New words, old machine

Typewriter


My grandparents had an old typewriter I loved to set up in their living room, pulling off the dustcover with a flourish on lazy summer days. In fifth grade, well before the age of smartphones and tablets or even personal computers, my typing skills weren’t exactly stellar. It took me forever to type even the simplest of sentences, and I constantly debated carriage returns so I wouldn’t run out of room on a line (the horror!).

It was fun, and I wrote all sorts of short stories — mostly about a bunny family or a tornado ripping through a small town (watching too much “Twister”). I’m pretty sure some “Star Wars” and Luke Skywalker fan fiction was sprinkled in there, too. But being a lifelong perfectionist, having to cover up my mistakes with correction fluid was intolerable.

Intolerable. And messy.

Friends, I was the kid who could not stand cross-outs and misspelled words in her assignments — yet refused to write in pencil. To this day, I’m a gel pen girl all the way. I was OCD enough to rewrite any essay littered with mistakes, carefully forming the letters until it was absolutely crisp . . . even if it took all afternoon. Rough drafts all the way.

I wrote on college-ruled paper, refusing to touch the wide-ruled stuff. I hated my handwriting until middle school, when I began to practice and practice and practice creating words and sentences until they were pretty and perfect, just the way I wanted to be.

I haven’t changed much.

Though I loved the look and feel of that old typewriter with its thin, unmarred pages, it was a potential disaster zone of incorrect punctuation and unclean sentences. Living in the digital age, I love the ease with which I can crank out thoughts on a “page” — or, um, Word document — to be shared in a blog post, on Instagram, in a Facebook post. I love the instantaneous connection of Twitter, the community we’ve built here.

But there’s something nostalgic and romantic about the humble typewriter, isn’t there? Out at a giant antiques store with my mom and sister last weekend, we found tons of them on side tables in vendors’ booths. The one at top was a favorite — weathered, a little dusty, but able to produce bold words again.

When Spence and I have the space, I’m getting one.

Maybe it’ll even be pink.


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18 thoughts on “New words, old machine

  1. Love your posts Meg! I used a typewriter to Type my uni assignments. Computers are so wonderful, being able to cut and paste, they enable invisible corrections; what’s not to like?

  2. My mum had an old typewriter (although not as beautiful as the one in your picture) that we only got to use on special occasions. It was an amazing feeling that can’t be matched by sitting down at a computer or an iPad. I think it has a lot to do with being made to think about what you were writing before you did, because there was ink and paper that could be wasted. It was the same way with taking photos – film and developing costs meant it was drilled into us to wait for a perfect shot. Now, we have the advantage of being able to create endless documents and take endless photos and I’m happy about it. But it doesn’t stop the nostalgia…. The tapping of laptop keys doesn’t quite have the same sound as typewriter keys and the “ping” of the return…

  3. Whatever be the technological development, old typewriters drove attention for details and quality. Today people type casually knowing fully that spell check and deleter function will do the job.

  4. I actually have an old one collecting dust in my basement. I know someone would love to have it and I would love to get rid of it. While they were quite useful to those blessed to have them in their time I much prefer the laptop and tablets of today. I can still remember the smell of the WD-40 that made mine work its magic.

  5. We have a teal one that belonged to my dearly departed grandma in law. I totally want a pink one too.

  6. I’ve never had the pleasure of using a typewriter though I think it’s something I’d love to do. This certainly sounds very nostalgic but I think I’m a bit like you – I’d constantly be worried that I was going to have to hyphenate a word at the end of a line or worse yet… start over!

  7. My parents used to have a typewriter as well and my brother and I loved to play with it as kids. Some serious nostalgia there.

    (And college-ruled paper FTW!)

  8. I remember playing with typewriters, too. Actually, in high school my school didn’t have computers so when I took a ‘typing’ course… It was on typewriters! Electronic ones, but still. haha

  9. What a lovely little story 🙂 I remember typing for hours on a typewriter, then a word processor. Like you, my OCD ways never accepted the errors and I found the correction fluid too messy. While I do love the cleanness of word documents on a computer, there’s something beautiful about antique typewriters.

  10. Meg, it’s really great that you have found your new want to own a old machine. I bought one for my father-in-law, it’s a electronic one and I love that I saw the transition from old machines(my father-in-law worked a manual one all his life as a stenographer) to the new one. Best of luck in finding your treasure, pink or whatever you fancy and spin out even more nostalgic creations for us. Cheers, Meensi

  11. I wrote the first draft of my undergraduate dissertation on my dad’s old typewriter, which had been sitting unused in the loft for years. It was immensely satisfying using a machine where you really had to exercise your fingers to move the keys, could feel their resistance and hear the clatter as they pounded the page. But definitely not the most practical thing I’ve ever done.

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