I learned typing on an old mechanic typewriter (would be considered an antique by now) during my school days in Beijing. Back then we did not have after school program and I often spent free time lingering at the Zoology Institute where my mom used to work. Other than boredom, the well insulated office building provided warmth in the winter and chill in the summer. On one of those frequent and bother-some visits, one of mom’s colleagues offered to teach me how to type. I gladly accepted it, only because it beat out doing nothing. Little did I know that it would so be put to use and I’ve been using it ever since.
During the 1970s, part of school curriculum was to send students to field trips, called 学工学农 拉练 Learn from the Workers, Farmers and Soldiers. Those re-education exercises aim at introducing us to the virtues of plain living 培养艰苦朴素的美德. Those trips varied in length and locations. Some were away that lasted weeks month while others might sandwich between classes if the school had a workshop.
Once we went to a week long field trip. Due to my weak health and passable calligraphy, the classroom teacher Lin assigned me to the printing office with few classmates. Most work units used mimeograph 油印 to satisfy the print need, with either waxed paper 蜡纸 with hand or Chinese typewriter typeface 中文铅字打字机 that required memorization of the location of each character, which was an actual job. Hand written waxed paper used a specialized needle pen 钢针笔 with a 钢板 plate. Each stroke, the needle pen would cut through the waxed paper and leaving two white trails. The trick to have a clear print, each stroke needed the same force which was impossible to achieve. When a mistake was made, we used extinguished match to repair, either lightly burn it over or used a small piece waxed paper to paste on it.
The printing office was headed by an old man who probably was sent there for reeducation too. On the first day, I spotted an typewriter and played with it for a moment. First he was not pleased and then when he saw me could actually type, he promoted me to the typewriter. I was flattered and motivated to do well. However, other mates in the office were eager to try the new toy, which made my little job more difficult because I did not know how to say no and they often made unnecessary mistake. After the week long field trip, my typing skill had improved tremendously. At the time, I had no idea what I would be doing when I grew up but typing became one of skills that I use on daily basis shortly after.
After came to New York, I went to school to learn English. It was 1986 and the computer had been widely used. For my first class assignment of composition I typed it up and found it was much easier than hand writing. The teacher was very surprised to see a neatly typed and printed homework. My English was deplorable but my effort deserved an A+.
Chinese typing has been a pain since I didn’t know how, only learned when I joined QQ, an old chatting tool used by my classmates and now migrated to WeChat. It’s really the easy to type made me writing this blog in English rather than Chinese.