Matthew Learns to Type

Matthew’s handwriting leaves something to be desired. So does mine for that matter but it was becoming a problem at school. It was slowing him down and keeping him from getting his work done. The school suggested that he could have access to a laptop so he could type some of his work instead of writing it if only he could type quickly. Matthew needed to learn to type.

My first stop was the Mac App store. I searched for a good typing tutor and started with “UltraKey”. It seemed to be well reviewed so we tried that. He worked with that for a bit but he quickly got bored. UltraKey was definitely targeting an older user and Matthew wanted something more dynamic.

So, I picked up “Typing Tournament”. This was highly graphical with little games you play by being able to press the right key in time. It was definitely a good program for him and he started improving when using it.

But after a while, it seemed like his biggest problem was the keyboard. We have a wired Apple keyboard hooked up to our iMac. The keyboard actually is very much like a laptop keyboard. The keys are very shallow and one false move and you will type the wrong key. I figured Matthew might need to practice on an easier keyboard.

I have no shortage of computers and keyboard handy and the first one I thought of was the Apple //e I have. I have an old typing tutor on a 5 1/4″ disk and I pulled it out and booted up the machine. Matthew tried typing on the Apple //e for a short time and he did seem better. But then he moved to the machine to his left and just tried that keyboard. He said he really liked that keyboard and would like to use a typing tutor on that one.

Well, that was my Replica One which is a reproduction of an Apple 1 from the mid 1970’s. As far as I knew, there never was a typing tutor written for the Apple 1. But Matthew insisted that he liked that keyboard best. What should I do?

What I did is I wrote a typing tutor for the Apple 1. I had a C compiler working for that computer so I quickly coded something in C. It starts with a menu. One item on the menu allows you to select the set of keys you want to work with. You can focus on the home row, all letters, letters and numbers or all keys. Then you can either do a typing drill or the typing game.

The drill gives you eight characters randomly from the set of keys you are working with for you to type back. You type them and it tells you how many you got right and then gives you eight more until you decide to quit and press escape.

The game just prints a random character from the set you have selected over and over again until you press it. Once you press it, it prints a new random character. The goal is to press the key as quickly as you can and get as few characters printed as possible.

Matthew used the program a few times but he gravitated back to the Typing Tournament on the Mac. I guess the simple text based output couldn’t compete with the colourful graphics in that program. But Samantha liked using my typing tutor and probably used it more than Matthew.

I posted my program online for other people with a Replica One or maybe even a real Apple 1. According to the forums, my program has been downloaded 38 times which is pretty good I think.

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