As my laptop cratered earlier this evening, I thought about getting mad, but then I thought: why bother? It’s what computers do. They wear out on us.
Some people, whose intelligence I will try my best not to disparage, say at a time like this, “Oh, for a good old typewriter! Am I right?” And then they begin to list all the advantages of a typewriter: instant hardcopy. No problem when the power goes out.
And then they’re pretty much stumped.
See, I “grew up” on a typewriter. I remember the typewriter we had in our house growing up in Abilene, Texas (official motto: “We’ll think of one eventually”). It sat on a bureau in the kitchen, right under the wall phone, where a quick label or even a short letter could be banged out by anyone in the family at a moment’s notice. Mostly, it provided people with something to do while listening to a boring phone “conversation” (i.e. monologue) from someone whose feelings you didn’t want to hurt by hanging up on them though you wouldn’t have minded hitting them with a hammer.
As I grew older and became enamored with the power of words and a fascination with producing them on a typewriter, I began to lug said typewriter to my room, where I would type on stories until the wee hours—much to the chagrin of my sisters who were in the next room. And did I say “lug”? That may be too mild of a word. Our family actually had a typewriter that was (probably) advertised when new (sometime during the Harding administration) as “portable”. I can just see the ads in “Life” and “Colliers” that probably showed some smart, trim-looking woman wearing the height of fashion, stepping happily down the street, carrying our typewriter as if it weighed no more than a bagel—and it was conveniently shaped like a purse, too!
In reality, it weighed something more than a beagle and had all the aesthetic charm of an anchor. The keys were all made out of metal that had only partially been melted down after the Merrimac was decommissioned and were guaranteed to stick every time you tried to type too quickly a word with a “th” in it … or a vowel.
The ribbon! Who can forget the joys of typewriter ribbon? How many people in nursing homes today landed there because of the alcohol they drank to try and forget the typewriter ribbon? For those of you young enough to not have any idea what I am talking about, as you typed on the keyboard of a typewriter (whose keys were arranged in the same non-alphabetical order as what you see on your modern keyboard), tiny little metal “things” would strike a black “ribbon” and print “letters” (and even quotation marks) on the paper you had—hopefully—remembered to insert in the typewriter.
For a while. Eventually, the ribbon would run out of “black” (or even red, remember those? The typewriter with the duel-colored ribbon which, in theory, allowed you to type the New Testament but usually just produced writing where the top two thirds of the letters were black and the bottom third was either red or non-existant?). When the ribbon ran out of black, you were supposed to replace it. Except that only the people in the State Mental Home for the Chronically Overprepared had spare ribbons on hand (or knew where they kept them—we sometimes owned several new ribbons, but they hid in the backs of closets until unneeded).
This is where typewriters became really fun, kids! All typists believed that, somewhere on the ribbon that had been in their typewriter for several senatorial campaigns, there was a “sweet spot”, a place on the ribbon where there was enough black to finish out the letter to Aunt Rose you were typing. So you would hand-wind the ribbon back and forth, looking for that spot, only to find that—yes, there was SOME black left but, unfortunately, by that time it was all on your fingers.
And have I mentioned those erasers that were supposed to be capable of erasing typed print but were actually little bits of sandpaper shaped like an eraser and designed to, with two quick strokes, rub a hole all the way through your paper? I haven’t? Well, don’t get me started.
Yes, I want to boot my laptop (not as in “reboot”, but as in “kick it like a football”), but I have just enough brain cells left to know I don’t want to go back to a typewriter. Maybe I’ll just write all these things out in pencil and tie them to the feet of birds—any bird will do, I’m sure—with express instructions to take the message to the High Plains Observer.