Not reverting to type

typewriter

I often marvel at how far I seem to have time-travelled in less than one life’s span. We are all, in fact, time travellers, living a life partly dreamt but sometimes barely imagined when we were younger. Driverless cars, 3D printing, seeing almost to the edge of the known universe, was this not the stuff of science fiction in the not-so-distant past?

And how frequently have our elders and betters misjudged our present future in times past: regular visits to the Moon, a pill for everything with no side effects, an end to poverty, superstition replaced by science.

My musings have been kickstarted by simply sitting down to write this post.

In the last century I would have written down key words in a notebook or scrap of paper, maybe even begun an opening paragraph, found a suitable epigram to discuss or a conclusion to aim for. And then redrafted, and redrafted, and redrafted. I never yielded to that commonplace writer’s trope of lobbing screwed-up paper balls at a wastepaper basket — every bit of writing has salvageable value, of course — but the endless rewriting was something that I never relished, in fact always hated, especially when I’d almost finished before spotting a massive error, missing paragraph or miscopied page.

Now I merely start, indulge in a little bit of cut-and-paste and press PUBLISH. The hardest bit usually is choosing a suitable illustration to head up the post. Some posts I even upload or schedule on my dinky little phone-cum-notebook-cum-camera-cum-search-engine … well, you get the picture. (Sorry, no pun intended.)

I thank my parents for many things — when I’m not blaming them for possibly ruining my young life — and one of them is providing a portable typewriter for my 16th birthday; another is encouraging me to teach myself to touch-type on an old beast (an Imperial, I think) looking a little like the Remington above. With both I have strong memories of pain and occasionally RSI as I bashed away at keys, trying to eke out the last bit of ink in the typewriter ribbon or from a tatty bit of carbon paper. Yes, before the days of correcting fluid I’d have to resort to the wastepaper bin (ink rubbers were the devil incarnate to me) but at least the worst of the waste was avoided by careful drafting.

The portable typewriter lasted until I migrated to a friend’s electric machine, followed a little later by my green screen Amstrad and its associated dot-matrix printer. If none of this rings any bells with you then you either were — like my grandkids — born in the 21st century or have only just arrived from the planet Zog.

Or have somehow fast-forwarded as a time traveller from the ancient past.

Nearly time to wish you all the best for 2016. How has your blogging year been? Have you been indulging in a little retrospection too, whether of the last twelve months or further back? I do hope the New Year takes you nearer your goals or allows you to aim for fresh ones.

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13 thoughts on “Not reverting to type

  1. We had a family Imperial typewriter (also like the pictured Remington) salvaged from an office clearcut at Vickers Shipbuilding. Used to write a lot of stories on that but rarely changed/re-drafted any of them. These days I re-write things a lot more than I did…I think it helps me but I may be deluding myself. Some things make the modern world much better..other things I regard with distaste (but you have got me thinking). A very Happy New Year to you.

    1. And a Happy New Year to you too, Simon! Yes, not everything innovative these days is a boon, more a mixed blessing (how easily I trot out these tired cliches!) but at least we have choices.

      I used to have a regular correspondent, a retired academic and polymath, who typed all his letters until he died a decade ago — no emails or PC or printer for him — and didn’t use Snopake either, snaking lines indicating corrections or insertions (and even literal cut-and-pastes rather than virtual) being his stock-in-trade. Last of a breed, I suspect.

      Hell though, since I had to tap out anew all his lengthy articles on my computer, notes and all, for an Arthurian journal before they could be published in print form. At least it gave me a chance to really appreciate his wit and erudition!

  2. earthbalm

    Great post. My 15th birthday present was a plastic Smith Corona from WH Smiths (I think). I had a typewriter rubber – all of the bits fell into the bottom of the typewriter when you were rubbing out the many errors. I loved its ability to be completely unable to print a whole word with the letters in the same orientation. It never did see any real action, I couldn’t find anybody to help me write the science fiction fanzine I so wanted to produce and our comic (titled “Cheap and Nasty” and produced with the help of my friends Chris and John ((dubblejaycomics.blogspot.co.uk )) ) was hand written. Technology is a great leveller in as much as nearly everybody has access to the means to publish but it doesn’t give people like me anything useful to say 🙂 I do miss the technical struggle to get things done, it was the greatest part of the fun. Happy new year ‘grove.

    1. Oh those rubber bits! Don’t miss them at all, Dale. It’s interesting how TV and film quite often use visuals suggesting a machine typing out text, blemishes and all, when viewers in increasing numbers will never have experienced that technology in the first place.

      Your friends’ blog sounds interesting — will check it out in due course!

      I doubt that you have nothing useful to say, and am looking forward to your 2016 posts regardless of your assertions to the contrary!

  3. Ah yes, many similar memories. I started out with my Dad’s portable Remington when he moved to an electronic one and then upgraded to his electronic one and used it until it too died and I finally got a computer. Life changed then for me in the early 90s as the digital world opened up! Have a great new year 😄

    1. That almost stratospheric increase in access to digital technology in the 1990s may possibly be seen in the future as when the truly modern world took off, Alastair, more than space travel, Concorde or factory floor robots because available to millions of ordinary people. Billions now, in fact!

      Happy New Year to you and yours, Alastair, and trust that the weather improves in 2016 for more photographic opportunities!

  4. I certainly do appreciate the ease of writing and editing compared with the handwritten and ribbon-typed efforts of my earliest novels! My Underwood looked rather like that Remington. As for research – hours in reference libraries to find less than what two minutes of Googling would yield.

    1. “The old order changeth, yielding place to new …”
      Mind you, there’s no guarantee that what you google is the whole truth and nothing but the truth — at least with books you have an attribution to blame if the fact turns out to be a factoid!

  5. It’s astounding, isn’t it? Humanity goes from having computers that fill rooms to having more power in the palm of your hand than NASA used to send Neil Armstrong et al to the moon.
    I was given a manual typewriter for my birthday by my mum – my twelfth or thirteenth I think. I loved it – it was almost magical to see the text appear on the page. But I do remember it being slow going and it made my fingers ache!
    I typed up my husband’s degree dissertation on an electric typewriter – can’t remember the make, though.
    I always just loved the action of typing, that feel of your fingers floating over the keys – still do.
    The manual typewriter has an allure, but I would never swap back – I adore my laptop.
    Happy New Year to you – I hope you have a great time.

      1. Haha! I can’t promise wisdom – random ‘facts’ strung together with daftness is the best I can manage. But this last ten months has been fun – I look forward to more. 🙂

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