It will have been sometime in the 1970s when I first learned how to type, using a manual typewriter than my mum had bought for herself, to get back up to speed before returning to admin work.
Manual typewriters have several advantages over the ones we use today. Firstly, you needed a fair amount of pressure in order to get a letter to appear on the page Secondly, the keyboard was at an angle, rising upwards. Partly that was due to the way they were constructed but it was still helpful. Thirdly, no temptation to break off and surf the interweb.
They weren’t perfect, of course – especially if you made a mistake. It also turned out to be possible to not press the key enough for a letter to appear but for the carriage to move on one character, as if you’d pressed the space bar.
Now, we have keyboards that are almost flat.
The last time I thumped a computer keyboard I broke one of the feet.
And, while I generally have enjoyed my now five-year-old Asus Zenbook UX305 ultraportable laptop, for its thinness, lightness and general… ultraportableness, it has always had a couple of drawbacks; the touchpad and the keyboard.
Every so often when writing I’ll get a stream of words in my head and try to type them in quickly. Then I’ll look at the screen and realise how many times I’ve hit ‘o’ instead of ‘I’, or ‘w’ instead of ‘e’. It’s even worse when autocorrect licks in. I mean, I don’t mind my own misspellings, that’s to be expected.
But I have realised that my fingers tend to glide over the keyboard, especially the more modern, flatter ones. I have to really thump this keyboard, which doesn’t feel at all right given the delicate state of the circuit board underneath it. On-screen typing on an iPad is fraught with danger because there’s no tactile feedback and the autocorrect doesn’t always do what you’re expecting. Type, check and correct, mostly.
If I’m ever to get started on the second novel – or even write more of the first novel – I’m going to have to get a better keyboard. One I can trust. This one looks good, but I just don’t have £200 plus postage to spend (not until I start working again, anyway).
But that first chapter is itching to get out of my head and onto the page. It popped into my head almost fully formed and needs to escape, before it does any damage…