Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Does anyone else miss typewriters?

Remember typewriters?

Wow! What a wonderful invention. What a great way to put your thoughts on paper. People used to write whole books on typewriters.

Remember Ernest Hemingway? He wrote entire novels on typewriters. How about “A Farewell to Arms?”

He wrote it on a typewriter.

(Editor’s note: If someone looks up that last statement on a computer and discovers he wrote the book with a pencil on a legal pad, don’t call me – I’ll call you.)

Back when I was thinking about going to college, I thought I wanted to be a sportswriter. It took me a while to get rid of that notion, but meanwhile, I was aware I would have to know how to type if I worked on a paper, so in my first quarter at Kent State I signed up for Typing 101.

Boy, was that boring! You learned how to type in the first week. All you did was type repetitions of FRF space, FRF space, and like that. And you learned how to type, “If you are planning to work in an office, there are many things which you should know how to do.”

I guess that sentence was considered good practice for the minimally challenged. I mastered it before the first quarter was over.

Newspaper reporting was fun when stories were written on typewriters. You would stick two or three sheets of copy paper in the machine, insert one or two sheets of carbon paper, and go to town on the day’s latest adventures.

Our three reporters, Gerry Snook and Max Somebody and I would sit around the city desk after deadline and compare “dupes” to see who had written the most stories. In those days, each reporter would write 10 or 11 stories – some of them very short, of course, but some of them epics dealing with breaking news stories such as murders and other forms of social mayhem.

There are no more typewriters in newsrooms, and perhaps possibly not anywhere in the world. Oh, I know of two of them. I still have one in my office at The News-Herald and I have one at home. That one has a very wide carriage. I do not know why.

Typewriters are excellent for addressing envelopes, especially for those whose handwriting falls barely short of being legible.

The lady of the house has perfect handwriting. She attributes it to the nuns who insisted upon it. But I never went to parochial school, so I just learned to write in the old-fashioned way, from public school teachers.

Just last week she asked me to write out a shopping list, which she dictated as she strode about the house looking for the usual things – her glasses, her cell phone, etc.

When she was ready for the trip to Giant Eagle she took a look at the list, wadded it up in disgust and left in a listless manner, one might say. She said she couldn’t read it.

Typewriters are still my writing machines of choice. The problem is, I have no idea where to buy a new ribbon for my two faithful servants.

So I write the way other people do. If I want to make a list, I use a ball point pen and one of those many thousands of note pads that arrive in the mail from people who want you to send them money.

I call them “tin cup” letters. If not the little note pads, they send you gummed stickers with your name on them.

Here’s a news bulletin for everyone who sends me tin cup letters with return-address labels inside –  I DON’T NEED ANY MORE OF THEM.

I already have many thousands of them. I would throw all of them away, but there is not enough room in the green-with-a-yellow-top recycling container.

If Waste Management tried to dispose of all of them at once they might gum up the machinery.

Here’s the nice thing about typewriters: Basically, nothing goes wrong with them. Whatever does go wrong is usually a small thing that anyone with an IQ above two digits can fix without going crazy.

But now everything is written on computers. And don’t tell me nothing can go wrong when you are writing on a computer or I will tell you that you are nuts.

I write this column at The News-Herald. I write a lot of other important stuff on a computer at Lakeland Community College. And I write other, basically unimportant stuff on my computer at home, which I try to turn on about once every three weeks.

Mostly I use it for emails. And even with that minimal amount of usage, plenty of things can go wrong.

I should have said can and do go wrong.

I started writing this piece intending to tell you about the things that can go wrong with computers when you try to write something that makes sense.

But that will take at least another week.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also still have 2 of them, one an IBM Selectric. Find ribbons on ebay.

October 5, 2014 at 6:34 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love my IBM Selectric II. It's great for a left-handed person-like myself.
Larry Brown Tucson, AZ

October 5, 2014 at 9:50 AM 
Blogger Another Old Person said...

Sorry, Jim. You're coming off as an old man who can't adapt to change. I'm in my 60s and, while I have a typewriter in my basement, have no desire to return to the old days. Embrace technological change, learn and enjoy it. Move forward, my man. There's still time, lol. I've read your column for years. Keep it up.

October 5, 2014 at 12:56 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ummm - no

October 6, 2014 at 8:34 AM 

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