If a keyboard could tell a story


I came across this image of a glorious old beauty and it tugged at my heartstrings. Guess that speaks volumes about my personal antiquity but, like this typewriter, I’m still here to tell the tale.

It is fascinating to consider that there are children attending school now who would not even know what such a machine is. How would they get their minds to imagine – in their contemporary digital electronic world – that people used to tap keys to force a lever to strike a piece of paper to create the image of a letter? And if they wanted multiple copies, the typist would insert a sheet or sheets of carbon paper between sheets of plain paper so that the pressure would replicate the original, surface copy?

Imagine their consternation to realise that if the typist made a mistake, for the most part, the entire document had to be ripped from the machine and discarded. Conversely, imagine the consternation of us oldies who grew up with this ‘technology’ when we first encountered autocorrect functionality on electronic gizmos. Worlds apart – and so few decades in between!

Take our minds back to an era in which correspondence typed on a machine like this would have often been placed into an envelope and, if it was addressed to an offshore destination, would have been loaded onto a ship and sailed across a sea or ocean to get to its intended recipient.

Imagine the wildly different concept of ‘news’ in which information could take weeks or months to reach a destination but still be regarded as entirely new and fresh.

And we can ponder, too, whether this heavy little machine was used by a secretary (inevitably a female in those days) to create correspondence for an individual or an organisation, say, a government department. If she worked for government, the typist would have been part of a ‘typing pool’ in which numerous women spent all day typing documents to create official records.

And all these documents had to be stored as official records so we needed voluminous safekeeping areas that held thousands of files gathering dust and yellowing with age. The contrast with today’s ubiquitous USB stick is extraordinary.

We cannot hold back the pace of change and rarely – except in the case of our natural world – were things better than today. But it IS worth considering how things used to be and how privileged we are by contrast today.

Image: mzacha.