“Is it real, or is it Memorex?”
So ran an advertisement for blank magnetic tape cassettes a few decades back (and now even mag tapes are a memory.) What’s prompted my bemusement is a recent [thread on the Mac Scrivener forum] asking for Scrivener to, of all things, provide a realistic typewriter key strike sound when a letter is added to a Scrivener document—the loud mechanical thunk of a typebar or type wheel hitting paper over rubber platen. One poster has already bought a utility that can cause their Mac to do this. All. The. Time.
I have to ask, do these people even know what that sounds like for real? When there is no volume control? No soundproofing? (At least one of them does. I can’t imagine why he wants to revisit it, but de gustibus non est disputandem. But even he admits to wanting to turn it off after a while.)
I spent my early working life in a huge partition-less office, with typewriters, phones with real bells, keypunch machines making those old computer punch cards, printing calculators, and people shouting to converse over the din. I was under constant auditory assault.
I’m grateful every day for non-impact printers, silent keyboards, and phones that can be set to vibrate. It’s no longer necessary to work in a painfully loud and distracting environment. Even when I choose to do so (coffee shop) it’s now socially acceptable to use serious hearing protection (my gaming headset.) I’m certainly not going to bring the old noisy environment back on purpose.
I’ve seen an argument (on the key strike utility website) that says that the old key strike sounds can make faster typing possible. Auditory feedback, slightly different sounds for different keys, etc. can make a positive difference in a touch typist’s speed. Maybe so, but I’m not a fast enough typist for it to be worth the noise. If you are, enjoy—but please put your headphones on when you’re in a shared office.
Some things used to be better than they are now. Hearing a loud noise whenever a character is added to a document is not one of them.