between me remembering tiny details of his early days and me not remembering them.
As much as I mourn the demise of the written letter and wonder how computing might be affecting literacy, I can't help but be in love with the act of keyboarding. When you know the keyboard well, it can be such a graceful charting of movement as your fingers type, edit and re-organize text on the screen in sync with your thoughts. For me, I may not be able to sit down at a piano and play songs by heart anymore, but I can certainly type them by heart.