Friday, September 11, 2015

Turns out father DID know best

Close is good enough when typing on an iPad
My father pretty much stayed out of my academic life. Smart move! He was around mostly to grimace and sign my report cards during my elementary and high school years, and hand over cash when I was in college.

But there was this one time during my senior year at Columbus High when he had a really good suggestion. Dad thought it would be a smart idea for me to learn how to type. He was right.

It's not much of a stretch to report, looking back on my life, that being able to type -- and I'm talking classic touch typing now -- had a profound impact on the road I eventually followed in what I would loosely term my professional career.

It also, perhaps, saved my life!

Turns out, after typing my way through college, that I was drafted, tossed into the army when the war in Vietnam was raging and most anyone capable of breathing and holding a rifle was hustled off to the jungles of southeast Asia!

Fortunately for me, I knew my way around a manual typewriter much better than an M-14. So instead of joining an infantry unit in the Mekong Delta, I ended up being shipped off to a NATO base in central Germany.

I like to think that I was part of the mopping up crew in Europe 25 years or so after the end of World War II and also one of the unsung warriors holding the line against the Russian menace when the Cold War was absolutely frigid.

Truth to tell, I mostly sat in an office filing away intel reports from operatives in the field -- okay, they were spies. And on the weekends I took advantage of Uncle Sam's good sense to drop me down in Central Europe by visiting as much of the region as time and finances would permit.

After finishing up my tour of duty, I continued whacking away at a typewriter, first on an ancient Royal at a newspaper in my hometown, then an IBM Selectric when I moved north to greener pastures. By the early '80s I was still pounding out news stories and features, but I was now doing my job on a computer.

Over the next quarter century the work and pounding continued, always on some sort of computer. The hi-tech boxes first got bigger, then smaller. But the keyboards stayed the same. I retired, swapped my office Mac for my first PC and still merrily typed away in pretty much the same fashion I had mastered as a teen four decades earlier!

That all changed a few years ago when I ditched my flip phone in favor of a "smart" update and learned how to send texts and emails on a tiny keyboard featuring a predictive algorithm. All I needed to make it work was to swipe my hand around the keyboard and come close to the letters I was aiming to hit.

I've now taken it to the next level. Recently I purchased an iPad after being warned that it's a great gadget for playing games and consuming info, but not all that handy for producing stuff -- blog posts, stories and features.

Au contraire mom ami!

The iPad uses the same sort of predictive algorithm as my phone, but with a bit of a twist. Instead of swiping at the screen, I use a hunt-and-peck method that seems a tad magical. As long as I get close to the letters I'm aiming for, the iPad manages to both come up with the right words and, drum roll please, auto-corrects my spelling while adding the proper punctuation.

I can only wish I had this sort of hi-tech device when I was laboring over term papers during my college days! Alas, that was not the case. But here's both the good and bad news. The world has caught up with me and today I can create works of blather from just about anywhere.

Stay tuned. BTW, that's not meant as a warning, just a statement of fact.

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