Typing Tap Dance

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One reason I’m – not quite averse, but resistant – to gadgets and keeping up with the times is my love of typing. Yes, this seems contrary to my earlier ode to writing on paper but how else was I going to get through five years of paper-intensive university? In my last degree I took notes in class on my laptop, notes that were the go-to source for any classes that other students missed or couldn’t quite keep up with writing down. I type quickly, although perhaps not as quickly during those intensive school years, and it’s oddly rewarding in and of itself. There’s a relationship between me and the keyboard. When I get things wrong, or have to look for an uncommon key, my thoughts are “I need to get to know QWERTY more”.

QWERTY is, of course, still on cell phones and tablets, but it’s not a physical keyboard to know and love. Home row is not a practical typing method when you are looking at the very screen you’re touching and the virtual keyboard isn’t big enough to type with all five fingers. With that difference I can’t type as fast, and it’s less graceful. That’s what typing is to me – it’s a graceful exercise, a dance that expresses myself in words and movements intertwined.

You know, this close personal relationship I have with the keyboard shouldn’t be surprising to anybody. It’s more technical than pen and paper, but it’s still about the physical relationship to a material object that helps inspire me with words – the same as pen and paper, the same as a physical book or photographic print. I take digital pictures, and I communicate largely by text message or online, so I’m not dismissing the digital age. But there are rewards and romanticisms with paper that I hope will never die.

A few weeks ago I wrote a letter to my grandfather thanking him for birthday money, and the other day I received a reply. He wrote that he doesn’t get many letters from his grandchildren anymore and very much appreciates when he does, then told a story that I had never heard before, about corresponding with his brother who was fighting the war overseas. His brother would write where he was at the time – something that would never get past the censors (and yes, there were censors who looked over every piece of troops’ mail) if they had not established a code together first. Other things were blacked out that my grandfather never got to read, but he always got to read the code of where his brother was. His brother didn’t survive the war, which makes the letters matter even more. Even more still – his brother had terrible handwriting, and so the letters were typed. QWERTY runs rich in my heritage, too, then, and not just my own life. Those two little bumps on the F and J keys that put my hands in proper position give me a starting point from which I know I can achieve and create. Those bumps disappear with touch screens, as does trusting my well-trained fingers to hit the right keys without needing to look down. So I will never fully abandon the keyboard, and like books and paper I trust it will always be around.

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