Some of us are old enough to remember THIS WABAC machine
(although, seriously, can no one spell Edgar Allan Poe’s name correctly?)
There is an immediacy to typing onto paper, as opposed to the ephemeral nature of electronic communication. What we want is to see our words IN PRINT, bound in a book. Electronic communications seem somehow less real than a printed page of paper. Ever since writing was invented we’ve been fixing it in one form or another: cuneiform and glyphs onto stone and clay tablets, later papyrus came along, vellum, paper. All tangible, visceral forms of communication. Sure, most of us use computers and text and email and blog (yours truly is clearly no exception), but emails and texts and electronic publishing have the staying power of a puff of wind. They’re gone in a flash, like a conversation. It’s the same reason we create videos, take photographs.
There’s a scene in the new television show “Revolution” that speaks to this. The premise of the show is that all electricity in the world is somehow neutralized, even batteries are useless. Cars stop dead, planes won’t fly and fall out of the sky when it happens. And yet one of the characters continues to hold onto her iPhone because it contains the only photographs she has of her children, who she hopes are still alive in another country that she can no longer get to. She knows those photos are in there, and she’s not getting rid of the iPhone even though it won’t turn on and she can’t see the photos. How many of us have hundreds, even thousands, of photos stored on SD cards, or hard drives? How often do you ever look at them? I bet like most people you don’t, you’ve probably forgotten what you have. Sure, it’s cheaper than wasting rolls and rolls of film and the expense of developing, but what good are they if you never even see them, or the computer dies and takes all your photos to the grave with it?
As much as I love my computer and scanner and digital camera, I still like things that are not dependent on electricity to function. Hence I still buy printed books and don’t have an ereader. Now, that said, I’m not giving up my electric oven and going back to cooking over a wood fire (it’s not like you can save what you’ve cooked for posterity), but some things need to be saved in physical form.
I found this video at Ace Typewriter’s Web site:
I can’t embed it here because WordPress.com sites can’t use Flash. Astounding that already young people don’t even recognize these machines when they see them.
Here’s another short one that features a collector who has Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter:
It’s nice to know I’m not the only kook still in love with mechanical devices.
So here is my own prize, my own Wayback Machine:
It’s an Optima Super, made in West Germany (or “Western Germany” as they apparently called it back in the old days). Isn’t she pretty? When she arrived (and some of you know the saga) she wasn’t working, the carriage didn’t move, so off she went to the typewriter spa for a long soak and some TLC. In October. Just brought her home today, all spiffed up and freshly oiled and a new ribbon installed. The repair guy almost gave up on her. After getting things working, she froze up again 4 times. His estimate was that she had been sitting in storage for fifty years, no wonder she was feeling her age. Apparently the gang at the shop where I had it serviced all took turns typing on her, they seemed very impressed not only with the way she works, but she wowed them with her appearance as well. She is a beauty. The color’s a little funky (the light in my house is terrible, especially this time of year), she’s really a lovely beige with brown keys.
And the sound. There’s just nothing quite like the clacking of the keys. Did you know keyboards for computers are purposely designed to make the clicking noise? They could be totally silent, but apparently people prefer to hear that sound. It’s like confirmation that the key struck the paper and left an impression. Done. Complete.
I also have this:
But this one hasn’t been to the spa yet, and there’s no ribbon in it. I swiped the picture from the original Ebay listing. This is an Adler J5, another German machine. The body is plastic but the keys seem to be incredibly smooth. I must get it in for a cleaning and a fresh ribbon so I can play with it.
I just love that these things are mechanical, not dependent on electricity or being tethered to power cords, no blue screen of death. Sure things can go wrong, but I just love the simplicity of them, the same way I love the beauty and simplicity of the bicycle over the automobile. Maybe I was a tinker or builder in another life.