Monday, March 30, 2009

An Extremely Short Bedtime Story

...Once upon a time, we all walked five miles to school, uphill in the snow, dodging the velociraptors while reciting the names of state capitals...
At my place of employment, now known as Greenhouse City (because it has one, not because I have anything to do with it), a young woman of twenty listens to some of us (with hyperbolic references to mastodons roaming the earth) reminisce about typewriters, carbon paper, etc. Jokingly, I say, only two 'fonts:' pica and elite. Yes, chimes in another colleague, until the IBM selectric ball. Then we got rid of the return, too. She looks at us, suddenly very serious. You know, she says, I've never seen a typewriter. I mean, I have, you know, in the movies and stuff, but, not an actual real one. [Silence. We all require coffee before speech returns.]
Let's leave it at that. I cannot bear to repeat the conversation she has a bit later with someone else on this same ancient implement, when she learned that hitting a key used to make type strike ink and paper. Perhaps if she were into steampunk ?
In fact, no typewriter could be located within the building for a show and tell. I have one, though, at home: my father's Remington, green, in a hard case. Does anyone remember that aroma when a typewriter case is opened ? The must of ink, eraser dust, metal ? I also have some things to say about steampunk, but that's another post.

Photo of modified mac via; other examples can be seen at "The Seventeen Hottest Steampunk Computer Creations"
A good list of Steampunk Books can be found here. It all really started with Gibson & Sterling's
The Difference Engine, but, right, another time, another post.


Steph Mineart said...

"Does anyone remember that aroma when a typewriter case is opened?"

Oh, yes, but mainly because I retrieve my mother's Olivetti from her garage a few weeks ago and played with it when I got it home. Needs new ribbon. That's probably a hard to come by item; I'll need to do some research.

The keys still make a very satisfying "kathunk" sound. But wow - so much muscle is required. I've gotten soft on my computer keyboard.

Jim Sligh said...

My Remington is grey plastic, green-keyed. From '52, I think; it was bought for me at a garage sale in North Carolina for $5 and refurbished in the last remaining typewriter shop in Boston.

I like that the keys indent the paper as well as inking it; there is a texture to the typewritten page that digital fontsets cannot replicate. And that you can correct mistakes by moving the carriage back and overlaying the letter. And that when you take it outside to write on the porch, you do not need batteries or to worry about glare.

I think that aesthetics are part of the use value of an object; I understand this, ported from the Victorians, to be part of steampunk as well. I look forward to your post on it.

Two Dishes said...

My odor memory is that I had a typewriter that a cat used as a litterbox...makes sense considering the shape.

Did you read the Difference Engine? I only had the pissed-in-typewriter for a couple years but I think it overlaps with reading the difference Engine. As a computer programmer I REALLY liked D.E. Footnote to that premise: the real Babbage D.E. blueprints were only finally constructed this decade. It's on view on the west coast somewhere til the end of this year. I'm probably not the only computer nut considering buying a plane ticket to go see this thing finally realized.

I lost track of your blog during one of YOUR long hiatuses -- I read something about a new bike and then there was a long down time...