Sunday, April 14, 2024

New podcast a type of history shorthand

A unique limited series podcast is shedding light on a previously overlooked chapter of New Zealand history.

With a focus on a seemingly obsolete device – the typewriter – and its users, the Keystrokes Per Minute podcast is a celebration of the lives of women of the New Zealand Public Service Typing Pools from 1945 till the present day.

“We’re shedding light on the overlooked, undervalued and comparatively low paid typists and shorthand typists, who were indispensable to the operation of the Public Service and indeed, the wider public,” said podcast producer, Meg Melvin.

Keystrokes Per Minute comprises nine episodes themed around topics of education, life in the typing pool, the public service and ‘women’s work’, and the impact of technology on the profession. Listeners gain insights into the vital contributions these women have made throughout their careers, and the impact of societal, political and technological advancements along the way. From clever typing ‘hacks’ to rubbish bins on fire and missing typewriter parts, listeners hear heartwarming stories from the characters found inside and outside the typing room.

“One of the podcast interviewees commented that in her era, women’s work was never seen or talked about, and it became clear – my job was to ensure that as many, if not all, of these women’s voices would feature in the podcast,” says Ms Melvin.

“Marking 130 years of women’s suffrage, the podcast recognises and celebrates the journey women have undertaken in their pursuit of equality, and serves as a poignant reminder that there’s still a way to go.”

The podcast’s release also coincides with a global resurgence of interest in typewriters. In a digital era characterised by relentless pace and device connections, many yearn for the tactile, the authentic, the opportunity to just slow down. This, coupled with the allure of the typewriter aesthetic, has led to a typewriter comeback. Artists and writers are embracing the machines for a more mindful creative process, while collectors and other typewriter enthusiasts are setting up clubs, ‘type-in’ events and online communities.

“The keystrokes podcast bridges generations, allowing older New Zealanders to share their typing pool memories with a younger audience who have only known a digital age. These conversations may have not otherwise occurred,” said Ms Melvin.

The Keystrokes research team partnered with the Manatū Taonga (Ministry for Culture and Heritage) and Te Kawa Mataaho (Public Service Commission) to create the podcast.

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