I learned to type on my mother’s Royal upright: a typewriter that doubled as a mechanical personal trainer: strength training and cardio-workouts with every use. No doubt it was one of Royal’s best at the time she bought it; but when I was using it 15-20 years later, it was not what you’d call cutting edge.
Do you remember how they worked? You punched (literally) the letters on the keyboard which caused a chain reaction to occur. The key was attached to a little rod which ended with a metal letter stamp that corresponded to the letter on the key. When you punched the key, the stamp arose just as the ink ribbon did. The stamp collided with the ribbon on the paper before slapping back down into the machine to make room for the next letter’s approach. If you got going too fast, the rods would crisscross and you’d have to stop and untangle them before proceeding. Now before you could do any of this, you had to load paper into the machine’s carriage–a roller that moved the paper along at your keystroke pace. As you typed, the carriage would move the paper forward letter by letter. Once you reached the end of a line, you reached up and activated a lever on the roller which advanced the paper, released the tension, and allowed you to push the whole mechanism back to the beginning of the next line of text. (An activity which was, at least in my mother’s advanced machine, accompanied by the sound of a bell–an encouraging little ring that I miss in the typing options of this millennium.)
It would take another whole blog post to recall for you how we corrected errors, made carbon copies, or–what a horror!–changed the tab stops. But suffice to say, that my computer is considerably more efficient. Plus it weighs a lot less, takes up less room, and the keys almost never get tangled.
So today, I’m thankful for my computer. And my ipad. Even though I don’t work up a healthy sweat using them, I also don’t have to replace their ribbons, so it’s kind of an even exchange.
But you know what? I’m also thankful for that Royal upright. And for my mother who taught me how to use it (so what if she threatened bodily harm if I ever changed the tab stops).