Mavis Beacon taught you typing. Who was she really?


Mavis Beacon, the typing software tutor whose beaming but strict oversight was the scourge of many sixth-graders' "free" period in the computer room, was not actually a real person, but rather emblematic of an age where the anthromorphization of programs was believed to better engage users with them.

VICE has a piece on anthropomorphic software that includes a history of the fictional Mavis Beacon, who was modeled on a woman who worked at the Saks Fifth Avenue perfume counter:

Abrams described Renee L'Esperance as a "stunning Haitian woman," with "three-inch fingernails." Crane instantly wanted to put her face on the box for his typing software. They got to talking, and despite the concerns Abrams voiced ("She's never been near a keyboard!"), they soon made a deal. Abrams told us they paid D'esprance a flat fee, bought her a conservative outfit that befitted a typist, and rented a business square in Century City on a Sunday, in order to take the cover photo. As for her long fingernails, Crane said "Don't worry. We won't show her hands," according to Abrams.

The article is an interesting look back on how software gets personified, and how the subjects of those personas often end up returning to "a quiet life back in the Caribbean."

Do you like fun typing games? So do I. Try Secret of Qwerty, or Monologue.