Thursday, January 5, 2017

Wow - a typewriter!

I WAS IN State Street Bank this morning talking to the legendary Bobbe White. She was making me a new card with my account numbers on it. She put it in this strange looking thing with a cartridge and roller. It had keys. I blanked out for a second, but after spotting "IBM" on the side, it dawned on me.

Holy crap ... A TYPEWRITER! I haven't seen a typewriter in years.

"The young hires look at it and they kind of freak out," Bobbe said. "But it's still actually easier to use for labels and cards than setting up the printer."

The IBM electric typewriter used at State Street Bank was state of the art for its time. It automatically goes back to the left margin after you finish a sentence. It's fancy schmancy dancy.

Fancy Schmancy!
My parents gave me a vintage manual typewriter when I was maybe 12 years old, and I remember using it to type high school and college papers. It was super cool because I could type red letters, though the ribbon would always get tangled up and I'd get red ink everywhere. A couple of the letters didn't work and I spent more time using whiteout to fix spelling errors than I did typing.

I even remember writing stories for the Central Michigan University student newspaper, CM Life, using a typewriter. About that time they were getting new computers, from what I vaguely remember. This was in the 1800s. Well, mid-1980s. Same thing.

When I was a senior at Central, I was editor of the Chippewa Yearbook. We were the bastard step-child of the college publishing department, and we didn't have the fancy student newspaper VDTs (video display terminals). We didn't even had a typewriter that worked. So I'd steal the CM Life secretary's typewriter at night when we were working on the yearbook stuff - we had to type out stories on carbon paper and mail them to the publisher.

One night I forgot to put the typewriter back on the secretary's desk. The next morning all hell broke loose and I nearly got fired from the yearbook staff. I think we were almost done and it was probably too late to fire me and get somebody else to finish it. But my name was mud in the Anspach Hall basement for a long, long time.

I remember complaining to the student publications adviser, the legendary Jim Wojcik, about not having computers for the yearbook. His reply was something like "Suck it up Buttercup" and "Like I told you when you were hired as editor, I don't want to hear about how the Chippewa Yearbook is bleeping things up." And that was that.

My first newspaper job was at a suburban weekly in Jenison, Michigan, and we used computers. Toward the end of my time at The Alpena News we were going to a newfangled contraption called a laptop. And today I can write my sports stories for The Whig on my own Dell laptop and email them to the office. Shoot - I remember using my phone a couple of times to send updates from trials I was covering.

Still, I miss the typewriter. The clackity clack clack of the metal letter keys hitting the roller was a soothing sound, and you learned to be accurate, since fixing mistakes was such a pain in the ass.

Type on, Bobbe White and State Street Bank. I'm glad somebody is still using a typewriter.

And I might just have some spare whiteout around somewhere, in case you need a typing do-over.

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