The Crossing Guard Chronicles: The ‘Ubiquitous’ QWERTY…

This could be a story about innovation, imagination and invention. Or, it could be an historical footnote about manufacturing and engineering. Maybe it’s about words and vocabulary. Actually, it’s all that and a little bit more. Here’s what happened one week at the ‘Curbside Classroom’*

Monday, while waiting for the crossing signal, I asked the kids, “Do you type?”

Silly question, of course they type, in one manner or another; these kids grew up with keyboards. They’re everywhere, keyboards, that is.

Tuesday, I asked, what is QWERTY?’. That’s right, the top left row of letters on the keyboard. Generally, the kids knew that. But it’s also on the typewriter, that dinosaur of office equipment which most kids have only seen in pictures. Of course, QWERTY is on smartphones, too, everyone knows that, certainly kids do. It’s everywhere there’s a keyboard, QWERTY, that is.

QWERTY is the name of the standard layout of keyboard letters developed by the inventors of the typewriter and refined by the engineering staff of the typewriter manufacturer, the Remington Company. What was developed and improved in the late 1800s is the same keyboard layout we use today. It’s everywhere.

When Wednesday came about, we talked more about the Remington Company, still a major employer in the Mohawk Valley small town of Ilion, NY. While Remington didn’t invent the typewriter, it bought the rights to manufacture it and still operates in the same location today, manufacturing long guns for hunters and recreational shooting.

Finally, Thursday arrived and we put a bow on the week’s topic with the word UBIQUITOUS. How nicely it tied in with the discussion of the typewriter, because unlike that monstrous machine which was last manufactured in the US in 2004, the QWERTY layout still exists and its UBIQUITOUS, it’s everywhere.

We started with a simple question and one thing lead to another. That’s how it works with kids who are interested, at least for the one minute I have their attention. It was almost as though I had planned it.

Friday? Well, I gave them a minute off from thinking…

What’s next, maybe Velcro…

*The sidewalk spot where kids wait to cross a 4 lane highway on their way bto school. I am the crossing guard.

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Retired in 2013 after 5 years as an elementary school teacher and 40 years as a sales representative to begin anew as a school crossing guard. SMy essays/stories are a way to communicate through the telling of personal experiences. One reader said about my blog stories, "...these are like a cold sip during a marathon run, simple, real life events". Another offered about my blog, “it brings some sense of normalcy not easily found in the modern world.”

33 thoughts on “The Crossing Guard Chronicles: The ‘Ubiquitous’ QWERTY…”

  1. I enjoyed this piece so much, Steve. It sounds like another great week, and I love that you taught them the word “ubiquitous.” I hope you get to keep teaching them daily lessons and that your school can remain open. The kids are probably tired of hearing about the Coronavirus everywhere they go.

    My grandmother used to have a braille typewriter that fascinated me as a child. When you struck a key, it would make the raised bumps of Braille. She used to translate written work to braille for the blind and limited vision students she worked with.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the great comment, Pete. It was a fun week. I’m not sure how much they remember but if the ‘lessons’ stimulate them to think for a few seconds, then it’s all worth the effort. I wish I had mentioned the Braille typewriter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent lesson, Steve. I can’t imagine anyone still using a typewriter. Another question comes up as to why the QWERTY keyboard was arranged that way in the first place? The reason dates back to the time of manual typewriters. When first invented, they had keys arranged in alphabetical order, but people typed so fast that the mechanical character arms got tangled up. So the keys were randomly positioned to actually slow down typing and prevent key jams on mostly used keys.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Thanks, Robbie. As for ‘well’, I hope you’re doing your best to avoid the virus. Is it bad yet? As for me, my wife broke her wrist recently and has a very tough time with pain mnmgt following surgery. I’ve picked up the load as best I can but it’s been stressful. Now this virus and I’m going bananas I won’t even mention the stock market. Otherwise, doing the best we can. Thanks, Robbie


      2. It is the same for all of us, Steve. I am in corporate finance which is being badly hit by the stock market debacle. Our savings are also in the stock markets so it is a worry. Everything passes though and this will too. We will all rally and rebuild, but need to stay safe during the epidemic. I am sorry about your wife. That is most unfortunate. I hope she recovers quickly.


  3. Now next question in Europe we have AZERTY.
    Which came first…?
    Remember my difficulties to type to exchange with you and Stalcop. Everything went with Accents…. I wait for your research. 😃😀😆

    Liked by 1 person

    1. X, how are you? Great to see your comments. Actually, I have the French keyboard on my phone, besides English. And I see the diff. I hope you learned something after reading my ‘lesson’. All my best to you and Jean.


    1. Thanks, Jim. Have to make the topics a little challenging, these kids are too smart for fluff. This lesson started because I’m teaching myself to type on a free tying tutorial in the Internet. And the more I thought about the layout, and learned about the history behind it, the more I realized it would be a great topic for the ‘curbside classroom’. Glad you enjoyed it.


      1. Sorry to keep you awake, Steve. I’m off to bed myself. Being a teacher has great rewards. Most are in ‘moments’ which you and I understand. Sleep tight. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Malt, in New York State, where I live, and many other parts of the country, all types of businesses are closed or operating on a very limited basis. Barbershops, salons, dentists, restaurants (exception might be drive-thrus), unnecessary services. People are told to stay home except for critical errands and stay 6 feet apart from others. We are in the critical group, over 60 (73, 72 for us) and useless, er, I mean underlying condition (we have lower immune issues, otherwise we’re in good shape). Volunteers in the neighborhood do our grocery shopping and some supplies are scarce (TP…YIKES🙀). We walk the dog three times. The whole thing is a bit stressful while we play the waiting game. I think our President I doing a good job under the circumstances. What about you? How are you managing? And, By the way, thanks for asking, Malt

      Liked by 1 person

      1. All good here Steve, pretty much the same conditions as you have, I am lucky I can work from home and not be on enforced leave without pay yet. We are also just going out for essentials and walking the dog. The dog is pretty happy that we are both around all the time…I think we both (dog and me) will gain a bit weight during this event..I keep snacking and no regular bushwalking to keep the weight down. Got a lot of home projects to keep me busy and still a lot of photos to process and posts to write…2020 will a year we will never forget in Australia – many people want a do-over/reboot.
        Our little community should setup a blog for this world wide event, an interesting historical record of how we all coped…

        Liked by 1 person

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