In Digital Age, Railway job hopefuls use Typewriters

CHENNAI: As Aman Kumar typed away furiously on a rusty typewriter near a railway school at Ayanavaram on Saturday, a crowd gathered. But the 31-year-old was oblivious to everything except attaining the target of 30 words a minute on the rusty old machine had brought all the way from Patna. There were many more like him at the ground.

At a time when even desktop computers are being inched out by laptops and tablets, railways tests candidates’ typing skills, required to secure a job as junior accountant and senior clerk, on typewriters. And the candidates are to bring come with their typewriters.

Hundreds of candidates from across the country have arrived in the city, some lugging machines in huge bags and others carrying them on the shoulder into the examination hall. “I rented this machine from an institute near my house. This is a new city and I had a tough time finding the venue. Getting around the city with this large bag is difficult,” said Aman Kumar.

The exam is being held after two years. “There was a scramble for typewriters in my town when hall tickets arrived and students found out they had to bring typewriters,” said Manoj Kumar of Ranchi. Many posted on online forums asking peers to find out if laptops could be used. Candidates from all states, mainly West Bengal, Rajasthan and Bihar, have come to write the exam.

Railway offices mostly use desktop computers, but typewriters are still used to prepare notes and interdepartmental communications or orders. “The test is to find out if candidates can type fast on a computer. Keyboard of a computer is similar to that of a typewriter. Railways is not providing typewriters because candidates will find it difficult to type on machines they are not used to. This has been the norm,” said Karupannaswami, member-secretary, Railway Recruitment Board, Chennai.

With typewriters out of fashion, many candidates are renting them. This has turned out to be a good time for institutes whose prospects have dimmed after laptops and computers came into vogue. Several private agencies are renting their machines to those who don’t have one at Rs 300 for one exam.

Thyaga Rajan, who runs a typewriting institute in Tuticorin, has brought 30 machines here. “This exam is a good way to show people typewriting is not dying,” he said.

However he was upset that mechanics were no allowed inside the hall. “Most candidates do not have much training with the machine. It should have been organized properly. That is the only complaint we have,” he said.

Manoharan from Madurai said that it was a good thing for people like them. “This examination has renewed an interest in typewriting. I got several students coming in to train in the last few weeks,” he added.