Tough typist

By Mir
February 16, 2009

Apparently I’m a little hard on the keyboard.

I think I type with a normal amount of pressure, but then again, I thought I was writing completely normally back in school when one of my teachers commented that if I was pressing hard enough to leave indentations on several pages underneath the one I was actually writing on, I could stand to go a little bit more gently.

We could probably come up with a whole personality profile based upon my apparent need to jam the keys down as I type—perhaps it means I’m unrelenting, or maybe it’s just a sign of constipation—but I think the uninteresting truth is that my fine-motor control is a little off. I often have some difficulty coordinating my fingers; applying greater pressure seems to improve my aim.

And that’s all well and good until I destroy my computer.

Okay; perhaps “destroy” is too harsh of a word. I first noticed my penchant for rough typing when my folks would come to visit and my father would sit down to use my computer and become completely befuddled. Apparently if you type hard enough, for long enough? You wear all of the letters off of the keys.

I’m a touch-typist. My father is not. Many, many jokes ensued about the similarities between Chinese Water Torture and placing my poor father at a computer with a blank keyboard.

Periodically my keyboard would just up and die, and then I’d replace it. It would work fine, even as I wore the letters off the keys again. And then when it died, I’d replace it again. Etc. (Notice that typing more softly was never an issue that came into play. I don’t know how to train myself to tap with less force.)

Anyway, that was back in my PC days. When I made the switch to a Mac a couple of years ago, I figured my days of crappy, worn-down keyboards were finally over. Because Macs are made of SuperFantasticPlastic and Steve Jobs’ invincible DNA and also unicorn sneezes. Or, you know, something like that. My MacBook is INDESTRUCTIBLE!

Naturally, I wore the letters off of the keys. That’s particularly impressive, actually, seeing as how about 75% of the time, I don’t even use its keyboard; I use an external one on my desk setup (which—of course!—has most of the letters worn off the keys). And then when I was sick last month I spent a couple of weeks working from my bed or the couch and I discovered that sometimes when I hit the keys… nothing happened.

At first I thought it was my imagination. But then it started happening more and more, and because I’m a mature, rational adult I FLIPPED OUT.


Otto was kind enough to bring me a paper bag to breathe into, and also to point out that 1) my computer is not broken and 2) I have AppleCare so we could just take my computer to the Apple Store and have them fix it up. I mean, I really thought my plan of just sitting on the couch whining about it and eating cookies was a good one, but I had to admit that he had a point.

So on Saturday, we headed to The Big Mall for my appointment at the Apple Store.

Let me tell you about the Apple Store on the weekend. IT IS MADNESS. It’s exactly the sort of wall-to-wall people situation that I hate, and all of them are chanting “Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated,” while Twittering on their iPhones. (Technically I may have made up the chanting part. But not the iPhone part.)

We stopped to pet the shiny new MacBooks, and for a fleeting moment I wondered if perhaps there could be something SO WRONG with my beloved machine that I would be FORCED to drop $1300 on a new machine. But then I remembered the whole part where I’d have to come up with $1300 and whispered sweet nothings into my laptop bag and continued waiting for our turn at the Genius Bar.

My name was called and I sat down with Tommy, a “Genius” who looked like he was splitting his time between the Genius Bar and catching some seriously gnarly waves, dude. I had to resist a sudden urge to tell him to GET OFF MY LAWN, but instead I plopped my computer down and explained that the keyboard seemed to be wearing out. He asked some questions and took a look at it, and then popped up a text window and asked me to do some typing to show him the problem.

I began to type. And all of the keys worked just fine. OF COURSE.

“I swear it’s been all wonky!” I told him, maybe a little louder than was strictly necessary. “It’s just afraid of all these other shiny computers!” Tommy chuckled rather than looking at me like I had three heads, which is totally what I would’ve done to someone anthropomorphizing their computer, but hey, it IS the Apple Store. I probably wasn’t even CLOSE to being the weirdest person he saw that day. (Fact: I saw a little girl who couldn’t have been more than eight or nine, who had professional red and blond highlights in her hair that matched her mother’s. She was also carrying a nicer purse than mine. We are Mac people, but we are not THAT kind of Mac people. Thank God.)

After some poking and prodding, Tommy told me that because I’m a loyal Apple customer (I totally pulled out my iPhone and Twittered something when he said that, just to prove his point), they’d be happy to just go ahead and replace the keyboard. I thanked him profusely, and my MacBook was whisked away for ten minutes, and then returned to me as good as new.

The keys are all SPRINGY now! And they all have LETTERS and SYMBOLS on them! So today I’m going to try to type more softly. I’m just going to think gentle thoughts. Ommmmmmmm. Ommmmmmm. (Maybe I should’ve asked Tommy to teach me to meditate—I’m sure he would’ve.)


  1. bob

    You have to have zen-like surfer-dude attitude to work tech support, ’cause of all of the people who come in with wonky keyboards that work fine, despite loudly insisting it didn’t work yesterday, really.

  2. Otto

    Dad? It’s safe for you to come visit again, no more Typing Torture …


  3. Bikini

    On my keyboard, the N, M, L, A, and S are almost worn off. Maybe I’m spelling salami too much (and incorrectly?)

  4. sdastacey

    You are soooo not the only one with this problem. My co-workers tell me they can hear me typing all the way down the hall. I’ve been trying to retrain myself for years but it doesn’t work. Just let them keep being jealous………because we are confident typers and not afriad to show our skills, lol.

  5. mamajama

    my problem is the M key. And if I don’t notice that it’s out before I hit send on eail (it akes the words coe out all weird).

  6. Megan

    I thought my keys wore off because I was taking it out on my keyboard rather than typing IN ALL CAPS which is what I wanted to do.

  7. Heather

    I have a mac (and so does all my family, actually, which is probably my programmer BIL’s fault, mostly…) but “mac people” still kinda scare me!

  8. Well Read Hostess

    The best follow-up to genius surfer dude’s customer service here would be for him to teach you how to meditate and FEEL the keyboard and RIDE the letters and be AT ONE with the space bar.

    Or maybe Apple should get the hint and realize that WE HAVE A LOT TO SAY AND TYPE VIGOROUSLY to make our many very very very imortant points!


  9. jennielynn

    Intense typing is a sign of genius.

  10. alala

    I type gently, but Mr Husband is a very fierce typist, and when he uses my computer I flinch every time he hits a key too hard (um, every time he hits a key at all, actually). And he’s a touch-typist, so that’s like 45 FPM (flinches per minute). I wonder if that counts as exercise…

  11. elizabeth

    I think the fact you had no symbols/letters on your keys should have eliminated the need for a demonstration. but what do I know, I’m still a PC. =( (hoping I can grow up to be a mac someday)

  12. Sarah

    My keyboard has th eletters worn off as well.

  13. arduous

    OMG, I totally wear off ALL the letters off my keyboard. When I went on vacation, and we’d hire a temp, the temps would always look at my keyboard all … guh?

    Because I’m like you, a touch typist, I don’t even notice that all the letters are worn off! My co-workers would joke that my fingers must secrete acid. :)

  14. MomCat

    They didn’t offer you the free, monthly highlights and the free expensive handbag coupon when you purchased your Applecare package?

  15. Burgh Baby

    Dude, be careful using all those Ms. Those are always the first letter I manage to wear off, and I blame my need to type Ommmmmmmm. Wouldn’t want you to follow in my footsteps.

  16. jess

    I thought it was just because keyboards were getting crappier. I never wore of keys until I got my first iBook and then I wore of tons of them. That laptop died and I got a new laptop (not Mac this time, because, yes, I had tons of problems with that particular one) and in six months, several keys are missing letters. I touch-type, though, so it’s all good. I don’t need the little stickers to type. :) (But it’s funny that you are writing about this today, as just a couple days ago I was wondering where the heck the little sticker pieces GO when they come off. I’ve worn off several keyboards now, and I’ve never noticed the little sticker pieces anywhere. Where do they go? Am I absorbing them into my skin?)


  17. Stephanie

    I heart Apple SO much! :-)

  18. Kat

    A lot of the letters on my iBook have worn off, too. Since my husband occasionally uses my computer, and he needs to actually SEE the keys, we put tiny colorful alphabet stickers on the keys (stickers stolen from my 4 year old). They eventually wear off, and we put new ones on. People are amused when they see my laptop.

  19. Nancy R

    I want to make a joke here about typing softly and carrying a big….mouse, or something. I can’t make it work though, and armageddon is about to happen upstairs with my unsupervised children, so I’m glad you’re keyboard it all better!

  20. Summer

    Mir, by any chance did you learn to type on a manual typewriter? I did — OH MY GOD I AM SO OLD — and I still have awful memories of 7th grade typing class, trying to bang hard enough on the school’s ancient manual typewriter to get the letters to show up on the page. Half the time, my fingers would slide off the keys and get stuck between them. The misery! The shame of never getting my name on the Super Number of Words Per Minute Wall of Fame!

    Of course, my son, who is six years old and has never even seen a manual typewriter, also bangs on the keys ridiculously hard. I find myself saying things like “dude, if I can hear you pressing the keys from all the way back in my bedroom, you’re typing too hard.” So if my keyboard breaks, I am totally blaming it on him.

  21. LIsa

    I had the same problem with mine, all of the sudden I was pressing the keys and. nothing. was. happening. It was never the same key, but all on the same row. I couldn’t figure it out. My head exploded. I was trying to write my b.s.ed thesis for the love of god! After freaking out, my husband went through the whole thing with a fine tooth comb. Eventually, he just shook it a little and a tiny little piece of uncooked angel hair pasta slid right out of the keyboad. So if you ever use your computer in the kitchen or eat while you type, you may just want to turn it on its side and give it a little shake. It might fix it and you may also get some interesting ingredients. A mac can make you dinner!

  22. Ani

    LOL…and ditto on the commenter who learned on a heavy ancient manual typewriter. With lever. And bell!

    And that was in the 80’s…cheap school.

    You mean it’s not normal to wear out the letters on a keyboard????? Really? Hmmm….

  23. Chuck

    I imagine there is a meditation application available for your Iphone.

  24. meghann

    I agree with jennielynn. It’s a sign of genius.

    I can swear mine is genetic, as me, my dad, and my sister all type that way. I kill keyboards on a regular basis. I think my record is killing one in just a month. For Christmas though my husband got me one of those old IBM tank of a keyboards, with the spring action keys. It’s from 1986 and I could probably club an intruder over the head with it if I needed to.

    So far, I haven’t killed it. . .yet. But my husband had to cringe when he realized that this type of keyboard makes my already loud and fast typing, even louder. Mwahahahaha.

  25. Colleen

    I love the Apple store! It’s almost like they require their employees to have a sense of humor. It’s awesome! You can talk to them like people. Go ahead and off-handedly remark about how your iPhone (My Precious) doesn’t hold your entire iTunes library like your husband’s 80GB iPod. That dude’ll hook you up with an app in an instant and you’ll be all OMG! Really? I can do that? Dude! And you will say dude because it’s the only way to properly express yourself. Except I always think I should sport a mohawk in there instead of the professional highlights. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen “those” Apple people (but you are close to some high fallutin’ neighborhoods over there). Most of the dudes who work there look like they moonlight at Hot Topic. Best. Store. Ever.

  26. Karen

    Wow… should write Apple’s adds. I’m sold. I don’t need a new computer, but somehow, I want an Apple now.

  27. Damsel

    ROFL @ unicorn sneezes… I’m SO adding that to my repotoi- uh- repoit- uh — list of words that I use.

  28. Valerie

    Ok, wearing off letters is one thing. But does your space bar have an indentation? I have now done this to not one, not two, but THREE keyboards. It’s only where my right thumb hits it though, so apparently my left thumb doesn’t have as much pent up rage.

  29. Michelle

    Ah, Meghann, you found the answer, the IBM “Clickey” keyboard. No matter how hard you type, you can’t kill that sucker! I totally love mine. In fact, I love it so much that I have a spare, or two, in the basement just in case this one catches on fire or something.

  30. keyomi

    this is too cute a post! :) loved it! goodluck with ur gentle thoughts and typing!!

  31. Michele Bardsley

    Is there a 12 step program, or perhaps, a meeting for those of us who kill our keyboards? I didn’t even have my Mac for a couple of weeks and I managed to pop off one of the arrow keys. Because apparently it couldn’t take me punching it repeatedly as I scrolled through my manuscript. I have worn off letters on my previous PC keyboards (and the cat popped off the number 4, I swear!), so I guess I must join the Tough Typist crew. Do we have a gang sign?

  32. karen

    OMG…never..heard.. of someone actually wearing the letters off their keyboard.. LOL..I mean, never…really! Really??

  33. Jill in Atlanta

    You might see what happens if you put some (very) light weights on your wrists. See if that sensory input helps stops you from pounding on the keyboard.

  34. Scottsdale Girl

    Yep 1984 (HS Junior Year) was typing class. IBM Selectrics. I could NEVER get the hang of touch typing. But 2 months on a ergo keyboard on a computer? I can type 80 WPM by touch. And my coworkers say it sounds like machine gun fire when I type. So…

  35. tuney

    I had a keyboard that had migrating bad letter, which should have been a hint that I need to stop eating cookies while I work, whatEVER. One week the c would be hyper-sensitive, so that typing a docccccument ccccreated more work than not. The next week the y wouldn’t tpe at all, and m ahoo messages were prett garbled b that one. The deal breaker and opening-of-the-wallet came when I had to do a 25-30 pg. term paper to finish the Masters. I knew I wouldn’t be able to waste time correcting all those stupid not-my-fault errors and just gave up.

  36. tuney

    More work than NECESSARY. Geez. Maybe the keyboard wasn’t the durned problem…

  37. Lori N

    Ah, tuney – you and I had the same bad keyboard. My come-to-Jesus moment was when I was facing an 80 page work report. I now own a shiny new MacBook Pro. Ahhhhh :)

    Now my children are fighting with the keyboard – but heck, they only need to log on to Webkinz – they can suffer. :)

  38. Michelle

    Holy crap.. I don’t ever think I’ve worn a keyboard down to breakage. That is some heavy duty typing to do it MULTIPLE times.

  39. Leila

    What a relief. If I can see the keys my speed gets way up to 12 words per minute (provided I only use short words). If I can’t see the keys, O yrmf yp yu[r ,rddshrd ;olr yjod/

    I’m right brained.

  40. Leila

    Oops! I sent comment 39 from home. Hence comment is erroneously noted to be from Leila. I sincerely hope that does not embarrass her.


  41. Barbara

    I’m pretty sure there’s therapy for that. Unless it is one of those incurable diagnoses.

  42. annette

    Every time I type, I say out loud, “Gosh, why didn’t I pay more attention in typing class?” I totally have to look at the keys.

  43. tj

    I DON’T TYPE HARD! I SWEAR. When I showed a computer person dude how I typed he looked like my laptop should be put into protective custody. I just have a lot of enthusiasm…yes, enthusiasm.

  44. Anna

    Jill, comment #33; and she’ll have great triceps, too!

  45. Lady M

    This is so me! Except somehow, I BLUR the lettering on the keyboard (just n,m,k,l and e, d, c,v) – what am I doing? Poor preschooler sits on my lap to type and has to ask me, “is this the “n” key, Mommy?”

  46. Brigitte

    Your dad is funny! I type about like him, but I have weirded out former co-workers seeing my hunt-and-peck method because it looks odd: when I’m on a roll, it gets up to about 40 wpm, which is pretty good for that method!

  47. Marissa

    I have also worn the letter off the keys on my laptop…not all of the letter, you know just the important most frequently used ones. Drives my husband insane!

  48. Marla

    Well, I have a Dell, and I’ve worn two letters off, half way off on 4 letters, starting to erase another letter and the space bar is smooth on the right side. Until we moved last fall to our new building my co-workers used to tease me about how loud I typed. Now they we are in offices so we can’t hear each other anymore. But I feel bad for the computer tech people when they have to come fix my computer and they can’t see the letters anymore.

  49. Jan

    OK, call me the cheapest mofo on earth, but couldn’t you take a piece of clear contact paper and make covers for the keys? So the lettering wouldn’t rub off?

  50. Crystal

    Just have to say it. Did you know you can actually buy keyboards that don’t have any letters, symbols or numbers at all? Totally blank. Now that would sure mess up a few people here. :) click ultimate.

  51. Katie in MA

    Gah! I’m staring down at my keyboard (for the first time in awhile, being a fellow touch-typist), wondering what’s wrong with me because WHY DO I STILL HAVE ALL THE LETTERS?! If I squint a little through one eye, the middle of my N looks a little faint…don’t you think?

  52. BethR

    I’m wondering if it’s the brand or something. My Gateway keyboard at home still has all the letters, but the paint/ink on my Dell at work is wearing off and I’ve only had this keyboard for a year. Luckily, I touch type… if the bumps on the F and J keys ever wear down, I’m SOL!

  53. Kate

    I hear you and no kidding, I’m on my 5th laptop in 2 year.
    Last one was spillage that totally obliterated my computer
    and two were harddrives blowing up – but the one where I lost the letter ‘b’ on the laptop was hard, really hard.
    Not to mention the umpteen adapters. I am a really fast typist (which somehow seems to result in long comments,
    so I’ll stop now. ) other than to say, all the computers
    were under warranty and each time was worse than the first.

    That’s the way of technology, I think.


  54. Pictou

    Gee, you are tough. I’ve had this Mac Powerbook for 5 years and the letters are all still there. I will say that I have a permanent crack in my right thumbnail (my mouse and spacebar finger) that I’ve never been able to fix.

  55. Trish/Astrogirl426

    Wow, fifty-something comments? Who knew typing was such a touchstone for people?

    That said – I’ve never worn the letters off a keyboard, but I *do* love those old “click-y” IBM keyboards….the Sensory Integration Disorder in me loves the clicky sound, and the feedback of the feel (which is probably why they originally made them that way).

    Also, I love the Apple Store too – the employees are always wandering around, looking slightly confused as to how they wound up working retail instead of smoking a joint behind the mall, like they intended to do when they woke up this morning. Very sweet kids, but always kinda befuddled as to why they’re there. So far though I’ve had two super-fantastic experiences there: The first was when they replaced my iPod Touch, no questions asked and out of warranty, because it was having battery issues. The second was when they replaced the top part of my case because it started suffering the “plastic splintering off” issue that white MacBooks seem to have. Mmmm, new keyboard/trackpad too. Yay, !

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