The man who taught me to type was at least 100 years old at the time of my instruction. He wore thick, purple sunglasses that completely hid his eyes at all times. His long, white beard rippled as he traveled in a pink convertible through both time and space. This man was also, of course, animated.
Like the characters in Oregon Trail, Freddy the Fish, and other popular games of the early aughts, the time-traveling typing guru of Type to Learn was an inescapable fixture of my elementary-school computer classes. I attribute my ability to touch type—to use a keyboard without actually watching my fingers move—almost entirely to this computer game, which is a far cry from the typing courses high-school students took in previous decades and the typewriters they used.
Over time, typing education has evolved in tandem with both the progression of computer technology and the decreasing age at which students are exposed to that technology. Today, that age may be reaching its lowest limit, as standardized tests and metrics emphasize the need for exceedingly young learners to successfully navigate a computer.
These histories, Darren Wershler, the author of The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting, said, are inseparable from the history of writing itself. Thanks to the increasing ubiquity of the laptop, it is today more common for people to write by themselves, with just the companionship of their computer’s glare. But in the early-to-mid 19th century, writers—who were usually men—would dictate their thoughts to a secretary—who was also typically male, Wershler said. When the typewriter was introduced in the second half of the century, that relationship began to change.