Jun 23, 2009

141 Years Ago: The Typewriter

Listen closely now, "Pop... pop... pop... poppoppoppoppop..poppop.... poppoppop....click...ding.. ..ZzzzzING... Poppop...pop..." Those under 29 years of age won't recognize that sound. Those over 29 -- you know it - a typewriter! And now you're smelling it, right? The chemical scents of carbon paper, whiteout, and typewriter eraser crumbs. And oh, my favorite, the mimeograph smell! Yum-O!
And now -- listen closely, hear the long, squeaking sound? What's that, class? The typewriter table being rolled across the floor! Remember the old typewriter tables on wheels with the folding wings? Always gray. I loved those tables!

My mother taught me everything I needed to know about typewriters, tables and secretarial duties. Day after day I'd play office with my pens and pencils in a can, mounds of paper and clips and staples on mom's old typewriter table. Oh, I was so important in those days.
Mom would call me for lunch and I'd swat that stray hair back, stick my #2 yellow pencil over my ear and sigh "OK, right after I get this memo out." I'd walk over to dad's desk and thumb through his files looking for an important document, slam the drawer shut with my hip and go back to my table to jot a note with a heavy sigh . Post It notes weren't invented yet. What a mess -- little scribbled notes flying every which way whenever I slammed a book down on the desk or if a breeze came through the screen.
My life hasn't changed much, I grew up to be a secretary, which evolved into a bookkeeper and web designer content manager updater entry-er person (what am I??). I'm still filing, still using Post Its, staplers, pencil cans. The biggest change, of course, is my typewriter. Around 1982 I upgraded to an IBM Selectric and even that had to go when PCs became affordable.
On July 23, 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes (my hero!!) patented the typewriter in his dark little shop in Milwaukee. His intention, at first, was to create a machine that would automatically number the pages in a book. That idea developed into creating a machine that would automatically print the letters on the book pages, too. In the following years, he improved his typewriter and was granted a couple more patents, but he soon ran out of money and further developments stopped. He sold the rights in 1873 to the Remington Arms Company for $12,000. (Probably not a bad retirement, he lived for 17 more years)
The typewriter went though many changes, but where would we be without the keyboard which I am using even today writing this post. That hasn't changed much. I do miss the manual return arm, hearing the end-of-row ding and smacking that thing with a flourish. Nothing can replace that feeling.


Mom said...

Take me back to the days of the typewriter, I absolutely hate computers! Hey who IS that skinny girl?

JMaslar said...

That poor girl on the typewriter worked for a big company that no longer exists, what a shame! How about you V, have you decided what you want to be when you grow up?