Last week I saw a picture of high school students sitting at desks and using manual typewriters. The caption on the picture was “Respect your parents. They made it through high school without Google and Wikipedia.” As I looked at the picture, I thought back to when I was in high school.
My high school business class received its first electric typewriter in 1959. Since there was only one machine, the teacher made out a schedule so every student had adequate time to learn how to use it. Our teacher told the class, “You are all going to have to learn how to use this new typewriter because probably by the time you graduate and get an office job, all the typewriters will be electric.”
Her statement wasn’t quite true. The first secretarial job I had I was given a 1928 Remington typewriter to use.
Thinking back to typing class and my first job makes me appreciate even more being able to use a computer for writing. No more erasing errors on the carbon copy – which was onion skin paper and very fragile – as well as on the original document. Learning to use White Out -– a thin liquid that would cover errors – without anyone being able to really see it took a lot of practice. Then came a real advancement – a typewriter ribbon that was half ink and half correction tape.
Several years after I was introduced to electric typewriters, I marveled at the one where the keys were replaced with a steel ball that had raised letters. Not only were the letters the standard Times New Roman font, but the balls were interchangeable so you could put one with italicized letters in the typewriter and it almost made what you were typing look like it was handwritten.
And who could ever forget using a putty-like substance to clean the typewriter keys? That was a job that had to be done on a weekly basis. The keys were nice and shiny when you were done, but your fingers bore mute testimony to the job you’d just completed.
When you needed to do research for a term paper or had to write a paper for a class, you headed to the school library and got down the volume from your favorite set of encyclopedias that corresponded to the subject you were writing about. Of course, just to cover all your bases, you probably checked out the information you needed in the other sets of encyclopedias.
Now through using the computer, there’s Wikipedia – a commonly used website for looking up information in an encyclopedia format. However, by doing a bit of research – on the computer – I found the online sites for Britannica and World Book encyclopedias. They, too, it seems, have entered the electronic age.
Whether it’s typing a document or doing research, a computer can be a very useful tool. Yet there are still times I would like to hear the click of typewriter keys or once again lose myself in an encyclopedia I can hold in my hands.