Saturday, July 28, 2007

Typewriter Memories ...

Hey, remember typewriters? Maybe you took Typing 1 in high school for an easy half-credit, like I did. I finished the semester with a C-minus and figured I’d never use a typewriter again.

Boy, was I wrong about that!

I wrote my first two published books on a portable manual typewriter. A used Smith-Corona Skywriter, to be exact. It had a steel cover that popped off to reveal a very low-profile machine whose platen rested at the same level as the top of the machine. It was about 2-1/2” tall all the way around—except for the fold-down carriage return lever, which stuck up another quarter inc.

I’d bought this at a yard sale in 1971, largely because I liked compact gadgets of all kinds, and this was the smallest typewriter I’d ever seen. The price was $12.50, the amount the seller said some recent repairs had cost her.

After I took the typer home, it became apparent that the shop that did the “repairs” had cheated her. The ribbon rewind didn't work; I had to stick a pencil in the take-up reel and rewind it every few pages.

But that wasn’t the machine’s only drawback. Despite my less-than-stellar performance in high school, I was still capable of typing fast enough to cause key-jams every couple of minutes. And my big hands on the small keyboard resulted in lots of typos. Which meant stopping to apply Liquid Paper, let it dry, and hope the overtyping would come out legible.

If not, I had to retype the entire page. I retyped a lot of pages, anyway. As I worked I was constantly finding flaws in my prose or the structure of the story or article I was writing. This usually meant I had to go back three or four pages, make some critical changes or additions, then and retype everything from there.

Between those and other logistical problems I’m surprised that I didn’t give up the idea of writing for publication. But I persisted, and soon was writing well enough that most first-draft pages were final draft. And I eventually started making enough money writing on the side that I afford to rent an electric typewriter—the bigtime!

A couple years later, I got my first computer and everything changed ...
Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

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