As a junior reporter on a weekly newspaper back in the 1950s – which for younger readers is just after the invention of the wheel – I was required to practice typing such phrases as “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” and “now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party”.
The allusion to foxes I could understand, seeing as the newspaper covered a rural community, but, for the life of me, I never did discover why that particular time was so opportune, who the men were and why the party needed aid.
All the parties I went to when I was a teenager needed more girls, not blokes.
The typewriter was a beast and the phrases were supposed to help speed in typing. This did not allow for those occasions when you trapped a finger and the keys were so obtuse that amputation might have to be considered.
Accordingly, I learnt to type fast, safe and hard. I pounded the keys with two fingers and still do. I broke my first Olivetti portable because of my Underwood training. I still have my second Olivetti for reasons of nostalgia, but these days I use a keyboard, and therein lies my problem.
Modern keyboards are being made for a lighter touch, with the keys as close as Siamese twins. In fact, 26 Siamese twins. Last year, I changed my desk top computer and found the keyboard impossible to use.
What has happened to modern society? Doesn't anybody bang any more?
I eventually found what I was looking for at PC World – the cheapest keyboard they had. Big keys, widely spaced, ideal for pounding. It was probably a Neanderthal model left over from the last ice age. Which was last winter, if I remember.
This served me well until I could no longer read it: I had pounded so hard the letters disappeared.
But I was a war baby. I was resourceful. I had been brought up on powdered milk and Spam. I was not to be denied. Which is why I now have a keyboard with the letters painted on it in my wife's nail varnish.
Of course, after all this time, the letters are hardly needed. I can type the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog in my sleep.
Not that anyone cares any more.