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NIC freshman wins texting title

Sun., Sept. 12, 2010, midnight

Ready. Set. Text …

“NIC and Phones + partner together to raise $ for the NIC scholarship foundation! NIC and Phones Plus; keepin’ it local!”

How long did that take to type? Add one second for every error in punctuation and symbols. If you were under the 40-second mark, then you might have given Tyson Durbin a run for his money at the recent “So You Think You Can Text?” competition held Aug. 28 at the North Idaho Fair.

Don’t fret if you missed the mark, though. Durbin, an 18-year-old freshman at North Idaho College, one of the co-sponsors of the event along with Phones Plus, has been practicing since the sixth grade. The Post Falls native won $100 and a 30-minute ride in the Phones Plus promotional Ferrari in the second annual texting competition, a thumb-twisting test of speed and accuracy.

Using a several-years-old LG Voyager cell phone with a full QWERTY keyboard, he bested some stiff competition with a time of 40 seconds, including one error.

“I was just walking next to (the competition booth), hanging out with my family, and my mom decided she wanted to enter me into it. I never considered myself a fast texter, but I guess my parents think so,” Durbin said. “I didn’t think I had a chance. I did my first time and left it at that. Then one of my friends working at the stand gave me a call and said I better get back down there because there were a lot of people trying to beat my time. It was pretty fun.”

Using their own phones, participants each paid $1 for a battle against the clock, and the top finisher in each of three age groups qualified to compete in the championship. Contestants sat at a table across from a judge with one of three different scripts laying face down on the table. After a three-count start, challengers hammered out the script, placed their phone on the table when done, and the judge stopped the clock. Any errors added one second to the time and the judge then deleted the text so that it couldn’t be forwarded.

Erna Rhinehart, NIC’s communications and marketing director, said the event has been a popular attraction at the fair since it was introduced last year. “It’s ended up being a huge hit with people of all ages,” she said.

Proceeds from the event go to the general student scholarship fund with the NIC Foundation. Last year’s competition raised $135 and this year’s totaled $128. “We don’t raise a huge amount of money, because it’s mostly for fun,” Rhinehart added. “Participants pay $1 each time they compete and they can go as many times as they’d like.”

Post Falls resident Jessica Hart, representing the 20 to 39 age group, placed second overall with a time of 49 seconds, while Jan Jesberger, the returning champion in the over-40 group, won her age bracket with a final time of 1:07.

As more Americans use their phones to type rather than talk, texting has swiftly become a mainstream form of communication.

According to a recent report conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International and available on the Pew Research Center website, a majority of U.S. adults now send and receive text messages, with roughly 72 percent of adult cell phone users texting, up from 65 percent in September 2009.

Despite that upsurge, they still don’t come close to adolescents, it adds.

“Fully 87 percent of teen cell users text,” the report states, adding that they “text 50 messages a day on average, five times more than the typical 10 text messages sent and received by adults per day.”

Durbin can testify to the prevalence of texting among the younger crowd. Despite a slowdown in recent years, he said, he still sends several dozen messages a day.

“It used to be pretty bad when I was in eighth grade, but I probably send 30 texts a day now. In eighth grade it was about 100,” he said. “I have been able to tell, though, with my generation compared to later generations how they are so into texting. So when they graduate and get into the work atmosphere, they are very taken aback by everything because they are so used to the social network and not the face-to-face contact.”

Durbin said he has some friends who could have topped his contest time had they been there.

“Oh yeah, I guarantee that I have friends that are faster than me,” Durbin said, adding that several of his friends gave him some grief for taking the texting title. “They thought it was pretty funny. They made fun of me a little bit, said it probably should have been a girl who won it since they are usually faster at sending texts.”

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