Saturday, March 15, 2008

Typewriters: forever querty

To get into journalism school at the University of Texas, students were required to pass a typing test. So I went to the drag and bought a book “Teach Yourself to Type in 24 Hours.” I think the idea was to type an hour a day for 24 days but my typing test was the next day. So I loaded up on coffee, went to the rooftop deck where I was living and typed and typed and typed for the next 24 hours. Passed the test with 70 words per minute.

And to this day, I dearly love typewriters. Manual typewriters. The older the better.

Typewriters are so visceral. Remember writing nasty letters to creditors? It’s the same feeling when writing editorials. Bang on the keys. Harder. You can’t hurt ‘em. Rrrrip the paper out of the platen. Wad it up. Shoot a basket. Start over. Satisfying to ear, mind and muscle.

Now think of the wimpy little clicking sounds from a computer keyboard. No comparison. Don’t press too hard, you’ll bruise the electrical innards. Spill a beer and you’re out of business.

Well guess what? Typewriters are making a comeback of sorts. Young people lead the resurgence. They think typewriters are cool. There's hope still for America! On the Internet, there are dozens of Web sites and discussion groups. Yahoo hosts a forum called simply: Typewriters. Facebook sports several similar groups.

Tell me, can you still buy ribbons?


ramsey said...

You must've never spilled a beer in a Selectric, or had that golf ball print head jump out at you when a tension wire broke. On deadline.

Nora Christie said...

I loved typewriters too and had a Smith Corona. But I hated changing sheets of paper and wanted a continuous roll like Jack Kerouac used for "On the Road." I liked the smell of the ink in the ribbon also.

Ken Martin said...

I still have a manual typewriter and keep it under a plastic cover. I haven't used it in years, but it's there, waiting patiently, for the day my computer dies and I'm out of the publishing business and no longer absolutely must have one. It's a Royal, solid black, with lots of little levers for things like margin release and other functions I don't even know about. I bought it in a little shop in Buda for $35 about 30 years ago and every time I move it comes with me. Maybe I could use it for a headstone, except I plan to be cremated.

Anonymous said...

found an old royal at an auction a few years back. Nobody was bidding on it so I raised my hand and yelled out " $5.00". Still nobody else bid on it, so I brought it home. My wife promptly told me that I paid $6.00 too much. Oh well, me and that old Royal 10 have grown a little older together with the understanding that I won't try to type on it,and it won't try to correct my spelling.
Mrs. Bullock and "Parker" would be proud of my diligence in keeping my hands off the old pounder.-----Goose

Escaped Waco Alive said...

I thought I was pretty cool for having come in second at a high school UIL typing competition (circa 1970) at 72 wpm until I read your saga, you ol' showoff. Ah, someone shares my perverse love of those magnificent anachronisms. Several manual typewriters hang on my office wall and damned if it doesn't look neat. A Remington Quiet-Riter, an Olivetti manual, and a Hermes 3000 sit on desks or typing tables around the house for ready use, too. No wonder this quote from the SUPERMAN movies always cracks me up: Perry White -- "Lois, Clark Kent may seem like just a mild-mannered reporter, but listen, not only does he know how to treat his editor-in-chief with the proper respect, not only does he have a snappy, punchy prose style, but he is, in my forty years in this business, the fastest typist I've ever seen."

Anonymous said...

About 25 years ago, a friend from church came over for dinner and, while drinking a beer in my old outdoor office, he wanted to see my old typewriter, a Royal from the late '30s. I was astounded when he offered me $100 for a hand-me-down from my father and even more appalled when he added, "No, make it $200" and whipped out his billfold. Now I have nothing left but an oldOlivetti that I carried from 1966 until I quit traveling.


Anonymous said...

Our generation's geeks can whip their generation's geeks asses any day.

And twice on Sunday!

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