For those who know me, it’s no secret that I enjoy perusing the classifieds for yard or estate sales. But a recent online visit to the local Craigslist site led to the purchase of a manual typewriter. A 1958 Remington Quiet-Riter, to be exact.
This column was written on it.
Some might consider an almost-60-year-old typewriter a nonsensical purchase, considering that desktops, laptops and iPads (the latter typically being my chosen device for writing) are much easier to navigate and correct mistakes.
All of these assertions regarding modern technology are true, but there’s just something special about a typewriter. And I decided that I wanted one.
I called the number in the Craigslist ad and an older gentleman answered. I rattled off the typical questions I normally ask regarding anything I’m interested in buying, especially if it’s an older item. Does it still work? Any problems with it? What kind of shape is it in? And, most importantly, why are you selling it?
He explained that when he was in high school in the late 1950’s, his grandmother offered to buy him a typewriter if he would take a typing class. He said that he agreed. She bought the typewriter and he took the class, but he said that he had to be honest that he never learned to type very well.
In the 50’s, taking typing was not considered very manly. I can only imagine how unmanly it was since I took typing 20 years later in the late 1970’s.
In 1977, my buddy Steve and I needed to choose an elective in school. We selected typing class. We picked typing, not because we thought we’d ever really use it much, but because we were 15 and the class was filled with girls.
Once we were in the class, Steve and I quickly realized that typing was no blow-off course. Typing was difficult. It was especially difficult for two guys in a sea of girls. Mrs. Lewis gave all of the new IBM electric typewriters to them, and Steve and I were relegated to the leftover World War II era Underwood manual models.
Once it became obvious that the girls weren’t going to notice us any more in a typing class than they did in study hall, we decided to making typing a competition.
Anyone who’s ever taken typing knows that speed and accuracy are how you’re graded. Each day, we would try to outdo the other. Bragging rights became just as important as making a good grade.
I can recall the day that I typed 27 words per minute with no errors. That doesn’t sound like much, but I’m telling you, try it today on a manual typewriter and you’ll see it’s not easy.
By John Moore
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