Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Not my type

Why is this so dazzlingly attractive to me? I haven’t touched a typewriter in about thirty years (slight exaggeration), and for the most part using a typewriter was a colossal pain in the ass. Of course, I go all the way back to the days of carbon paper, when if you made a mistake while typing a paper for that tyrant English Lit. professor, Dr. Mason (and she insisted on the doctor) even correction tape or Liquid Paper couldn’t save you. You had to retype the entire page. Photocopiers were few and far between, plus they seemed expensive to use. Better to buck up, sober up, sit down, and type. Carefully.

And yet, these objects excite a certain thrill in me. Some of them are so primitive they look like something from the movie Brazil, but the bottom couple of rows are more-than-vaguely familiar. I can even hear the drone of their motors and the satisfying click the font ball of the IBM Selectric made as it hit the paper. I can also remember the texture of the ribbons, especially the ribbons that had black on top and red on the bottom. I was always looking for a reason to use red.

Alas, it’s so much easier to write these days. We take it for granted. Especially you youngsters who never had to make a deadline with one of these monsters, never had to mess with blobs of Liquid Paper that dried and cracked like clay, never realized your ink-smudged fingers (from that emergency ribbon change) were soiling everything in sight, including the paper you just typed. Doh!

I do love the idea of these contraptions. But life really is much better now.

(By the way, if you go to the link, you can zoom in on the poster and view it in detail. It costs $29.)


14 comments on “Not my type

  1. John W. Howell
    March 13, 2014

    I barely got out of typing class whole. I kept looking at the keyboard and still do. Two fingers for me. Mistakes? I’ve made a few. I remember the IBM Selectric which had a self correcting feature. (Didn’t work. You still needed to tear up the page. Thanks for the memories

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 13, 2014

      I never even bothered with a typing class. Learned on the fly. Maybe that’s why I had to use so much Liquid Paper…

  2. ericjbaker
    March 13, 2014

    First The Carpenters and now an ode to typewriters? If you’re trying to woo my Dad to your blog, it won’t work. He’s terrified of computers (and cordless phones, and electric razors, and…)

    Given enough time, an once-mundane object can take on value as an art piece, and manual typewriters certainly have that quality.

    Off topic: This is the second time today that the movie Brazil has come up in the world of Eric J Baker.

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 13, 2014

      God, I’d hate to learn that your dad is younger than me. Oh hell.

      • ericjbaker
        March 13, 2014

        Not a chance, unless you are the youngest-looking 83-year-old on Earth.

      • Kevin Brennan
        March 13, 2014

        Sweet relief.

  3. J. S. Collyer
    March 14, 2014

    I had an electric typewriter once, given to me to use as a toy 🙂 I think it was my dad’s whilst he was in school. This was before we had a computer so it was still a step up from scribbling my once-upon-a-times on note paper, but yes the minute I made a mistake (and I was 12, they happened!) it went back in the cupboard until the next wet day

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 14, 2014

      I think they’re more fun used as toys — or today, art objects. By the way, I don’t want to know how old your dad is… 😉

  4. 1WriteWay
    March 14, 2014

    My mom gave me a electric Smith-Corona for Christmas during my senior year. I had told her that in college, I would be expected to turn in typed papers, and I even took a typing class during my senior year to show my resolve. That typing class and the typewriter not only made writing papers easier, but the two enabled me to earn a little $$ during college by typing up other students’ papers. (And, of course, there were always those students who wanted me to “fill out” their two-page handwritten mess to the meet the requirement of five typed pages). Here’s some nostaglia: I charged 50 cents a page.
    I love that poster. I don’t think I could ever go back to a manual or even electric typewriter. Who knows? I read that some writers still write their first drafts in longhand; they use the computer for revising. Maybe when I retire 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      March 14, 2014

      I wish I could have known you back then! Quite a bargain.

      At least I worked in a place my senior year of college where I could use an IBM off hours. I recruited my mom too… 😜

      • 1WriteWay
        March 14, 2014

        Is there a gender thing here? So many guys who would never touch a typewriter but now are “keyboardists” on the computer 😉

      • Kevin Brennan
        March 14, 2014

        Come to think of it, there were very few boys in typing class back in our day — at least at my HS.

        Plus, we weren’t very smart, apparently… 😳

      • 1WriteWay
        March 14, 2014

        Few teenagers are smart in high school 😉

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This entry was posted on March 13, 2014 by in Et alia, Writing and tagged .
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