Tag Archives: typing

The Level Playing Field

typewriter

I will never be able to run faster than Usain Bolt or swim faster than Michael Phelps.

I will never be as intelligent as Neil deGrasse Tyson or Stephen Hawking.

I will never throw a football as well as Peyton Manning or dunk a basketball like LeBron James.

I lack the physical prowess, mental aptitude and genetic resources necessary to be a great athlete or a genius astrophysicist.

But I look down at these keys I punch expertly like an old pro: 26 letters, 10 numbers and a handful of symbols.

That’s it.

That’s all there is.

And my fingers dance. A beautiful sound I fell in love with during my days in the newsroom. An orchestra of tapping. The sound of a thousand word choices being made simultaneously in the great exchange of ideas.

One of my biggest childhood regrets is that I never learned how to play an instrument. I’ve owned two guitars, pianos and keyboards, and a full drum set. And other than some average-at-best trumpet playing in middle school, I’ve never been able to make music—something I love very much.

I have a mother and sister who are both very talented, musically.

I wish I’d inherited those same gifts.

Equal Opportunity – Since 1878

The modern QWERTY standard keyboard has been around since 1878. I once made the keyboard a metaphor for dating after divorce. It totally worked.

That’s how long everyone has had to get to know these keys: 136 years.

I haven’t taken any polls, but my guess is there is a higher percentage of proficient typists living in 2014 than there’s ever been given that so much of our time is spent in front of computers or mobile devices all using the same keys.

I just look at it. It’s simple genius. My brain completely ill-equipped to understand how I’m able to punch all these keys in exactly the right order to make each sentence. Endless possibility. That’s what this device represents. A world without limits.

This is the keyboard used by William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe and the New Testament Gospel writers. (Just kidding.)

But it WAS used by Mark Twain. By George Orwell and Hunter S. Thompson. By Charles Bukowski and Jack Kerouac. By Ernest Hemingway.

It was also used by Mark Zuckerberg to create Facebook. By Bill Gates to create Microsoft. By Larry Page and Sergey Brin to create Google.

Just look at the keys in front of you.

Punch these buttons one way, and you have Not-So-Bright-Internet-Message-Board Guy: “wtf your a idiot every moran know the knicks goin all teh way !!!!!111!!!!11!!!”

Punch them another and you end up with my drivel.

But somewhere in that endless sea of possibilities is the perfect combination of keystrokes. The perfect combination of words that make magic. That change lives. That introduce new ideas. That will pen the next Oscar-winning film. That will earn the TV news anchor her first Emmy. That will win the Noble Prize for literature.

And you don’t have to be the strongest. Or the fastest. Or the smartest. Or the best. You just need to have the keyboard and be brave enough to tap it. Disciplined enough to rewrite. And courageous enough to ship it.

You might even rescue someone 1,000 miles away.

The internet has made it easy. And we have no more excuses.

You have a song to write that will stir our insides.

An idea to share that can help change the world.

A story to tell that might save a life.

Everyone uses the same keyboard. No advantages. The same keyboard. The world’s greatest achievers. Using this exact same tool. What might be possible?

I was wrong.

I am a musician.

This keyboard, my instrument.

Tap-tap-tap-tap-tap.

A glorious symphony.

Calling you. Calling me.

Go create.

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Dating After Divorce: An Exercise in Relearning

This, I get. This makes sense to me.

This, I get. This makes sense to me.

In the 1860s, despite relatively widespread use of keyboards for writing and professional communication, businessmen investing in typewritten communications were still tinkering with key arrangements.

The father of our current key layout is a guy named Christopher Latham Sholes, a newspaper editor from Milwaukee.

His first layout had two rows. Like a piano. In a pretty straightforward alphabetized sequence.

The mechanical functionality of this layout led to many neighboring typebar jams.

For example: Letters “H” and “I” were next to one another on the keyboard as they are in our alphabet.

So if you typed the sentence “This typewriter is a piece of shit” too quickly, the rapid succession of the H and the I hitting the paper while typing “shit” would often cause the H and I typebars to jam, and forcing otherwise well-mannered writers to say bad words.

Sholes kept tweaking.

In 1868, he introduced this layout:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 –

A E I . ? Y U O ,

B C D F G H J K L M

Z X W V T S R Q P N

Then in 1873, we got this:

2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 – ,

Q W E . T Y I U O P

Z S D F G H J K L M

A X & C V B N ? ; R

Then in 1878 we finally got the iteration we all know now. The modern QWERTY standard, named after the six-letter sequence in the top-left corner.

These keystrokes are now completely done with muscle memory. I’ve put in well over 10,000 hours at the keyboard. It’s as simple and natural for me to communicate this way as it is speaking.

So, it’s painful for me to think about writing in an era where the keyboard was sometimes changing. Getting a new typewriter, or writing from a different location might have meant a total rearrangement of the keys.

Writing may be second nature to me.

But typing 1,000 words on a keyboard where all the letters are rearranged?

It would be a frustrating and painful experience.

The Single Dad Fumbling Through Bachelorhood

That’s what I am now.

After so many years of doing things a certain way, life has forced me to find a new way.

And I’m really bad at it.

A co-worker and I were talking about a woman who works in my building while we were walking in this morning. She’s a single mom. Super pretty. Was nice and funny the one time I ever spoke with her at length.

“She would be an ideal person to ask out,” I said. “I almost did a couple months ago.”

“Oh yeah, single guy! Why don’t you?” my co-worker said.

“You’ve been married a long time. I almost never see her. I’d have to approach her out of nowhere in the parking lot. When’s the last time you had to initiate conversations with women outside a social environment that brought you together naturally?”

“Yeah. Never.”

I got my first crush in third grade.

And from that point on, I was always where girls my age were. Single girls, too.

We had cutesy relationships in grade school.

Borderline serious in high school.

Then we went to college where it was even easier to meet women. We were always surrounded by tons. And everyone was always armed with liquid courage AND social support from nearby friends.

I had a high school girlfriend my senior year. She was my first “serious” relationship. Ages 17-18.

I dated a girl for nearly two years in college my third and fourth years. (Yes, I took five years to graduate. I make bad decisions.) Ages 20-21.

I had met my ex-wife at a party my freshman year. We stayed in contact off and on. And we got together for good in the summer of 2001 through this past April when it crashed and burned.

What’s my point?

I have, literally, never been in a situation where I wasn’t surrounded by copious amounts of like-minded single women OR in a committed relationship.

Until now.

That woman who works here? The cute one on the third floor? I don’t know how to talk to her. I don’t. If I found myself in the same place as her through chance, I’m sure I would say something. I’m not a complete wimp. But to go seek her out? For the sole purpose of expressing interest in seeing her socially outside of work?

I’m just not wired for that. And I’m a little unsure how I’m supposed to be after reflecting on my life up to this point.

All of the keys are rearranged now. Everything’s foreign. I’m being asked to do something I know how to do. But I’m being asked to do it in a way I’ve never faced before. In an environment not particularly conducive to success.

Most women aren’t single anymore. I have a child. I’m older. And I’m almost never in a place where like-minded single people are. Sometimes I’m in bars. But I’ve never been hook-up-with-girl-at-bar guy. And I don’t intend to start now.

I’ve learned to be okay. When it’s quiet. When it’s just me in my head.

I’ve learned to cook for myself. Do housework. And find ways to entertain myself when my son’s not there.

I’m much closer to stable. Much closer to healed. Much closer to ready than I’ve been at any point in this divorce-recovery process.

I’m looking at the keyboard.

But I don’t have to.

I know where every button is. Every keystroke, second-nature.

I can play this game.

But then I look at the world.

That couple over there.

How’d they meet?

That woman over there.

I’m afraid to interrupt her life to talk to her. What if she’s already with someone? What if she thinks I’m stupid? What if she thinks I’m short? What if she thinks I’m ugly?

I’ve always been a fan of asking questions when I’m pretty confident I’ll get a positive response.

I always knew when girls liked me. I still do. You can just tell.

But it’s a brand new keyboard now.

In a lot of ways, I do know what I’m doing.

But when all the rules have changed?

Even knowing what you’re doing can still result in: dmh*cvy4hfjdf%jcbsyeuk;dkdoicud$jaekjazrx,dfofh5.

And you can say that again.

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