Don't know much about type-writ-ing. Don't know much about tab stops.

60s era typist
I love old typing manuals. Whenever I find one at a thrift store, I buy it. Why? Nostalgia, partly. I remember using my mom's worn book to learn how to type on my dad's very old manual typewriter.

But there's another reason -- the manuals prove how much harder it used to be to produce a letter, a report, even a shopping list. And they remind me how hard-won skills from one era seem quaint and unnecessary in the next.

Typewriter nostalgia

My mom was an executive secretary in the late 50s. (I think of her as a less-buxom Joan from Mad Men. But just as gorgeous!) She worked at General Mills in downtown San Francisco, where she met my dad, an accountant.
40s era typist
So typewriter manuals remind me of my mom. And they remind me of my high school typing class. It was almost 1980. There was a computer terminal in the math department, but only math geeks were allowed to use them.
electric typewriters
This diagram comes from a Gregg's Typing Manual (1962) I recently found at a local Goodwill. I thumbed through all 279 pages, just to give the book its due.

I admit it, I was searching for signs of mid-century misogyny. And I found some. Here's the description of how to strike a key:
On an electric machine, the finger flicks at the key as a woman tests the head of the iron, the finger tip tracing a flat, oval pattern.
And there's this: 
signature étiquette in 1962
Gosh, how to choose?  Sign me Ms. Pissed Off.
My favorite part of the book are these icons that appear sporadically to keep the apprentice typist on her toes.
funny icons
Tap, tap, tap, it's the Typewriter Dance!

Typewriter technology

Using a typewriter was complicated! You had to haul out your 20-lb adding machine just to figure out where to set the margin stops and center the text on a title page. 
how to manually center text using a typewriter
So I'll stop complaining about those d@*mn ribbons in Word.
This typing manual was meant to be used in a full-year class. Students spent hours practicing touch-typing, then more hours learning how to lay out a business letter, bill of sale, and abstracted table (whatever that is). 

In 1962, such an investment was worthwhile -- lots of businesses large and small needed a good secretary. But now?

Unnecessary skills of the future

Here's my unscientific prediction about which skills we use today will be obsolete in the future.
  1. Making change -- I want to pay for everything using my phone. Now!
  2. Driving -- isn't Google going to give us all driverless cars?
  3. Writing in cursive script
  4. Navigating using only a paper map 
  5. Touch-typing -- eventually, we'll talk to our devices, not poke at them. 
  6. Speaking a foreign language -- I hope I'm wrong about this one, but Google Translate could be the great-great-great grandmother of Star Trek's Universal Translator.
What are your predictions?

Also, here's a recent study showing that nostalgia is GOOD for you.