The good ‘ol days of typewriters

I’m old, or rather, old enough to remember the days before computers. For you younger writers out there, I felt you might enjoy insight in the good old days of typewriters, where we used these archaic machines to write.

jammedI remember when I typed too fast, the keys would literally jam up in the machine. You have to manually separate them. I understand, the reason the keyboard is laid out with the QWERTY style is due to the fact they wanted people to slow down to accommodate this jamming issue.

I remember any mistakes required the liquid paper that came in a tiny bottle where you dabbed over the mistake, let it dry a bit, and typed over it. The stench was sometimes overpowering, and my fellow high schoolers kept telling me it could make me high. I don’t know about that. I hated the smell, regardless.

The noise of a old fashioned typewriter is distinct. When in a room full of typist, it could almost be deafening.  Check out this video of a college kid who brought a typewriter to his class. Hilarious. (video).

Formatting was all done manually. You set the machine to indent, and clicked the indent key each time you started a new paragraph. Fortunately, you could set margins for the page, but header and footers had to be done manually for each page.

No copies. Well, this isn’t entirely true. If you typed with carbon paper, you could make a second copy but otherwise, each story typed was an original. If lost, ripped up, torn, eaten by the family dog, burn up in a fire, or whatever fate befell your manuscript…tough luck.

Ink came in ribbons. You often realized you needed to replace the ribbon when words faded. Hopefully, you’d know enough about your typewriter how to put one of those in correctly.

Fingers often ached. With the typewriters, you had to have a certain strength to your fingers to slam it hard enough so the key forced the ‘hammer’ of the letter to smack against the ribbon to punch to the paper in order to make a dark enough letter. If you didn’t hammer hard enough, the letter was faded.  After typing class, my hands often ached afterward.

So bask in the joy of word processing (or even handwriting) because typewriters soon faded to obscurity and you rarely see them now. For me, I’m thankful. My fingers are also thankful.

Writer’s prompt: Use the photo below for your prompt to answer such questions as to why she’s walking without shoes along the road. What story leads us to this point?


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