Friday, July 4, 2014

My New-Old Typewriter

A while back a church member gave me a portable, Sperry Rand / Remington 666 (interesting number, but not that relevant today). It's a typewriter. Few of the younguns in these parts know how to operate one. I took it to class once and challenged them to load a piece of paper. These are college freshmen and sophomores. It daunted them. Only three tried. I'm sure they'll become more adventurous and proficient at trying new things as they age.

It's a simple device. Hit the letter key, the letter arm rises as does the ribbon-guide. If there's paper on the platen, a mark designating that letter is made on the paper. I used a fancier, electric version in college. It died years ago.

The case is 15 inches long, 4 and three-quarters of an inch tall and 13 inches deep. I may be wrong, but research shows it was made in Holland in the early 1970s. It arrived with no paperwork though ribbons are still available for purchase on the internet. The original documentation, including a section on how to type, is also available for download. Like what isn't? Fascinating, no?

It's a magnificent machine. It yet works and I want to use it, but I don't know what for.

It's also a reminder of, if not simpler, then less confusing times. We seem to be confused a lot, and we call it sophistication. Psychologists used to call that avoidance. I think now they call it enabling, or something like that.

I'm not even that old and still I remember non-Monsanto owned seed- corn, blackberry patches back in the woods on the edges of a field, a little thing called going to town, taking a bath, Americans who were unafraid of gluten, and people who looked for patterns and not exceptions. All these things worked well. Still do.

Another fascinating tidbit is that in the early 1800s the typewriter was 'invented' over 100 times by different individuals. I suppose this means that when conditions are right a concept happens, whether people want it or not. And heck, who wouldn't want a typewriter? Charles Thurber is generally credited with the first 'workable' typewriter patent in 1843; for clarification, that pre-Civil-War. This also means it takes some doing to get it right, not that that ever stopped someone from trying.

There's also a thing called staying power and the old canard about buggy-whips. You can still buy one of those too. The typewriter is also still around. The faculty mail room where I work yet boasts one of those big, fancy IBM electrics. I've even seen people use it. The machine, as a species, is coming up on being 200 years old. That's a while.

Technology is an interesting thing. It both advances and accumulates at the same time. Look around your house. The cutting edge doesn't immediately replace the tried and true. This explains some of the anachronisms. I suspect this is the reason why the Blu-Ray hasn't replaced the CD.

As a gift, it's pretty cool. Someday when I have my museum-quality den I'll put it on a pedestal under a glass dome, next to my pre-Reagan globe. Until then I don't know quite what to do with it. I suppose it will sit in a corner and from time to time I'll look at it with a very non-pragmatic sort of appreciation and someday, if the lights go out, it will help me be an important person - one who can type letters and thoughts on pieces of paper.

If you ever win on Jeopardy with any of this send me a couple of bucks.

No comments:

Post a Comment