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Monday, November 11, 2013

the typewriter speed test ... Railways conducts Exams now !!

History repeats itself !!!!  ~ - ~ A few months back I had posted an article on ‘Typewriters, Typewriting Institutes, and people’ which attracted many responses with friends recalling their romantic episodes during their heydays… !!  in those days  - 3 to 4 decades ago - Godrej, Facit, Remington and Underwood were household names and  Tripicane streets were dotted with Srinivas, Padmavathi, Sarathi, Shivish Halda, Ganesh ………… and more …. .. ..the learning courses were usually of an hour’s  duration… the last 10 minutes, if you  were to enter the hall, you might be frightened with the typical sound – keyboards pressed hard not at random, cylinders moving, occasional paper change… people with total concentration seeing printed matter placed on their side and deftly moving their fingers.

The typewriters were  the backbone of every office; you could have seen typists sitting in front of Courts; Registrar offices ~ and all important places where documents were the key…. From marriage certificates – to divorces; property registration and every other service were documented neatly…. mostly without mistakes by lowly paid people.  I learnt Typewriting at ‘Srinivasa Institue’ ~ 27 Car Street, Triplicane, Chennai 600005  and later honed my ‘Shorthand skills’ also there.  In early 1980s it bustled with activity ~ institutes would open at 6 am and would close by 9 pm with break from 12 noon to 4 pm….. at Srinivas there were 100+ typewriters and in every batch there would be so many girls and boys……….. at street corners some groups would stand waiting to watch those going to typewriting institutes with couple of sheets rolled in their hands… and inside the institutes also developed the love-stories of some…

Those hours spent in Typewriting Institutes did prove to be too worthy as they moulded the career of many – getting jobs in good institutions - providing employment opportunities for hundreds regularly….. life was so sweet and uncomplicated.  Parrys Corner housed thousands of offices and in each office there would be so many clerks, typists and stenographers – all typing documents speedily without mistakes…………..

This great invention rose to become one of the most indispensable tools of documentation and paved way for employment opportunities and for many other ancillary industries as – typewriter ribbon manufacturing; carbon papers for taking more copies, typewriter mechanics, cleaners  etc.,  ‘good things too come to an end’….  over the era when computers became popular … what was the backbone of all offices slowly started losing its sheen and significance in the late 1980s and were replaced  with electronic typewriters, word processors and then computers …

History repeats itself !!!!  ~ - ~  way back in 1984, the year I had completed my Graduation, I appeared for the Competitive Exam held by PSU Insurers – United India being flag Company coordinating it in Madras.  After the written exam, there was to be the ‘test for typewriting skills’……. It was held at Takkar Baba Vidyalaya, Nandanam – which was buzzling activity – the most sought after people were of course the Typewriting Institutes – people were comfortable in churning out quality prints on machines which they were used to – besides there was the fear of the machine – not cooperating and could mar the chances of a candidate

Being a student of ‘Srinivas Typewriting Institute’ always had some advantages ….. many had requested them for supply of typewriter at the venue – and hence they were at hand at the venue itself – I could comfortably [more of mental solace] sit before a Halda typewriter – type well – got selected too……… that day, saw so many people carrying typewriters to the venue in autorickshaws and many typewriter mechanics going around attending to minor troubles………………… can you even imagine that such things happened !!!!

All the above rushed my mind as I read this news item in TOI and Dinamalar……:

TOI reports :  As Aman Kumar typed away furiously on a rusty typewriter near a railway school at Ayanavaram on Saturday, a crowd gathered. But the 31-year-old was oblivious to everything except attaining the target of 30 words a minute on the rusty old machine he had brought all the way from Patna. There were many more like him at the ground.
TOI photo

At a time when even desktop computers are being inched out by laptops and tablets, Railways tests candidates' typing skills, required to secure a job as junior accountant and senior clerk, on typewriters. And the candidates have to bring their typewriters.  Hundreds of candidates from across the country have arrived in the city, some lugging machines in huge bags and others carrying them on the shoulder. "I rented this machine from an institute near my house. This is a new city and I had a tough time finding the venue. Getting around the city with this large bag is difficult," said Kumar.

The exam is being held after two years. "There was a scramble for typewriters in my town when hall tickets arrived and students found out they had to bring typewriters," said Manoj Kumar of Ranchi. Many posted on online forums asking peers to find out if laptops could be used. Candidates from all states, mainly West Bengal, Rajasthan andBihar, have come to write the exam.  Railway offices mostly use desktop computers, but typewriters are still used to prepare notes and interdepartmental communications or orders. "The test is to find out if candidates can type fast on a computer. Keyboard of a computer is similar to that of a typewriter. Railways is not providing typewriters because candidates will find it difficult to type on machines they are not used to. This has been the norm," said Karupannaswami, member-secretary, Railway Recruitment Board, Chennai.
dinamalar photo

With typewriters out of fashion, many candidates are renting them. This has turned out to be a good time for institutes whose prospects have dimmed after laptops and computers came into vogue. Several private agencies are renting their machines to those who don't have one at 300 for one exam. Thyaga Rajan, who runs a typewriting institute in Tuticorin, has brought 30 machines here. "This exam is a good way to show people typewriting is not dying," he said.  However, he was upset that mechanics were no allowed inside the hall. "Most candidates do not have much training with the machine. It should have been organized properly. That is the only complaint we have," he said.  Manoharan from Madurai said that it was a good thing for people like them. "This examination has renewed an interest in typewriting. I got several students coming in to train in the last few weeks," he added.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

10th Nov. 2013.

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