This is a far cry from the typewriter that I first learned to operate. It was a heavy old manual with blank keys so that we would learn by touch and not by sight. It was our high school typing class, a course unknown to students of today. Now they sign up for “keyboarding.”
In typing class, we learned not so much how to type but how to erase. A good, hard typing eraser had to be at the ready whenever I sat down to pound the keys.
Nowadays, of course, typing erasers are in very little demand because few people use old-fashioned typewriters. They’ve been relegated to closets and museums, but there’s still some romance associated with those shiny black machines.
Years ago on television, Jessica Fletcher used one every week at the beginning of “Murder, She Wrote.” Andy Rooney liked to talk about his collection of old Underwoods. He had one in the background as he delivered his weekly television essay on “60 Minutes.”
I, too, feel nostalgic for the old Royals and Smith-Coronas that I have encountered over the years. A big beige Royal was my assigned weapon in the U. S. Army. It and I each day prepared the “morning report.” Sometimes it took half the day, but it was an important duty at the time and the old Royal never let our country down.
It was another Royal that served me faithfully for many years at school. In the end, I was the last person in the building to surrender my old manual. I finally waved the white flag when I could no longer find ribbons for it, and the repairman said he couldn’t fix its tendency to jump three times when you hit the space bar once.
Today I’m a member of the “keyboarding” generation. No erasers. No white-out. No misspellings. A finished product that’s clean and crisp and straighter in line than any old manual.
Those old typewriters had personality, though. Many years ago, I wrote to Walter Lord, the author of “A Night to Remember,” “Day of Infamy,” and several other great books that bring historic events to life in minute-by-minute detail. His response was a little gem of a letter. It was typed, but the lines were a little uneven with some of the letters slightly above and slightly below. The “a’s” and “o’s” were fuzzy. It was obviously the product of an old L. C. Smith or the like. Was this the same typewriter upon which Mr. Lord had produced those great books? I like to think so. I also like to think that he typed the letter himself.
It was a warm and friendly reply from an old man who had made words his way of life. Somehow that came through in the uneven pica type of his faithful old companion.
Yes, it’s fun to remember those uncomplicated days when you didn’t need electricity or a disc or a thumb drive to put words together. It’s fun to remember, but when it’s time to meet a deedline – beep – deadline, I think I'll go with the technological flow.
Some of my typewriter friends of old
I’m writing this essay on a computer. As I type, I am alerted to spelling errors by a beeper built into program.
I can edit, move, and delete copy with the touch of a button. When I’m finished, my trusty printer dutifully types the paper and rolls it out, as nearly flawless as the two of us, my computer and I, could make it.
Typewriter Types and One-Font Days