Think As You Write

This amazing device lets you

The Sholes & Glidden Typemachine

         Amazon sells everything.  Browsing around this mammoth store in the sky, I have found a device sure to appeal to anyone like me who would like to put a few thoughts down on paper.  It is called the Royal 79101t.  It beats a word processor three times from Sunday.   It has no cursor impatiently pressing you to put half-baked ideas onto a monitor screen.  It waits quietly while you slowly contemplate your thoughts.  


         It sits ready to accept your most thoughtful words only when they are ready for the printed page.  This amazing new machine sports all the most desirable features, including spacebar, repeat key, variable line spacer, impression control, tabulator key, margin stops, full-size keyboard, 44 keys, 88 symbols, and a beautiful pica 87 font.              

         It comes in a “sturdy retro housing” in three colors:  green, red, and purple.  It is touted somewhere as a writing machine that “lets you think.”

         Imagine that.  A machine that allows you to ponder exactly what you want to say before you type.  What will they think of next?  

         But, wait a minute.  Isn’t this just a manual typewriter like the one most of us used in high school typing class?  

        Well, so it is.  What’s old is new again.  Those in the younger generation have never used a typewriter.  For them, this could be the latest thing in word processing.   Just think, junior.  Now you can print-out your papers without worrying about computer viruses, glitches, or fatal errors.  No cables, no batteries, no mouse, and nothing to plug in.  

          It’s a bit refreshing.  When you think about it, we owe a debt of gratitude to hearty old manual typewriters.  They faithfully served generations of writers.  Mark Twain was the first to submit a typewritten book to his publisher.  It was “Life on the Mississippi” produced on a Sholes & Glidden “typemachine” manufactured in the 1870’s. 

     Sholes and Glidden came to the game, and for a hundred years most of the text that informed and entertained the world came from sturdy and reliable manual typewriters.  

     The great words of Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and E. B. White were produced on Underwood models.    John Cheever, Ian Fleming, and P. G. Wodehouse preferred their Royal machines.  Others pounded away on Remingtons, Coronas, Olivers, and Woodstocks.

      Most writers today have made the switch.  They have deserted their typewriters and taken up computers.  Even commentator Andy Rooney finally retired his beloved Underwood No. 5, a trusty companion in journalism from World War II to “60 Minutes.”

     However, there may be some inklings of a reverse trend.  A few current writers are shunning technology.  Novelist Kevin McGowin has shifted back to a manual typewriter.  “I’ve written more and with more discipline, been less hasty and sloppy, and have seen improvement and now feel more confident,” he says.  “Manual typewriters seem to me to have their own personalities...they have different feels, different sounds.”

     Many of us remember.  In high school, we learned to type on black cast-iron machines that    weighed a ton.  It’s true that the keys jammed once in a while, and heaven knows we used up a lot of erasers.  But who can forget the drumming click of the heavy keys and the feeling of accomplishment when you rolled the paper out of the platen?     

     How many late night sessions were there, as you and your hefty old L. C. Smith raced to beat a term paper deadline?   

   The typewriter served us well for a long time and doesn’t deserve to be summarily dismissed, shoved aside by a flimsy computer keyboard.  Our old friends are  back.  Actually, I don’t think they ever left.  They have just been waiting in the wings  - unplugged, user friendly, always ready- and with a whole new attitude.  

     They let us think while we type.  Now that’s something a lot of us could learn to do.