Eons ago, I learned to type on an old black Remington.
A clunker of a machine, I say with only a hint of exaggeration that I had to use a hammer to smash the keys hard enough to make sure they connected with the paper.
It’s a good thing that I was more robust as a teenager. Today, a session on that old battle ax would grind me down to a frazzle in just a fraction of time my self-taught lessons required.
It wasn’t just the physical demands that could easily frustrate any user of those old relics. A session always guaranteed considerable frustration.
In learning mode, I commonly would start to punch down just as I realized I was about to hit the wrong key.
Sure enough, with finger more than halfway through the stroke, I would watch in agony as—too far committed—I went ahead and hit it anyway.
Even though Liquid Paper had been invented by then, it hadn’t made its rounds to our house. I remember using this white correction paper that supposedly removed the mistake, but left a huge impression that remained even after you had replaced the offender with the right letter.
It left my papers always looking like they were still in draft mode, banged out by an inexperienced neophyte who wasn’t sure what he was doing.
Given my long-ago experience, I shook my head in disbelief when I read recently about a resurgent interest in typewriters.
“From public ‘type-ins’ at bars to street poets selling personalized, typewritten poems on the spot, typewriters have emerged as popular items with aficionados hunting for them in thrift stores, online auction sites and antique shops,” read one Associated Press story.
It described a dramatic growth in the fan base that has moved this phenomenon beyond a mere fad, and operators of thrift stores and estate sales saying typewriters are some of the quickest items to go.
The sign of status is this past summer’s release of a documentary on typewriters featuring Tom Hanks (one of my favorite actors) and musician John Mayer.
Back to the Future
At the risk of sounding like a typewriter Scrooge, I have to ask: what’s next?
Should we bring back Model T’s for a spin down the interstate? Scrap the budding solar panel industry so we can gather around coal-burning stoves? Or disconnect our refrigerators for the joy of hauling blocks of ice on Red Ryder sleds?
Even when I moved up from the old war horse I learned on to a portable typewriter I bought as a high school graduation present to myself, mistakes were the order of the day.
They didn’t come as often, and it didn’t take such a yeoman’s effort to mash the keys down. Still, when the personal computer came into fashion in the mid-1980s, I soon retired the typewriter.
I dragged it around for another 10 years. Finally, a pending relocation made me realize that lugging the old thing around any longer was taking up time and space better spend on more productive pursuits.
If memory serves me correctly, I left it out by the alley for a garbage crew to remove.
Ease of Laptops
I don’t miss it, and I’m not sure I would have gotten that much for it had I hung on to it. Every time I work on a challenging article, edit a lengthy book, or check my email, I’m grateful for the ease of using my laptop.
So, for all those typewriter fans longing for the past, I say: go for it. Hope you have fun. I’ll stay back here in the 21st century.