Memory Trigger 10. Stenography.


Since I was without the use of my computer over the weekend, quite a bit of my exchange of views took place on my hand held mobile phone. One of my friends, exchanging messages on WhatsApp asked me how I could type so fast in responding to his messages. And that triggered the memory of my training to be a stenographer. You can read all about how I got trained to be a stenographer below. I have copy pasted from a post that I wrote nine years ago in a community blog.

When I had matriculated, not with such great scores that I could walk into either an engineering or medical stream for further education, I was advised by well wishers to study to become a stenographer! I was advised that apart from a nice secure comfortable job, if that is what I wanted, I could also aspire to become a journalist, a very noble profession. Since I did not know any better, and I had to study something which would give me some income, I joined up with what was then a leading institution in Hyderabad. The Frank Anthony Institute of Stenography or some such name.

Frank Anthony was a leader of the Anglo Indians and a member of the Rajya Sabha. Anglo Indians, particularly their women, were being employed in hundreds as Secretaries and I quite enjoyed studying in this institute where I was the only male! I duly learned Pitman’s short hand and the touch typing method under the guidance of a venerable Anglo Indian gentleman, who thought that I should rather study to be a soldier.

I was able to secure employment almost immediately with a civil contractor to handle all his correspondence, tender filling etc. Though I did not have much use for the short hand skills, I did quite a bit of typing on nice Remington typewriters, using reams of foolscap paper and carbon sheets. All good things come to an end, and since my talents were being underutilized, I was persuaded to undertake some selling of the then new electrical item starters.

I never looked back and till I eventually became a manager and had to dictate or type messages for the telex machine, I never had to use my typing skills or ever take dictation. I used to refresh my secretary’s own taken down notes when she could not decipher her own short hand! When computerization came around, the employees who were selected and sent for training were inevitably those who could type! Logical as, most of the work then used to be data entry only.

Fast forward to Senior Management and I had to attend a number of useless meetings and submit my portion of the minutes at the end of each meeting, and Pittman’s came to my help. Electronic typing machines were then the in things and I used to quite enjoy showing off my skills.


A few more years, and bingo, I was at the top most position sans a secretary but with a lap top. What a joke! Laps were the tops used by secretaries made famous by cartoonists! We were now using lap top computers as secretaries, communicators, filing cabinets, and just about any thing else one could think of.

Now, I am blogging and sending emails and using my typing skills which enables speed and accuracy but for other than these uses, I would not be able to get a job any where as a Secretary or a Stenographer as, these positions have simply disappeared! I believe that it is now next to impossible to find some institute where one can learn Pitman’s short hand!

12 thoughts on “Memory Trigger 10. Stenography.”

  1. I believe many journalists use shorthand – I know my niece does but then again she is not a young person. Some people use recorders that link to the computer – which reads it back to you, I used such a tool at Uni for lecture not taking.

    I also have touch typing skills which in the main work well, when my hands/brain are working together…interesting that even though I learnt on a manual typewriter in the mid 1960s – I know exactly where the backspace key is on any computer!

    When I first got onto a computer through a business course I was on…everyone, including the tutor assumed “something quite wrong” that because I could touch type, I knew how the computer gadget works. It didn’t how much I explained I didn’t know a lot of things!!!

    then when I printed out my business plan – the print option was so minisule that you needed a magnifier glass that was WHEN they finally got it it. Touch typing doesn’t mean you understand the innards of a computer system ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Why only the innards? I very often have to consult my resident geek to sort out annoying things that keep happening while using the desktop computer that I use. Or for that matter, my so called smartphone!

  2. Most from the younger generations probably don’t even know what shorthand is. I never learned it… and I still haven’t learned to touch type. My typing is a fast hunt and peck. Much of the time, I use the speech recognition feature on my phone for texting.
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    1. Yes, but most young people now use the smartphone and use their two thumbs to type which I find quite amusing to watch. They also seem to be quite fast doing that! When using the key board too, they seem to peck quite rapidly.

      1. You took that skill quite far. Good for you. I studied Greg, and almost never used it. The idea of dictation was absurd anyway, a kind of affectation I think. Something about power. I took over the correspondence wherever I worked being trusted what to say. Greg was a cursive shorthand that seemed to have supplanted Pittman here, and then they both disappeared, although I too have seen especially older women (that’s getting to be a strange reference) using it for personal notetaking.

        1. Towards the end of my working life, I had three successive Secretaries who too did not have to be dictated to and could be trusted to write what needed to be conveyed with just my decisions. But all were what are called Executive Assistants. None of them could write shorthand but all could use the computer well.

          As I write this, I realise that I type quite fast!

  3. Wow, memories do flood! Love this post! Especially when you mentioned Stenography! I never learned it! Never knew shorthand at all, but I did typing and loved it…still do. So true, those jobs no longer exist now with the computer era. I also remember the Gestetner machines, how clumsy they seem now as compared to the scanners and photocopiers of today!
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    1. I have had my share of mishaps with telex machines, photocopiers, stencil copiers etc. We have indeed come a long way from those days. I have one compact machine sitting next to my desktop screen that scans, prints and copies! My smart phone does some other tricks like sending images via bluetooth and so on!

  4. Interesting, Ramana. I learned touch typing and Gregg Shorthand ( ) Gregg_shorthand in in high school as I grew up in a generation where women were to be secretaries, nurses, teachers or (ideally) married. I had no interest in nursing. I quit my education for teaching to get married. The shorthand and typing were all that I really used in life – shorthand for a short time. I blame shorthand for having ruined my penmanship and thank my typing skills always for being able to think with my fingers in a far faster way than I would be able to do in either shorthand or longhand.
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    1. My blog post has introduced my to a number of people who had learnt shorthand and typing! It is amazing how nostalgic all of them seem to be and without exception all state that their handwriting has deteriorated!

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