Only history will tell what will change the world
I read this recent blog post from “The Practical Historian” – Lessons from a typewriter.
Sarah speaks of the history of the typewriter and I think it’s amazing how someone can spend a lifetime not happy with their invention (Christopher Latham Sholes), and yet have that invention change and pretty much rule the world we live in more than 150 years later. Without the typewriter, I doubt we’d have computers. Without computers – it would be a very different world.
At school, I used a typewriter, I think they purchased them in the 60’s and were still in use. They used sewn calico covers to cover our hands and the body of the typewriters while we typed from ‘The Dictation Textbook’. At least I learned to touch type – which amazingly, in this computer age, seems to still impress people to this day.
My first stories, when not in pen or pencil, were written with a similar style typewriter. I can still hear the thwank-click of the keys hitting the black and red ribbon, the slightly echoed high pitched ping that let you know you had 10 characters left until the end of the line, and the growling slide and solid thunk of the carriage return.
There was something satisfyingly solid and tactile about using a typewriter which is sadly missing from the computer keyboard – and don’t get me started on those touch screen tablets. I cannot type on those very well at all. I don’t know how people touch type on those without the feel of the keys. But on that note, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone touch type on one of those things. They all have to look at the screen.
While I love the feel and sound of a typewriter, I am very glad for the progression onto the computer. One of my weakness’ at school and it continues to be a weakness, is my spelling. I’m so used to seeing those pretty red underlines accompanying my words, which goes to show me that despite efforts to have better spelling, it still gets the best of me. With typewriters, there were no pretty red lines, and to correct a spelling mistake, you cranked the handle on the roller, used liquid whiteout, waited for it to dry (which gave you the time to look up a dictionary), brought the roller back down, used the carriage slide to bring the carriage back to what was hopefully the correct spot, and retyped. The worse part of that was when it either didn’t line up, or the incorrect word had fewer letters than the corrected word.
So from someone in the computer age, who doesn’t have to write everything out laboriously by hand, here’s to you Mr Christopher Latham Sholes and the invention you were never happy with, which changed the world.