# How did they measure and test typing speed before computers? September 9, 2017 2:22 PM   Subscribe

How did they measure and test typing speed before computers? Also, how would I measure and test typing speed on a computer, but without Internet or software other than Word?
posted by blnkfrnk to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Time your typing for set number of minutes, count the words, divide by number of minutes to get words per minute.
posted by matthewfells at 2:29 PM on September 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

I took typing in high school technically "before computers" (they existed but did not have typing testing software). We were in a classroom with typewriters. We'd practice learning the homerow and typing awa ese ses waw, etc. For testing, there would be somethine we had on our desks to read and the teacher would say "go" and we'd type and type and she'd tell us to stop after a minute (or two, or five) and then we'd count our words (or it would be pre-counted on the text and you'd just see how far you got) divide by minutes if multiple minutes, and subtract your errors and BOOM there was your speed.
posted by jessamyn at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2017 [6 favorites]

Typing speed is described as words per minute, where a word is averaged as ten characters or spaces and a line = ten words on average (I don't know what size type that would be, but you could probably google that yourself.) Set a timer, type a short passage with a known length- see how far you get. For a more accurate result do it for five minutes and divide the result.
posted by Coaticass at 2:30 PM on September 9, 2017

When I was in typing class in 1975, we were giving a passage to type which was on the stand and we started typing on the teacher's command and stopped when he said to stop. He then collected the papers, checked for errors and took the words you typed less mistakes divided by minutes. 8th grade me was 62 wpm.
posted by AugustWest at 2:31 PM on September 9, 2017

In my typing class we had special typing class textbooks, designed to sit up on a stand, that had word counts on each line & each passage.
posted by bleep at 2:38 PM on September 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yes, a timed test, between 2 and 5 minutes. Words typed minus 2x errors (that's the formula our teacher used), divided by minutes gives you words per minute.

So if you typed 144 words in two minutes and you made three mistakes, that would be 144 minus 6 (three errors times the factor of 2), so 138, divided by the two minutes is 78 WPM.
posted by gideonfrog at 2:38 PM on September 9, 2017

Makes sense! That's easier than I thought.
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:48 PM on September 9, 2017

IIRC, five characters are counted as one word for the purposes of a more exact measurement. So "elephant restaurants" would be 4 "words" in a WPM calculation.

(Looks like I recalled correctly.)
posted by clawsoon at 3:22 PM on September 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

And misspelled words don't count, so if you type 100 words total in three minutes but ten are misspelled, then only the remaining correctly-spelled words are counted, making it 90 words divided by three minutes = 30 words per minute.
posted by easily confused at 3:35 PM on September 9, 2017

My grandmother just recently told me a story of doing a typing test for a paralegal position around 1950. She was given a page of legal-related text to replicate and had to hit 75wpm, with any errors subtracted from her speed. The office manager timed her on a watch, and my grandmother kept her eyes on the text she was copying as she typed. The ribbon, however, ran out after just a few lines and my grandmother realized she'd typed a blank piece of paper when the manager called time. The manager was utterly humorless, and did not appreciate my grandmother cheerfully stating "but look! No errors!" She got the job anyway.
posted by missmary6 at 5:35 PM on September 9, 2017 [12 favorites]

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