Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Demon Typewriter

My grandfather Streator and grandmother Maw
in the center of the picture
The Demon Typewriter by J.Q. Rose

Old pictures bring back good memories for me. The picture above is my mother's side of the family with my grandmother Maw in the center. I've been thinking of her lately because this month she would have been 125 years old.

Maw was my first reader and publisher She took the scribbled notebook pages of a story about a girl and her horse and typed up the whole "novel" on her old typewriter.
Antique typewriter
Courtesy of  thaikrit at freedigitalphotos.com

What joy when I saw that type-written manuscript! I knew I wanted to be a writer and I'd have to learn how to type in order to offer readable manuscripts. When I was in high school, I took a typing class. All the machines in the classroom were manual typewriters---except one. That electric typewriter was a demon as far as I was concerned. The letters jumped on the page with just a light touch of the finger and the carriage magically returned to the beginning of the line with no warning.

Using that dang machine to take speed typing tests was gut-wrenching for me because I wanted to ace every test. With only one electric in the class, we drew straws to see who would have to take the test on that scary monster. After practicing all week on a manual, hopping on the electric typewriter was like driving a sports car with an automatic transmission when all I'd driven was a  manual geared beat-up pick-up truck! But not as thrilling. 

The automatic functions played havoc with my word count, not to mention the mistakes caused by my heavy-fingered touch on those quick responding keys. As I look back now, I think the teacher factored in using the electric typewriter for the test instead of the manual. Otherwise I would've flunked the class!
Typing in the 21st Century
In the 21st century, we can type out a manuscript in no time, delete whole paragraphs, auto correct misspellings, move entire scenes to a different chapter in seconds. The only way to change errors was to use the white corrector "paint" to fix typos. We had to dab a bit on the one wrong letter (or many wrong ones) and type over the top making sure the carriage was lined up exactly with the space where the correct letter should be. Any change to a story resulted in re-typing the whole thing.

I remember the stress and churning stomach when trying to type a carbon copy. Absolutely no errors allowed or I'd have to start all over because it was impossible to correct the carbon copy.

I know taking that typing class was probably the best for me because I have used the skill all my life. How did you learn to type? Or can you type?

Share some memories of your typewriter experiences or times with your grandparents. Thanks.


Miss Mae said...

Oh yes, how I remember all of this!

Carbon copies? The dread of my business world!

And who had the pica or elite type? I preferred the elite.

Remember the 10 or 12?

And of how there are 66 lines to a 8 x 10 sheet of paper and how you calculated math to find your center?

And to backspace once for each 2 characters to center a title?

What about setting margins? And the "ding" of the bell?

Funny thing is I took typing my freshman year. Didn't even sign up for it, or wanted it. I wanted French class, but it was full, so the guidance counselor suggested typing. I thought, "Boring!"

But that was actually the best that could've happened. It led me to where I am today.

Excellent post! Thanks for the memory of those blackened finger tips (from using the carbon sheets), or of having to unlock keys when you struck two letters at once. And who recalls the black/red ribbons?

Ah.such pleasant memories. :)

Miss Mae said...

P.S. Love the photo of your family. Thanks for sharing. :)

Noelle Evvalee said...

I don't remember per-say what you all may have had . But I do remember the first one I had and using white out to correct mistakes. Then I got a newer one that would white it out for you when you backed it up.

Miss Mae said...

Oh yes, @NoelleEvvalee, those count too! Yes, "wite-out" was one of the most necessary tools for these older typing days. Thanks for sharing your memory! :)

Lady Vintage said...

Ribbons! & the "eraser" for the type w/the brushes on the end!

Miss Mae said...

@LadyVintage, you're right! I wasn't going to mention those in the hopes that others would remember. *wink*

P.L. Parker said...

We had one of these at home and I spent more time trying to untangle the keys than I did typing. I was a junior in high school taking typing and once a month, we got to use the electric typewriter! That was so special!

Hywela Lyn said...

Oh yes, I remember the manual typewriter - and the electric one. I never wanted to learn to type - I wanted to work with horses, but was persuaded by my headmaster to go into the 'commercial' stream and learn office admin instead. It turned out to be a good thing, in that by learning to touch type I was able to type my first novel in a much shorter time than it would have taken to type with two fingers (I still have that novel in a drawer somewhere!) I'll never forget when I had a typing exam and I was telling a friend's mother that I was dreading having to tabulate tables on an electric typewriter (In those days this involved counting every character and working out how many columns would be needed and the width of each column!) 'Oh but doesn't the typewriter do that?' she asked innocently. I think she must have had second sight and been able to look into the future, because of course now computers do just that with a click of a button, but back then, it involved an awful lot of operator brainwork!

Thanks for bringing back memories of my schooldays!

Gail Pallotta said...

Oh yes, I most definitely remember learning and typing for years on a manual typewriter. By the time I advanced to an electric, I had a baby girl. I'n grateful to a magazine editor who insisted I had to learn to use a computer, because in a few months he'd only accept submissions written on one. He offered to let me come to his office and learn on his. While I was there, he taught me most everything I needed to know to submit a manuscript to him. What a nice man he was.

Miss Mae said...

@P.L.Parker, I never saw an electric one until years later when I went to work. For school, it was always the manual, and oh, how often, those keys would stick together. LOL

Thanks so much for coming over and sharing your memory!

Miss Mae said...

@HywelaLyn, Yes, who knew that learning to type could become as natural as eating with a fork??? How clever of your friend to be able to foresee when "typewriters would do that". Thanks so much for visiting and sharing your memory. :)

Miss Mae said...

@GailPallotta, if I thought learning the in's-and-out's of a typewriter was challenging, learning how to navigate with a computer has been downright terrifying! LOL

So glad that you took your magazine editor up on learning the computer. You have fond memories of him, and that's wonderful.

Thank you for coming over to visit and to share your memories. :)

Laurean Brooks said...

My story is amazingly similar. Our typing class had only one electric typewriter. All others were manual. I was "lucky" enough to get the electric one, probably because the others were afraid of it.

But unlike you, JQ, my teacher "deducted" points on me since the electric one was "easier". Like you, I was heavy-handed. The lightest touch and Zing! a typo.

Miss Mae said...

Hi @LaureanBrooks, so you learned on an electric? But was it an older electric?

When I first used an electric one, it still had keys that tangled. When I finally went to a job that used the IBM Selectric, with the twirling ball, I would watch it sometimes as I typed and was amazed at the speed it spun to clack out those letters. Wow!

Thanks so much for coming over and sharing your memory!

J Q Rose said...

Hey Gang, thanks for enriching the memory of typing class for me with your comments. I'd forgotten about calculating the center of the page, the black fingers, I couldn't remember the name of the "wite-out", and completely forgot those round erasers with the brush end. I didn't really want to take typing, but so glad I did. And I also remember the competition for getting the fastest correct word count on the tests. I guess I have a competitive nature. So much fun to remember the good ole days!! Thanks, MM for your spearheading this site.
JQ Rose