- March 22, 2010
- 12:45 pm
- Donald Heider
Missing a Typewriter
By Don Heider
When I learned how to type, it was actually on a typewriter. Those who know me well will be surprised to read that I claim to know how to type, because somewhere along the way, my typing deteriorated into the four-finger newsroom peck. I learned to type, really type, in eighth grade. I can’t remember my typing teacher’s name, but this was back in the day when we learned a lot of the more vocational stuff in school. I pounded metal from a forge in shop class and tooled leather as well. And yes, we learned to type in time to music from a record on a record player, and the teacher would turn out the lights to make sure we weren’t looking at the keys. The problem was between eighth grade and my first job in a news room, I typed only infrequently, so whatever I learned went away.
In the first three newsrooms where I worked, we used manual typewriters. What brought all this back to me was this site I found via a link on Boing Boing (http://antiquetypewriters.com/collection/index.htm). It’s a fabulous collection of photographs of amazing old typewriters.
What looking at these made me think of was how fun it was to type. When I returned to the newsroom from covering a story with a head of full of information and maybe an idea for a lead jotted down in my reporter’s notebook, it was joy to sit at my desk and feel the keys fly under my fingers. There was something incredibly pleasant about the actual mechanism of a typewriter. The sound it made the feel of the weight of the keys under your fingers. Remember hitting the return? Those typewriter photos make me nostalgic for that. “Keyboarding” just isn’t the same experience.
Of course, I’m not so nostalgic to give up my word processing capabilities. What I discovered when computers finally hit newsrooms was that word processing made me a better writer, simply because of the ease of editing. I remember ripping up countless pages and/or trying the clunky methods of correcting; hitting backspace is no doubt much easier.
Maybe I need to invest in a steam punk keyboard and try to get the best of both worlds.