Monday, June 7, 2010

Whatever happened to the good old typist?

Whatever happened to the good old typist?
- M. Thiagarajan


Much before the advent of computers, the typewriting machines ruled the roost for wellnigh five decades. Typewriting was a symbol of professional and technical proficiency of an educated person, as this profession could be used as a financial nest-egg.

In the 1960s and 1970s, there were burgeoning technical institutes for learning ‘typing'.

Courses were designed either for passion or for a vocation. Graduating from lower to higher exams along with stenography one could land a cushy job, rubbing shoulders with the powers that be, in an organisation.

An earlier attempt to learn typing always had all my fingers knotted; any finger other than the index was not able to drum the keys as my brain could not comprehend and remonstrated against giving instructions to 10 fingers simultaneously. I was confounded by the alphabet on the keyboard which were in disorder. It went serially as ‘a,s,d,f,g,h..' instead of ‘a,b,c,d..' Either the Englishmen were wrong in their order of alphabets or Remington, while inventing the typewriter, had his alphabets mixed up. Notwithstanding the alphabetical goof-up, one had to continue living with it even after the computers were invented. Would somebody clear this enigmatic mystery of jumbled sequencing of letters in typewriters and computers?

To give justice to all the alphabets and the nimble fingers, one would be asked to type the sentence “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs” or “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” One had to type many pages of this sentence without ever knowing if the jugs contained any potable liquor or why the fox had to jump over.

The typists, for years, worked as secretaries to the big bosses in an organisation and more often than not they drafted the letters based on what the bosses had on mind and not what was spoken to them. Their command over the language, in general, was far better than many of their bosses. All employees were inured to the mechanical ‘clackety-cluck' noise in an office atmosphere; where the background noise was indeed required to keep the train of thought process going for efficient working.

Nevertheless, we came across typists with dubious vocabulary skills or the devil in the typewriter resurfacing now and then. There was a time when I asked my secretary to type out the list of our clients which needed to be sent to my director. Scrolling the list, my eyes froze, when I noticed a customer in “M/s Kishore Pimps Ltd.” When the grievous threat to the profession of my client was pointed out, he was candid in saying that I could have easily corrected it to say ‘pumps' instead of admonishing him. There was another time, when he was asked to send an apologetic letter to our customer for late delivery of certain goods; he ended the letter by saying “Thanking you for the inconvenience caused.” Obviously, he felt that apologising to anyone was a thankless job.

Be that as it may; barring those few idiosyncrasies of the typist and the machines, the typists were always held in high esteem. They continued to pick their bosses' brains and sometimes became a threat to the position of the boss. We have heard of typists rising to the position of directors in an organisation by their dint of hard work and commitment.

The typists epitomised the best written communication skills of any organisation. They were the walking dictionaries helping one spell a word, use an appropriate word and fix it grammatically in a sentence. It was no secret that when the Partition of the Indian subcontinent was drafted in front of Lord Mountbatten and Krishna Menon, it was the secretary, a good typist, who came to the rescue of the floundering leaders with a draft that was accepted by all the warring factions, as a final settlement and the birth of Pakistan.

During the last decade the typewriters have given way to the computers. The typewriters, whether they are Remington, Halda, Godrej or Facit, have all landed in the lofts and attics of all organisations only to find, hopefully, antique value after many decades of hibernation.

It is sad to see that the language skills of typists are no more called into play as the computers can edit, modify, spellcheck and give alternatives to what you want to write. The typical opening lines “Apropos your letter” or “Trust this finds you all in the best of health or spirits” are all missing now. Typist fathers who correct their young ones by saying that it is all right to say “I am quite well and not quiet well” are vanishing.

It is time to salute this vanishing tribe.

http://beta.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/article447475.ece

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A big e-welcome to you. Tumcam Maie-mogacho ieukar. Enjoy Life - This is not a rehearsal! Konkani uloi, boroi, vach ani samball - sodankal. Hich Goenchi osmitai ani amchem khalxelponn. Goenchi amchi Konkani bhas! Ekvottachem saddon Goenkaranchem. This is Gaspar Almeida from Parra, Bardez, Goa, based in Kuwait and am connected with the www.goa-world.com website created by Ulysses Menezes, and as Moderator of the famous first of its kind Gulf-Goans e-Newsletter (since 1994) and The Goan Forum and several Goan and Indian associations and forums and e-forums in Goa, India, Kuwait, The Middle East and worldwide.