Dawn's Typing Machine

A free educational toy for inquisitive toddlers who like playing with your computer

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Babies and toddlers learn about the world by being inquisitive, by touching things that don't belong to them, by sticking their fingers into holes and pressing buttons. My own daughter Dawn found she liked pressing buttons on my computer keyboard so much that I used to let her type away into Microsoft Word. But she'd just press a button, and keep it pressed, and before you knew it the page was full of kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk lllllllllllllllll zzzzzzzzzzzz cccccccccccccccccccc dddddddddd mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, and she couldn't easily see what she was typing after that, as new letters just joined the mess.

I had the idea it would be better for her if she could press a button, and see what she'd typed in a clear and obvious way on the screen. It would appear in one massive character in the middle of the screen, and stay there till she pressed something else. In this way she could relate what she'd pressed to what the result was. She was already beginning to recognise the letters in her alphabet jigsaw puzzle, and she enjoyed seeing the letters on the keyboard too, and making them appear on the screen by pressing the right button gave her a big thrill.

So that's all there is to Dawn's Typing Machine. It simply writes a big letter on the screen for any button pressed on the keyboard, and replaces it with the next letter when the next button is pressed.


With Java

First, you need to make sure your computer runs Java programs, as Dawn's Typing Machine is written in Java.

  • If you are running Windows, you probably haven't already got Java, unless you've downloaded it before for some other program. Click here and follow the instructions to download Java for Windows from Sun Microsystems. Email for help on the above link if you get stuck.
  • If you're using an up-to-date version of MacOS, you have Java installed already so you can skip this.
  • If you're using some other platform, e.g. Linux, you're probably enough of a techie anyway to know how to get hold of Java, and how to run Java programs from the command line.

Then, you need to click here to launch the program, or to download it to your computer to run later. Save it to somewhere handy (for example the desktop on Windows).

Without Java

Dawn's Typing Machine is now available as a web application, which can be run in any modern web browser without the need for any other software. Just click here to launch it, and start typing. (So far only letters mode is supported - see below.)

How to use Dawn's Typing Machine

To run the program on Windows or Mac, just double click on its icon. On Linux you'll need to run it from the command line. A blank window should come up that's large enough to fill the screen.

Letters mode

Dawn's Typing Machine will start in letters mode. All you do is press a key on the keyboard. The corresponding character should be displayed in a large font size for you, as in the screenshot. When you press another letter, it will be displayed instead.


Words mode

If you choose Words from the File menu, you can type whole words instead of single letters. The screen will fill pretty quickly, but once it does, the font size will get smaller the more you type, so you'll never overspill the screen. When you want to start a new word, press the return key. The backspace key works in the normal way.



Dawn's Typing Machine supports a handful of fonts chosen for being simple and uncluttered. If your computer doesn't have any of them, the program will use your system's default font instead. If your computer has several of the supported fonts, you will see a separate Fonts menu which will let you choose between them. If you only have one supported font, the program will use it without pretending to offer you a choice.

If there's a font you particularly want to use, feel free to ask.


Version 1.14 Font size decreases in word mode to fit the size of the screen.

Version 1.12 Menu options for about and website added.

Version 1.11 Launches with Java Web Start.

Version 1.1 Words mode and support for different fonts added.