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Tiptoe with the Typewriters | Mary Biever | One Writing Mother

Tiptoe with the Typewriters

“Young people get this stuff easier.”

For 14 years, I’ve worked as a corporate computer trainer. My biggest success story was a 70 year old lady who learned to keyboard and moved up to designing databases in 6 months.  She said, “If I can outlive 2 husbands in marriages of more than 20 years each, I can learn to use a computer.”

The biggest challenge is overcoming the Fear Factor.  I tried an experiment that can help. 

I did turnabout with high school students.  I divided 10 students into 2 teams and brought in typewriters for the challenge. One team had an electric typewriter, and the other had a manual. They had an assignment to type a page of text in an hour. I gave them 0 instructions on how to use a typewriter.

Questions asked:

  • Where’s the printer?
  • This typewriter needs a new toner. (I showed how to rotate the ribbon wheel.)
  • You have to push this bar for EVERY line?

It took each team at least 5 minutes to figure out how to put a sheet of paper into the typewriter.  Within an hour, each team had typed a paragraph.

I got out a bottle of liquid paper and told them, “This is spellcheck.”

After the challenge, I noted their frustration.  Then I told them I learned to type on a manual typewriter and remember when my school got a single row of electric typewriters. 

Then I told the teens that the amount of change I had encountered would be miniscule to what they will see by the time they are my age.

Finally, I added – to be open to the challenges those changes present. 

Never quit learning. Broaden your horizons. Try something new.

Yes, when I got my Android it took me a month to use it comfortably. My teens had to show me how to make a phone call and answer it. But I did learn it.

You can learn it too.

Think of it as a tiptoe through the typewriters to the 21st century.

6 Responses to “Tiptoe with the Typewriters”

  1. Kevin August 30, 2010 at 2:05 pm #

    Because my brother and his family have exclusively used cell phones at home for years, with no regular telephone line service, my niece had to be taught what a dial tone was.

  2. Pat Alexander September 30, 2010 at 1:41 pm #

    Mary, this is an awesome post. I work with insurance agencies on their technology, workflows and social media. I love how you have shown that learning a new task is not any easier for the young than the mature when faced with the unknown. I find people of all ages that resist or just aren’t interested in learning. I am heartened to find people of all ages that embrace learning and change.

    Thank you for sharing this with all of us.

    • Mary Biever September 30, 2010 at 2:39 pm #

      Pat, thank you for the kind words. We can always learn – whatever our age!


  1. The Value of Who I Follow on Social Media | Pat Alexander - January 14, 2011

    […] – Mary Biever – I met Mary because of @NibbyP re-tweeting her blog on Tiptoe with the Typewriters.  Mary agreed to let me post this as a guest post atInsuranceEcosystem.  Her newest guest post at […]

  2. The Business of Social Media | Pat Alexander - March 24, 2011

    […] media) posted a link to what looked like an interesting blog for Mary Biever. That blog was “Tiptoe with the Typewriters“. I liked the post so much that I asked Mary if I could have her as a guest communicator at […]

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