Type Casting

My mother had an old Underwood manual typewriter sitting in our kitchen, that she would type letters to my grandparents on. She was fast. After spending several years as the society editor of the Mineral Wells Index in the 1950’s, she could make the keys of that old typewriter sing. She let me hunt and peck out letters as well. I averaged one word a minute. If it was a one syllable word. After a few years, that old Underwood was relegated to the far end of the garage. By the doors. Sitting on a forgotten white enamel desk.

Because a new electric “Selectric” typewriter had taken it’s place. I didn’t trust that new improved typewriter. I missed the Underwood, and the smooth sound that the keys made when struck by an experienced typist. Whenever I was in the garage, I often lingered by the Underwood, my fingers trailing across forgotten dusty keys. And when no one was looking, I would push three keys at once, just to watch them stick together, raised in a mock salute. And then gently, I would disentangle them and let them fall back down to their rightful place. Not that anyone would have cared.

In high school, my mother enrolled me in a typing class. Because she thought I might have need of the skills used to become a secretary. Like I was secretary material. In my mind, I was “Miss America” material. But I guess we all need something to fall back on.

On the first day of class, I noticed that the typing room was outfitted with all manner of electric typewriters. This was the 1970’s after all. Nervously, I chose a typewriter that looked as close to my mother’s Selectric as I could. Because change is hard. I sat in the front row.

I had a very patient and lovely typing teacher, Mrs. Judy Burgess. She was tall and beautiful. When she laughed, she would throw back her head and her joy would fill the room. I found that I loved typing class. And the “A” that I earned looked awfully nice nestled among the rest of the “C’s” on my report card.

I must have needed to use my typing skills the next year, because I’m sure that I typed my term papers in college. I just have no memory of doing so. It’s possible that I owned a small electric typewriter of my own, because I’m certain that I never graced the library.

And I’ve documented on this blog about the two weeks I lasted in Computer Science class. Longest two weeks of my life.

I knew my way around the electric typewriter. That’s all I figure I would ever need. That computer business would never catch on, I reasoned. Who in their right mind would ever have one of those monstrosities outside of a classroom. A classroom meant for nothing but torture.

I managed to graduate from college on the 5 year plan. With a B.A. in B.S.

Mom. Dad. Money well spent.

I learned a few other keyboards in my illustrious career as an office worker in a department store. I ran credit reports, and rang up sales. A number of years later, through a series of odd circumstances, I found myself working as a Legal Secretary. With absolutely no experience. Except that I could type.

Lightening fast.

When computers did indeed find their way into America’s homes, I was a holdout. It wasn’t until the mid-90’s that finally broke down and bought a rebuilt PC. Only to experience the joys of e-mail. This was the time that Fiddledaddy was in my life. He was a self made computer expert. A Mac man.

After we were married, much to Fiddledaddy’s chagrin, my PC came with me. We were a package deal. Along with my 15 year old cat. Who hated him. I feared she would attempt to kill my new husband in his sleep, so she was barred from the bedroom. Which only made her more angry.

Another post for another time.

After a few years of wedded bliss, PC was replaced by my very first Mac. I protested. Loudly. Until Fiddledaddy showed me a picture of a very pretty lime green model. He was beginning to speak my language.

I began my blog on that Mac. And for years, he was a faithful computer. Even for one who is technically challenged. But a couple of months ago, Mac was slow to wake. And he would often just stop when the material was getting really good and drift off to sleep. Not unlike his owner.

I’ve been holding out on you, people. I’ve been typing from the comfort of my bed on a MacBook. A wireless MacBook. I know. I can’t even wrap my head around it. I’m not plugged into anything. And here’s where things get embarrassing. Up until a couple of months ago, I had no idea how this wireless business worked. I thought that you bloggers who post while at Panera’s simply plugged yourself into a phone jack, that Panera’s thoughtfully provided for it’s laptop patrons. I had no idea about WiFi. And it being free and all. (Except in McDonalds. Which is really unfortunate.) Fiddledaddy explained how it all worked. Slowly. So that my eyes didn’t roll back into my head before I would hit the floor in an unconscious heap . As is what usually happens when he tries to explain anything of a technical nature to me.

We’re a match made in techno-heaven.

I’ve come a long way, baby.

And yet, I still miss my mother’s old Underwood. And the sound of the roller when she would rip a piece of paper out unceremoniously in anger. You just don’t really get to experience that level of melodrama on a computer.

The other day, I saw a scene from the movie “All The President’s Men”. And it struck me how the sound of the scene in the newsroom would have been so much different if it were filled with computers.

Instead of manual typewriters.

It’s just the sound of time marching on across the keys of life.

Put that in your PC and smoke it.

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January 25, 2008

19 Responses to Type Casting

  • i’m thinking my next laptop will be a mac. (more like dreaming). sounds like you’ve got it made.

  • Too funny! Dh is trying to convince me we need another computer (don’t even ask how many we already have in the house). He’s drawing me into his evil plan with talk of a pink laptop. Oh my beating heart!

    I remember my junior high typing class. Best thing I ever did. Ha!

  • My old typewriter had correction tape and for emphasis, I could type in red when necessary. Loved the sound of those keys. Especially the return. thanks for the memories!

  • Oh, I love the tickety-tappity memories, the “ding” at the end of the line, the return, and the zip of paper being pulled out. . .

    My mom didn’t replace her old typewriter till they got their first computer. And she was terrified she’d break the computer, “it’s keys being so flimsy”.

  • I love this post. I stirred up a lot of good memories from my own childhood and my mom who also types flawlessly at the speed of light on a manual typewriting. It’s an amazing thing to watch. In my first job ever, the week I started, they company had just switched over to Selectrics and oh was I thrilled about this new stuff called Liquid Paper! No more of those chalky correction strips. Goodness me. Good post girl.

  • My grandmother had an old manual typewriter. I would sneak into her office type room and play on it. One day she caught me, told my parents and I got in so much trouble.

    Last week, I saw an old manual typewriter at an antique store. I might just have to go back and purchase it.

  • Oh, the memories! I can still remember what my mom’s typewriter sounded like.

    What stuck in my mind most, though, was your statement about being on the 5-year plan in college. I ran into a friend of mine several years after we graduated and neither of us was even close to completing our degree, so we joked that we were on the 10-year plan. She graduated and is a teacher now. Me? I am still taking college classes and I’ve PASSED the ten year mark! I think I’ve switched to the “I’ll-graduate-after-I’m-completely-grey” plan.

  • Welcome to the world of MacBooks! And did you know that you can buy sassy colored hard covers so you can be all tech savvy *AND* fashionable?!? Mr. at Home rewarded me with a red one when I caved in and let him buy his own Macbook, “so we won’t get them mixed up”. I love that man!

  • Oh, you just brought back a memory of my high school typing class. I can still hear the teacher calling out loudly (above the in-unison-clicking) “A!-S!-D!-F!-space!-J!-K!-L!-semi!-space!-A!-S!-D!-F!-space!…”

    No Macbook here, but, oh, I am a fan of WiFi! 🙂

  • Love my mac as well. I only use it for blogging, surfing, photo keeping and the occasional movie, but oh how I love it.

    And I always thought typing was for sissies who couldn’t pass AP English or Physics. Oh how I wish someone had talked sense into me back then, as I sit here as an Exec Assist, needing to type everyday. I was so dumb and mislead.

    (And fortunately I married someone who can unroll my eyeballs from the back of my head too. The day I discovered what WiFi meant, I was in heaven! Coffee, pastries AND blogging?! Oh my!

  • I remember my typing class as well. Drives me NUTS when I see hunters/peckers. But it is a great entertainment for the kiddos when you can not only type fast, but you can type fast without looking at your fingers!!!

  • You sound exactly like me on this issue! My husband is a techie also and gets so frustrated with my brain-gap with all things techie. I haven’t even let him try to explain WiFi to me yet! You are so way ahead of me. I do, however, have a Mac now…and love it!

  • Great post! I was trying to explain the typewriter to my daughter the other day. She looked at me like I had horns. Then I recalled how I lugged this massive word processor thing to college! I didn’t use a computer EVER in college. That seems so strange now.

    I just received my first MacBook this week and love it! Though I’ve been blogging all week about my frustrations in switching from pc to mac!!

    WiFi is the best and I don’t want to know how it works.

  • love my mac. and my wifi. welcome to a whole new world!

  • Speaking as one who can blog from her bed with her wireless MacBook, too, I say, “Sing it, sister!”

    Like I told someone on another blog, the MacBook is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. 😉

  • Thank you twice! Once for the rush of memories of my typing class….twice for the 5 minutes of laughing!

  • As you know, I’m new to the whole Mac thing. But I’ve been a wireless girl for about 5 years. I could never go back to being tied to a wall jack. The freedom to blog from bed, or Panera, or the kitchen counter is just too addicting. Welcome to the wireless world. 🙂

  • Have you seen the new laptop that’s barely bigger than a piece of paper? It weighs like three pounds! I need it badly!

    I’m actually getting ready to go home and get out my electric typewriter and fill out W-2’s for my employees. Seriously. My hubby asks me why I still use that ancient thing instead of doing all the laser printing. Bah! He doesn’t understand the feeling of your fingers gliding over the keys quickly and hearing that clickity clack. Men!

    BTW, our McD’s has free WiFi. Plus they usually give away coupons for free fresh baked cookies! Not that I eat any of them. Just letting you know for when you come for a visit to Indiana!

  • I was just telling someone today that I got a ‘D’ in high school typing. I just am not fast and make a lot of typos. My teacher was very encouraging and told me, ‘Carol, any idiot can type.’ I sure showed her.