Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Another Nostalgic Indulgence: Manual Typewriters

Remember these? I never miss the lack of convenience, of course, but sometimes I miss the sounds they used to make: that deep clunk of the letter going down and the schtook-BING! of the carriage returning, not to mention that lovely rhythm of really getting going on a good thought, pounding away before the notion left me.

When I was in high school typing class we learned on both the manual machines and the more modern electrics, so that we'd be able to adapt to whatever future offices offered to us. Little did we know!

I held out against computers for a while. I was loyal to my typewriter and all it represented for me. But the first time someone showed me that all I had to do to correct an error was press "backspace," I betrayed the typewriter without a second glance. Never to have to use those annoying white papers again! Never to have to scroll up the paper to fix an error and then scroll back down, trying to get back on the exact same line (and never succeeding)! It was too much temptation.

Now thoughts of my old typewriter are similar to those one has for a far-distant lover. I smile fondly--but I'd never go back.


Bill Cameron said...

Unfortunately, I can't see I brained my dad with a typewriter.

Bill Cameron said...

I can't say it either.

Julia Buckley said...

What in the world are you talking about, man?

Bill Cameron said...

I don't know. I think I'm already drunk on holiday egg nog. And I haven't even HAD any yet!

But, boy, I loved my original typewriter. It was a big '50s-era office electric. Heavy as an anvil, noisy as a Harley. But boy it typed beautifully. I kept it alive for years, lugging it back and forth to the typewriter repair place at need (I hired Sherpas). I used it up through 1982, when it died at last after a 24-hour writing session and the repair place said they just couldn't get parts for it anymore.

It's replacement was a very modern IBM Selectric with a one line memory (for centering and error-correction and stuff) that was quiet and light. I never quite felt comfortably using it.

It's all computer now, but it's funny because sometimes I think the computer makes writing harder. It makes typing easier, but writing, I think, benefits from the process of putting test right on the page, and then have to rewrite or retype it when you need to make a change. Drafts are really drafts, not vague, incremental and difficult to track modifications in some text file.

That said, I can't write much more than my name by hand with cramping up, and I just don't feel I have the time retype and retype and retype. Yeah, I did in the old days, and not so long ago all writers had to do it. But now that I have a computer, no, I couldn't go back either.

Julia Buckley said...

No kidding. It's all about adaptation. Charles Darwin was right!

And it we didn't adapt, our kind would die out, or be eaten by people who could use computers.

Bill Cameron said...

I would be delicious, especially with lotsa butter.

Julia Buckley said...

You KNOW I'm partial to butter.

But let's recap: you tried to murder your father with a telephone, but not a typewriter. Were you selective about your murder weapons at 18 months?

Bill Cameron said...

A fellow has to play to his strengths. In this case, my strength was adequate to lift a telephone, but not a '50s-era Royal Office Electric Typewriter made of cast iron, lead, and/or—perhaps—plutonium.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh, I learned on one of those oldies as well, back in Las Vegas High School. Sigh. Don't have one of those around here, but do I have a fairly old one given me by a friend and I placed it atop the bookcase in my office for inspiration (I'm certainly not going to type anything on it! Just thinking of the multiple copy thing and rolling up and down to fix errors makes me shivvvvvverrrr.) Where was I?

Thanks for the trip down memory lane.