I was in a store yesterday and while browsing the shelves I came upon an electric typewriter. No, it wasn’t used or vintage. It was brand new, still in the sealed box, for $99.00. I stopped to admire it for a few minutes and chuckle over the fact that on the same day, in two different stores, I saw both a Polaroid Instamatic Camera and an electric typewriter. It was like going back in time to my childhood.

But while laying in bed last night my mind wandered back to the typewriter. I had to admit that something about it appealed to me. It was a throwback to my youth, triggering all sorts of fond memories. For example, I signed up for a typing class my sophomore year of high school. I was the only guy in the class and caught grief from the other guys, until I pointed out that I was the only guy in a classroom filled with young women. The next year a lot more guys signed up for the class.

Also, I used a typewriter at home. My dad gave me an old Smith/Corona typewriter that he’d had since the 1950s. It wasn’t electric, the keyboard was stacked like a staircase, and I believe it was made from old battleship steel. It weighed about twenty pounds, but I used that thing every night. The sticking E key drove me nuts – even WD40 wouldn’t loosen that damn thing, but I didn’t give up. I wrote poems, story ideas, even school reports on the beast, and it never let me down.

My alternative was pen and paper. The majority of my writing was done on yellow legal pads, extras that my dad had stacked up in his home office. I can’t guess how many of those things I went through over the course of a decade. In fact, I still have a stack up them in my current home office, stuffed into an old milk crate, each page reflecting my teenage angst.

While at the store I called my wife over to show her the electric typewriter, and she had the same reaction I did. We were both surprised to see one for sale, and both questioned who would buy and use something so antiquated. I mean, even if I were to use it to write a short story or blog entry, I’d still have to retype it on my laptop in order to do anything with it. Besides, I have a writing program that simulates the sounds of typewriter keys. Not quite the same thing, but close enough.

I guess it must appeal to some segment of the writing population. Or maybe just to folks who want to have an interesting conversation piece in their home.

It was nostalgic to see that machine and to remember how much I wrote on similar contraptions when I was younger. But I could never go back. I’m much too comfortable writing on a flat keyboard, on a computer, with spellcheck and access to a printer. Yes, I’m spoiled. For what it’s worth, though, I do still use pen and paper on occasion, mostly for journal writing, but also to work out story ideas.

I guess some old-school ways are hard to shake. At least the pen and paper are cheap.

RB


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