Monday, September 8, 2014

Tom Hanks' "Hanx" Typewriter App

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Tom Hanks (yes, that Tom Hanks, the Academy Award-winning actor) is apparently a fan of old-fashioned typewriters. Or, at least, the sounds they make.

He's developed an app for the iPad, called Hanx Writer, which "recreates the experience of a manual typewriter." I haven't tried it myself, but it apparently mimics the click of typing and the ding! of the carriage return bell. A "white-out" option may be forthcoming.

I must confess I'm intrigued by the app, but have no interest in going back to typing on a typewriter — which is what makes Hanx Writer perfect.

As a Gen X-er, I'm one of those people who used a typewriter for papers through high school and freshman year of college. I distinctly remember changing over to one of Wellesley's computers (using a floppy disk to save) at the end of my first year. A girl (not a particularly nice girl, as I recall, but in this instance she was) saw me struggling with typing a paper in a common room and finally cried, "I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE! YOU NEED TO USE A COMPUTER!" She taught me, bless her, and I never looked back.

And after that it was all computers, all the time. I used them at work (although there was generally a typewriter around for labels and FedEx forms, etc.). And then I used them for writing fiction.

I was trying to imagine writing a novel on a typewriter these days and the mind simply boggled. What do you mean I can't just insert an important detail after the scene is finished? What do you mean I can't change a character's name with a Find/Replace? What do you mean I can't take a typewriter to cafes/on trains/on planes?

I may try the Hanx Writer for nostalgia's sake, but I will never go back to actual typewriters again! (Insert fist-shake echoing Scarlet O'Hara's here.)

Reds, do you remember making the transition from typing on a typewriter to using a computer? How was it for you? Do you miss anything about the experience of typing?

HALLIE EPHRON: I can't imagine how anyone wrote a book on a typewriter. I'd transitioned before I got around to thinking I could write fiction. My mother wrote movie scripts on a manual and then electric typewriter, carbon copies and no white out even. 

What I miss about typing: is yanking a piece of paper from the roller, either in anger when it wasn't going well or in satisfaction at the end of a well done page.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I learned to type on my Gramma Minnie's typewriter, one of those cool ones that came in a suitcase. I didn't have anything to type, though, since I was eight. So I copied out the vocabulary words from her Readers Digests.

I started being a reporter WAY before computers. And I remember, at Rolling Stone, having the page of my typewritten stories COATED with whiteout, since I had to make the change as soon as I saw the mistake. 

I also became very adept at literally CUTTING my stories apart, with scissors, by paragraphs and and even individual lines, lines, and editing them by scotch taping them together in a different order.

I have to admit, sometimes I still do that.

RHYS BOWEN: I got a portable typewriter for my eighteenth birthday (ready to write the next great English novel). I never took a typing class and was always slow and mistake-ridden. And hated it. For many years I'd write in long hand and then transfer it to the typewriter, swearing and grumbling. When I arrived in America and had to get a job that was not the BBC agencies made me take a typing test and a knowledge test. The result was they had no jobs for someone who scored 100 percent on world knowledge and intelligence and could type 8 words a minute.

I used to pay to have someone type the final copy of my writing.

Then computers were invented. Halleluja! Suddenly I could write as fast as I could think. No white out. Freedom to move stuff around. I bought one of the first home computers in 1982 and have been blissfully happy ever since.

LUCY BURDETTE: I majored in French literature in college and was required to write a junior paper in French, and then a senior thesis. So I bought a little black typewriter and had the special accent keys installed: l'accent aigu and l'accent grave. It took a lot of pressure to pound out those words--with tendinitis, I can't even imagine managing a typewriter now. I'd have to retire). 

But here's an amazing thing I found out when I googled the accents to remember their proper names. There's a website with a French keyboard on which I typed this: Le cafĂ© est ouvert, n’est pas? And, there's a way to get all these symbols using my Mac. The euro symbol, for example, typing "€"--that required holding down the option key and the shift key, and the number 2. So cool!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Lucy, I wonder if there is something that works for PCs? I can't type the pound symbol--as in British pounds sterling--and it drives me crazy.

I learned to type on an IBM Selectric (does everyone remember the cool little spinning ball?) in secretarial school (on hiatus between colleges...) Before that, I always got my mother, who was a brilliantly fast typist, to type my papers for me. Now I can't imagine NOT being a touch typist, although switching keyboards really messes me up for a while. Computers with word processing software were just becoming commonplace when I wrote my first novel--in Word Perfect.  (Anyone remember that??) 

I can't imagine writing a novel on a typewriter. While I'm a fast typist now, I'm not terribly accurate, and I think my pages would look like Hank's news stories! I do still like a keyboard that has a slightly tactile response, though. A little click, a little bounce. It make me feel productive:-)

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I was working at my first post-grad-school professional job when I was introduced to the wonderful world of computers. I slid past typing lessons in high school because I wasn't going to be a secretary. (And because my mother, like Debs', typed all my papers for me. Thanks, Mom!)

 When I started college in the early eighties, my folks gave me a spiffy new electric computer, with the back-space eraser that was great if you caught you error a few letters on. If it was further up the page, you had to use Wite-Out (TM). I once got drunk and gave myself a Wite-Out manicure, an experience the cosseted youth of today will never have.

Working at the Columbia Historical Society, I got to share a donated IBM with the entire rest of the staff. It came with no instruction manual or documentation, so whenever anyone figured out how to do something in DOS, he or she had to write it down in a loose-leaf binder we called The Chicken Book. The reason for the name is lost in the mists of time.

I left the nonprofit world to study law in '87, and by that time the law school had an entire computer room for students to use - none of us, of course, owned our own computers. I produced every law school paper on those computers, drafting by hand and then revising as I typed. It wasn't until I started dabbling in fiction (on a desktop that cost $2,000 and had less memory than the flash drive on my key chain) that I figured out how to draft while typing. What a liberating experience. Like Hallie, I can't imagine writing fiction on a manual typewriter. No wonder authors of yesteryear famously drank.

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Lovely readers, do you remember making the transition from typewriter to computer? Are you nostalgic for the clicks of the keys and the bell of the return — or have you joined the cult of computer and never looked back? Would you use an app like Hanx just for fun? 

Please tell us in the comments!


Joan Emerson said...

Debs, to make the British pound symbol, hold down the ALT key and on your number pad type 156. Release the ALT key and, voila, a pound symbol should appear in your word document.

I learned to type [and do bookkeeping] in high school, just in case I couldn't swing the money to go to college . . . I wanted to be able to get a decent job if I had to work first. [I got a scholarship, so I went to college.]

I typed everything in college, even my friend's last-minute, stay up all night papers; and there were still typewriters [an IBM Selectric] when I was working in a print shop in California after I got done teaching for the day.

I remember thesis papers [no Wite-Out allowed] and re-typing pages when the footnotes didn't come out right . . . argh.

We got a Commodore 64 when they first came out [but we still paid someone to type John's thesis]; we've upgraded as new models became available.

I love the click-click of the keys on a typewriter, but I can't imagine giving up my computer . . . .

PlumGaga said...

Deborah,if you are using Word, go to Insert, Symbol, and click on the pound symbol.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Joan, congratulations on your scholarship!

And footnotes — I'd forgotten (or repressed the memory of them. Ugh, they were awful.)

Sandi@Piecemeal Quilts said...

I used my high school graduation gift money to buy an electronic typewriter and earned cash typing papers. One girl in our dorm had a pc. I loved the ancient typewriter on my grandma's dresser, the one with keys that stuck together if you typed too fast. Apparently my Kindle keyboard doesn't like me talking about this as it is glitching something awful right now.
Also, to type the pound symbol, you could create your own shortcut and set it up as an auto correct. For example, type L= and have auto correct change to the symbol.

Ramona said...

Did you hear that, recently, the London Times piped in the clacking sounds of manual typewriters into the newsroom? The goal was to inspire the reporters to be more productive. The result was reporters trying to turn down the speakers and, when that failed, throwing things at them.

I can imagine writing a novel longhand before writing one using a manual typewriter. But I am a lousy, lousy typist.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh, love all the fonts! We should talk about that some day.

Argh, footnotes!

Ramona, that's hilarious. ANd I don't blame them. Another funny sounds thing: at the SOuth Statin train station in boston, they changed the departure board from that clack-clack-clack flapping thing to electronic. And they soon discovered people were missing their trains--because no one was looking at the board anymore.

They now have added clacking sounds to the electronic board that go off every time it changes.

ANd I am off to try alt156.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Hank, I never knew the clacking sound at South Station was piped in!

And Ramona, I had no idea of the Times of London and the piped-in typewriter sounds. I'd probably throw something, too....

Kimmerie said...

Like HPR, I used my scissors liberally. I used to type paragraphs as they came to me and then cut the entire thing up and tape it together in order. (it was also a way of proofreading.)
Does anyone remember those little squares of white carbon paper? You would tuck them under the key and type over the wrong letter, which would (kinda) erase it, and then you could type in the correct letter.
I never had proper typing lessons - I wrote the sixth grade class play and I had to type out the script. I still remember sitting crosslegged in front of my mother's typewriter pecking it out - by the end I was fairly speedy! (But having learned to type old-school, I still put two spaces at the end of a sentence - no matter how wrong people say it is.)
I still love typewriters - and I installed the Hanx app as soon as I saw it :)

Hallie Ephron said...

I love that the boards in South Station artifically clack.

My keyboard does tick, and I like it. I suppose if I were working in the research room at the NY Public Library I'd have to turn it off.

Alan Finn said...

I hate using typewriters, but love the sound. There's something satisfying about hearing that staccato thwack. Its aural proof that you're actually getting words down on the page.

Because of this, I have the Hanx typewriter app on my iPad. I use it when I'm noodling around with ideas or come up with a perfect quote/paragraph/transition and just can't get to my laptop or computer. I like it. It's fun.

But writing a whole book on it -- or any typewriter, for that matter? No, thank you.

Brenda Buchanan said...

I made the jump from typewriter to computer relatively early when I was in college and working as a co-op student at The Boston Globe. It was 1979, I think, when everyone who worked in the newsroom had to learn how to use the newfangled VDTs (video display terminals). When the big changeover day came, the typewriters and four-ply paper disappeared and shiny new VDTs were placed on every desk.

I took to it quickly and loved the speed and ease of fixing typos.

In those days there was no PC lab at the university, so during my academic semesters (when I still worked at the Globe part-time) I would show up at work early or stay late so I could type my academic papers. A couple of the journalism school profs were intrigued, but one history professor was deeply skeptical of accepting a computer printout rather than a messily-typed paper.

All that said, I love old typewriters for the same reason Tom Hanks probably does. They are, in and of themselves, pieces of art. I own about a half-dozen antique typewriters, which is fun except when it comes time to move.

Kristopher said...

I remember taking those typing classes. Oh, how I hated them. But in retrospect, typing is certainly one of the most useful and most-used skills of those early school days.

That said, I don't see myself wanting to go back to them. Computers are much too convenient for that.

Take me back to a treadle sewing machine? Now THAT is something I am will to do.

Pat Kennedy said...

When I first got my iPad (love, love, love that handy friend) and I "keyed" in m password, the iPad made a satisfying clicking sound for each character entered. All of a sudden, the clicking noise stopped and I was so sad. Loved that satisfying click. After weeks of trying to figure it out, I finally found how to restore my iPad's ability to chat with me and now I happily hear that click with each password entry. Such are the little satisfying moments in life.

Kaye Barley said...

I remember the transition from typewriter to something that looked like a computer but was actually an IBM Word Processor. It was huge and looked exactly like a the early desk top computers with a monitor and a separate keyboard that sat in front of it, but it wasn't connected to the internet - it was for typing and data entry only. DUMBEST. THING. EVER. It took 3 or 4 keystrokes to do things like capitalize a letter, or start a new paragraph.

The only person in our office who thought this move was a good idea was the boss who had ordered the things.

But when it became obvious the efficiency of the work turn-around from the secretaries had gone to hell in a hand basket, the Word Processors were soon moved into a closet and never seen again. Since the machines were crazy expensive, it was a costly move that didn't work out.

My experiences with learning about computers is a tale for another day.

Kathy Lynn Emerson said...

No way would I go back. And yes, I did write novels on a manual typewriter with carbon paper and white out. Quite a few of them, some in the 130,000 word range, although the only things that sold back then were a children's mystery and a nonfiction book. I never got the knack of electric typewriters--I made too many mistakes trying to type faster-- but in 1987, I think, I made the big leap to computers with a Tandy 1000. So much easier to revise!


Karen in Ohio said...

Kaye, I used two different versions of those crazy, ginormous data entry machines. One had a green monitor and only held a handful of words at a time. It was so hard to see! The other one held one line at a time; you could backspace within that line, but once you hit the return key it was set in stone and you couldn't change it.

I'm a terrible typist, like you, Rhys. I barely squeaked by in typing class at 35 wpm, with no holes in the paper. Because that was before such a thing as Wite-Out (which was invented by the mother of Michael Nesmith, of Monkeys fame), and we had to use carbon paper and flimsy yellow second sheets. I still have nightmares of trying to gently erase my jillions of errors without ripping a hole in that crappy paper.

Once I used a computer, though, there was no going back. I always did know when I made a typo; the backspace key on every keyboard I've ever had probably has gotten as much use as the "e" or the "s" keys.

Also, it took hand strength to depress the keys on those old typewriters! It cracked me up for years when my husband, who is also a writer (English degree at Brown, has written books and a million scripts and articles) switched over to a computer, after using a typewriter for 20 years. He would pound the living daylights out of the keyboard. I just realized he doesn't do it quite as vigorously now, although he still uses more hand strength than it really requires.

The Hanx app sounds like fun, but I can't use those virtual keyboards. Don't they seem odd to anyone else?

Ellen Kozak said...

The summer each of us turned 14 (I was the eldest, so I did this before the others), my mother drove us into West Bend (the small town nearest the cottages) every morning to attend a high school typing class. I learned to type on an office manual, clacking away to develop what is now known as muscle memory.

When I was a senior in high school, our parents bought my middle sister and me Smith Corona portables. I HATED mine. It had a terrible touch and was heavy and awkward. When I got to college and discovered the Barnard babysitting service, I babysat like crazy to earn enough to purchase the seafoam green Hermes Rocket I had coveted in the window of a local office supply store.

I loved that typewriter. It had a metal cover (its bottom was the metal base of its case), was the size of a ream of paper, and it didn't double space-- you had to hit "return" twice to do that. It had been designed for war correspondents (I dreamt of being one in those days before public beheadings of journalists) and it could take a licking.

I wrote all of my college and law school papers on it, and carted it with me on "vacations" to L.A. and Tampa, where I wrote my earliest short stories. By then I had acquired my late uncle's executive office electric typewriter, because no one else could understand its backspacing (I'd learned to count headlines, so I knew about "fijlt" being half spaces and m and w being oversized, and I was happy to take it off the hands of the frustrated office manager who took over the travel agency when he died).

There followed a succession of typewriters, culminating in a Royal with an interchangeable type ball and an erasable backspace for the office and an electric portable with removable cartridges that also allowed you to erase by back spacing. I loved the Royal, but not as much as I loved that Hermes.

Then at a bar convention in the early Eighties, I met a sales rep for the Exxon word processor. They offered to let me rent one for a month for $250 and to send someone out for a day to teach my secretary and me to word process. I had a book contract for four novels, and wrote the first half of the first one on that rented Exxon, but then I had to give it back, and it turned out that its software (big disks with holes in them) was proprietary and could not be used on any other word processor-- and if you wanted to buy that one, it was $10,000 for that one (the Exxons were mainly used by the Federal government-- is anyone surprised?). A few months later I bought a Kaypro 2X (two disk) computer together with all of its bundled software and a daisy wheel printer (and a spare dot matrix printer that I kept at home, when I carried the folded up 35-lb. Kaypro home for the weekends) for less than $1500.

In between, having learned the principles of word processing, my secretary and I word processed using the self correcting typewriter (or white tape, or even LITERAL cutting and pasting) and the plain paper copier that I had helped my dad pick out for his insurance office, which was downstairs of my law office. (Plain paper copiers, rather than the ones on that electronic paper that faded, were a really big deal back then).

I haven't looked back. But if the world were to revert to a pre electronic age, and if I could still find new ribbons for it, I'd go back to that beloved Hermes Rocket if I had to. I still have it. I still love it.

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I received a portable typewriter as a high school graduation gift. Most of the papers I did in high school were handwritten!

In 1978 the boss bought a Wang Wordprocessor, but no one knew how to use it, so I came in on a Sunday and figured it out so I could teach the secretary (before administrative assistants) how to use it.

I bought my first personal computer (an Apple IIe -- the e meant extended memory 128kb!) before I went back to school for my MBA in 1983.

~ Jim

Mark Baker said...

I transitioned sometime in late high school - sort of. My parents were convienced they didn't need a computer at home, but we got an electric typewriter. The first one had a screen that was half a line long in the typewriter. When you went to print, it clacked out all those words you'd entered. For college, I graduated to a word processing unit that had a real screen and a typewriter base. You could save stuff on floppies and edit and everything you wanted, but no internet and again clicked out those pages.

By the time I got out of college (1997), I was ready for a computer of my own.

And my parents? My mom is now addicted to e-mail and computers. They have two, plus iPhones. In fact, they got iPhones before I did, (for me, it was about money not desire).

Deborah Crombie said...

Joan Emerson and Plum Gaga, thanks for the tips! Off to see if I can type pound!

Mary Sutton said...

I learned to type on an IBM Selectric in the late 80s. I was pretty good, but using the White Out was a pain. We had a few that used the "correction tape," but it really never was effective.

When I showed up to college in the fall of 1991 I was "cool" because I had a word processor. You could type an entire line and it would be displayed digitally, then when you hit "return" the line would be typed. This way, you could backspace and correct, but that meant paying attention to the display, which was only one line wide.

I remember WordPerfect. That was the first computer program I used in the computer labs at college. Blue screen, white letters, one font. Printouts on dot-matrix printers with the perforated paper. I got so fast at removing the side hole strips other students would ask me to do it for them. That was until I got on the newspaper staff with access to the Macs, Word (different fonts - cool!) and a laser printer.

I cannot imagine writing a novel on a typewriter these days. How would I move scenes around? Oh, the white out! The sounds are cool. But the thing that really sticks in my mind about transitioning from typewriter to computer was the "two space" to "one space" after a period. Took a long time to break that habit.

And yes - footnotes on a typewriter? Torture!

Rhys Bowen said...

Ah memories, folks.
Debs: I also once owned a Selectric. It was much easier than the old bang bang typewriter.
And Julie, my first home computer--the Eagle--cost $1700 and the printer to go with it (printing out letters at snail pace) cost $1300. And I had to store one chapter on one floppy disk. 56k was the computer's storage capacity.
Hank--when I worked briefly in PR I used to cut up my articles like that!
Boy, we have it easy today. I've just bought a little keyboard for my iPad so I can now type anywhere.

Julia said...

Mary - I remember those early word processors with the single line of digital text exposed. I can't recall when I worked on one - it may have been while interning at the Smithsonian Institution's development office.

Echoing Joan on footnotes: argh! Yes. I had forgotten what a pain they were. You had to estimate how much space you would need on a particular page and make a tiny pencil mark in the margin to tell yourself when to stop typing the main body of the text. If you overestimated, you had an unsightly white space at the bottom of the page. If you underestimated, you had to type the whole frigging page over again. Forget novels, it's a miracle anyone got a graduate degree in the days before computers.

Denise Ann said...

I too received a portable typewriter as a high school graduation gift, and used it for years -- through grad schools and typing my husband's law school papers.
In college, my roommate and I had an "underground newspaper" -- we used old mimeo forms from the trash in some office we got into -- and typed between the lines -- ran them off in the student government office -- distributed them at night.
Can't do that on a computer!!

Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kim said...

LOVE everyone's typewriter stories. I wrote a dozen novels on a typewriter before computers came along. And while I do love using a computer, I've found that sometimes I need an old-fashioned approach to my writing. Two years ago I ordered a beautiful little Smith-Corona Coronet on Etsy, and when I need to slow down, pace myself, use my mind rather than my fingers for a paragraph, I take out the typewriter and work on that for a day. It truly does change the way my mind works. And it showed me that when I'm writing on a computer, I take revision while writing for granted - and sometimes that is not a good thing. Now, every day when I'm done writing, I print out what I've written. I may make editing notes on those pages. I may cut them, tape them, move them around. But I cannot go back to them in the computer until the first draft is done. So I suppose I've found a hybrid approach to writing that gives me the best of both worlds.

Lisa Alber said...

Mary! I remember the word processor typewriters with the one digital line. I was just trying to remember the brand -- Smith Corona, Corolla? I thought that was the coolest.

Right after college, my first job was with -- ta da -- IBM. So that was my first experience with computers. In fact, owning my own computer seemed liked such a luxury item that I didn't buy my own until six years later -- a Macintosh.

Remember how they used to say that computers would rid the world of using paper? Hah! But I'd never go back to the typewriter.

PK the Bookeemonster said...

Of course,children as young as 2 or 3 are learning to type as we speak, but back in junior high school, we had to take typing class in 8th grade. Hated it. Timed tests

When I was a senior (1985), the powers that be decided we should learn computers so we had ONE WEEK of learning how to program by drawing those flow chart thingies. That was helpful. Not.

In college, I wash pushed to take a Unix class. Equally as helpful. Not.

The current configuration of the keyboard (QWERTY) was invented to actually slow down typists because they were going too fast on the first one. "Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter in 1868.
Sholes allegedly studied common letter combinations and then arranged the keys so as to separate commonly used letter combinations to slow down typists and thus prevent his newfangled machine from jamming." Though there are now different keyboards to improve speed, I don't think my brain could learn a different configuration.

Kathy Reel said...

My mother, who apparently was a very smart lady, made me (talked me into)taking typing in high school and in college. I was somewhat skeptical of the value, as I had no intention of being a secretary and was much into academics. Well, as mothers are wont to do, she steered me into one of the best decisions of my young life. I wasn't the best typist starting out (had a friend who was instantly great at it), but I persevered and learned a skill that helped me in school and life as much as any skill I ever learned. I grew into a quite competent typist, and when computers came along, my keyboard agility was heaven, or mother, sent.

I'm pretty sure that I started out on a Royal manual typewriter in 1970 or 1971. There were a few electric typewriters, but we students had to use them on a rotating basis. I, too, received a portable typewriter for high school graduation, a Smith-Corona, that took me through college and a bit beyond. I do remember the IBM Selectric with the ball, Debs. We had those in the college typing class. Later, in working in my husband's business, I used the Magnavox Video Writer with the floppy discs. He and his father had a retail business that sold TVs (mainly Magnavox) and other electronics, furniture, and appliances. By the time the business closed in 1995, I was up to using a computer. My excellent typing skills paid off with every transition.

Oh, just a quick word about carbon copies. In my first days of typing, this aspect was the worst. The carbons were messy, and if you made a mistake, you had two copies to correct. I also remember White-Out and using it.

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

You know, I remember reading something about how many calories were burned by typing (the really old-fashioned kind, not the electric) versus electric typewriters, and then computers. It turned out that pushing the carriage-return over and over really did burn significant calories! (Not that I'd want to do it, but still...)

Karen in Ohio said...

Kathy, your comment about not wanting to be a secretary reminded me that, up to not very long ago, only women were really good typists, unless a guy wanted to become a writer of some kind. (And even then, many men wrote longhand, and had their writing transcribed.) It was one of the reasons why women took to computers far faster than men did, which was a huge surprise to software companies and online message boards, especially those around hobbies.

In the 90's I taught keyboarding classes to the fifth graders at my daughters' elementary school, and then in the early 00's I taught beginning computer classes for our local community education program. Women in the community ed classes, I found, were heads and shoulders above the very few men, largely because they had such a headstart by already knowing touch typing.

And yes, secretaries had a big advantage over their non-typing bosses, once offices graduated from the typewriters to word processors to computers. Just think, President Obama is probably only the second resident of the Oval Office, after Clinton, who knew how to type. Kind of boggles the mind, doesn't it?

cori lynn said...

I have an Olympia SM 9 in my attic and a pink Smith Corona at my cabin in the woods (no electricity/no water). I love writing on them for fun.

I learned to type on an old typewriter at North Pole Middle School in Alaska playing 'elves' writing to kids that wrote to Santa.

Mary Sutton said...

Julia and Lisa: Yep, a Smith Corona. Boy, did my floormates and I think it was hot stuff. =)

Jo said...

When I was eight years old, my father had a manual typewriter (Royal, I think) in his home office. He used to leave Sunday afternoon for business trips, and after he left, Mom would let me use his typewriter to write stories. (When he was home, I had to use the old Olivetti handed down from one of my grandparents.)

Since it was my parents' plan that I would become a secretary, I took typing in middle school and shorthand (which we had to transcribe) in high school. For my 16th birthday, I got my first electric typewriter--the Smith Corona with the removable cartridges so I could not only have different colors, but I could use their white-out cartridge and skip Liquid Paper, the little white-out rectangles, or erasable paper. The Smith-Corona got me through high school, college, grad school, and most of law school (where I typed my exams, and there were strict rules about using a typewriter that had any kind of memory). Since I drafted everything on the typewriter, I remember thinking that it would be great if someone would invent a device so that I didn't have to retype the whole paper/story/article/letter/etc. just because I'd made some changes.

And glory be, someone did!

As much as I love the romance of the typewriter, I can't imagine going back. It's just too impractical.

Ellen Kozak said...

Kathy, Jo, and Karen: Yes, typing was once a women's art/skill; how times have changed. The following was my first piece for SAVVY magazine, and was included it in my 1990 book FROM PEN TO PRINT:

At a real estate closing in the early eighties, negotiations had kept us in the broker's office until well after five, and when we finally settled on the wording of a clause, the broker's secretary had left.

The seller's attorney was my friend Joe, who did most of his own typing and was proud of his skill. He volunteered to type the clause, but the broker appeared not to hear him. He turned instead to one of my two female clients (who were purchasing the property together) and asked if she could type. She told him she couldn't.

"I can type," Joe said. "I'll do it."

The broker ignored him and asked my other client if she could type. She also shook her head. Ignoring yet another offer from Joe, the broker then turned to me.

Playing along, I said, "Sorry," and asked why we didn't just write in the changes.

By this time Joe was nearly apoplectic. "I can type," he fairly screamed. Having exhausted the possibility of female typists, the broker condescended to allow Joe to type in the changes so we wouldn't have to come back the next day.

While they were out of the room, I compared notes with my two clients. We could all type, and quite well, and would have been willing to do it, too, if the broker hadn't been so determined to have a woman doing his typing for him.

Kathy Reel said...

Ellen, I just had to come back and add what a great typing story you have. Thanks for sharing!