Typing tutor includes ergonomics, games

Update: Version 10 of Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing retains its excellent time-tested features and adds a few handy new ones.

September 20, 1999|By Jack Warner | Jack Warner,Cox News Service

Those of you who have been using computers for 15 years or so will be glad to know that Mavis Beacon still Teaches Typing.

Mavis looks as good as ever. Actually, she doesn't look like the Mavis I remember from previous editions, but after all, this is Version 10. How many Version 10s have you seen lately? Not even MS-DOS made it to Version 10.

Broderbund's Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing is by far the longest-lived program I know. The copyright goes back to 1987, but it seems older to me.

As far as I can tell, it hasn't changed much. After all, typing is typing is typing. Mavis' versions 5, 8 and 9 still are available. The keyboard is the same, unless you use one of those Microsoft keyboards, and Mavis makes allowances for that.

It also asks the student at the outset what sort of skills are desired -- typing or 10-key typing, in which one hand is used to enter numerals only.

After deciding how good you want to be -- that is, how much better than the basic 40 words per minute -- you enter Mavis' classroom and take a test.

I suppose it makes sense to force the student to type nonsense words; this presumably puts everyone on a level field. Typing complete sentences might allow some students to go faster than others, although this isn't a competition. I suppose I'm whining because Mavis cut me off after the first of a dozen or so lines and said she had seen enough to know how to tailor a program for me.

Evidently I went to the bottom of the class, because we began with our little hands on the home row, typing words like fasd, dsf or safd. Mavis was most encouraging; I had the feeling that in another 10 minutes of this, her manicured hand, short fingernails and all, would have emerged from the monitor to offer a piece of candy.

Mavis Beacon has a lot more than basic drudgery up her sleeve, at least on the Deluxe version. At the media center, you can go to a practice center and type sentences that might even have meaning to you. There are subjects from which to choose, from astronomy to poetry.

You also can get the latest views on ergonomics for typists. You can take a test to judge the ergonomics of your setup. I shut off the video before it was finished discussing my desk, chair and so forth, but the general opinion seemed to be that only the Hunchback of Notre Dame could survive it for long.

Of course, typing games test speed, accuracy and, in some instances, patience. By and large they are fun, and anyone using this program to learn typing will find them a welcome break.

Mavis is a strict taskmaster. You cannot swap in and out of the program, and the task bar is unavailable.

Mavis V10 Deluxe lists for $50 and includes a soft rubber ball for strengthening your hands (one at a time) and an odd mouse pad with a big padded speed bump at one end.

You should have no trouble finding Mavis in stores, but in case you want to check the older versions, go to www.mavisbeacon. com -- it even has an essay on the history of typing.

I could not, however, find the answer to the biggest question of all -- is Mavis Beacon merely the Betty Crocker of the keyboard, or was she a real typing teacher?

Pub Date: 09/20/99

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