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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The good old days

Many a time...

This is a heavy blue 1970 IBM Selectric II Electric Typewriter.

My fingers did fly...

1960 IBM Executive on the Typewriter Database

On one or another of these...

IBM Selectric Typewriter Resource Page

IBM Typewriter

Here's the beginning...
Manual Typewriter

A 4 week high school summer course, in which we didn't really cover how to type numbers or the symbols when you shifted on those keys.  So I'd always have to hunt for dollar signs (and still do often!)  These were called manual machines, and about the time I learned (1958) someone started making electric typewriters.

The message my mother gave me was "you might need to have a skill you can fall back on after you finish your education" and the understanding was "if you don't get married."

That was actually fantastic advice.  After my divorce, as a single mom I often would take my typing skills to temporary secretarial services and an agency could place me in a minute since I could type 70 words per minute, with fewer and fewer mistakes as I got older.  And then my errors no longer needed to have corrections made by an eraser with a brush on the end!

Typewriter eraser. Before word processing, before white-out, before ...

There was a new invention, a reel of correction tape along with a cartridge of ribbon!  No more messy carbon on the fingers when changing a typewriter ribbon on spools.

I loved using a keyboard to communicate.  And just see how it's taken off in the computer age!

In the 70s I went on a 3 month camping trip.  And I brought a manual portable typewriter to record my journal of the trip...which was in a camper van, so don't imagine me with a backpack and a typewriter tied to it!  I did give a copy of these notes to each of my older sons who took that trip with me!

Like this item?

A stage often overlooked in our evolution from typewriter to computers was the word processor.

Word processor
By then I was returned to college to get a degree in art.  But we still had term papers to prepare, so I borrowed one of these.

A year later I supported myself and my youngest son with typing part time at a local psychologists office with one of these Brother portables!  (It sure beat doing housework for about the same income.)  Portable, electric, with a correction ribbon and a cartridge for ink ribbon.  Mine was black.
Brother Electric Typewriter When I finished an art degree, I continued to get my counseling degree, and I got a graduate assistantship at the University of Florida.

My typing had again paid off, and I got to use these for the next 3 years, compiling all kinds of data into documents.

Apple 2e Computer Apple iie The Apple 2E computer work horses.

... for apple 2e computer displaying 19 images for apple 2e computer
Once I graduated, I was now a counselor, and found my first job included selling the wood crafts of a workshop for folks with mental problems, including their "learning skills in a wood-shop," so I took black and white photos and converted them into paper copies with a Xerox machine, and added text with a computer, and with that good old copier I published a small leaflet showing the products we made. I'd already done desktop publishing of some fliers for weekly "brown-bag" meetings on topics for the Anthropology department at UF.  I got to do graphic design on that job also.

I was often the only counselor in a setting who knew anything about typing, or would be working side by side with many secretaries.  I became a nerd without trying.  And I continued to want to keep my notes with a keyboard.  Did you know all medical notes were done by hand in a patient/clients chart, by doctors, nurses and counselors?  What a waste of time and paper!

But things have evolved, and now my own doctors have nothing but a computer screen and keyboard in the exam room now.

I digress.

My hope is that the typewriter gets its honor having been the force behind improving written communication all those many years ago.  I hope another Sepia Saturday participant looks into it's history.  Come see what they have to say...HERE.


  1. I took a course called "Personal Typing" in high school and didn't learn to type numbers or symbols. It was more or less for those who needed to type school papers but not type on a job.

  2. I got a Royal portable (manual) in 1957 just after 9th grade and it saw me through college and a MA in English (lots of papers) -- I never had an electic but oh! how I love my laptop!

  3. Oh you are so many papers in college. I think things have changed (hopefully) in following those publication manuals now that we can search for info on the internet.

  4. My mother made me take typing in high school, and I was petrified at first thinking I'd never learn the keyboard. Now I marvel at how easily my fingers remember where everything is. I still look at numbers and symbols though. Being able to type certainly came in handy in college.

  5. I went through most of the same typewriters. I took typing as a regular course in high school and never regretted it. It has served me well.

    And I've never loved another computer (not even my laptop) as much as I loved the Apple 2e.

  6. I too started on the old Underwood. The room was filled with them in school and there were two electrics at the back which select special people go to try them out. It was a whole new world. My progression along the way was so similar. My wife bought a word processor because she was afraid of using a computer. She of course is on the computer all the time now.

  7. my mom made me take typing in high school and I hated it; then when I was relegated to some jobs just because I could type I resented it, but now with the computer and my blog I am glad I know how.

    For some reason I have always wanted one of those really old typewriters, the one the gold rimmed keys in a mountain cabin without many modern accouterments fancying myself a writer squirreled away.pecking out my stories on one of those. lol, the daydreams I have.

  8. We have 2 antique underwoods, still working :) Fountain pens too! This was a great post!

  9. A walk down memory lane! My ex was a contractor and I spent many hours typing proposals on an electric typewriter. They were three part forms so if you made a mistake you sometimes had to start over. I can still remember the sound of the clicking keys.

  10. Your "history" of typing brought back so many memories. I first learned at home on my father's small portable and my first job was on a much larger manual. I was sent on a "Sight and Sound" course where you had to stare at a screen showing the letters & symbols whilst a disembodied voice told you what to type on a typewriter without any of the symbol/letters on it - this way you were supposed to learn how to touch type. I was hopeless at the mechanical side of typing i.e. changing the ribbon or later the correction ribbon. and just got in a tangled mess. Goodness knows how I got by then, as now I am so dependent on the computer's spellcheck.

  11. I was always in awe of typists in general (my wife Cathy was one) I was especially hypnotised by "shorthand" .I still dont understand such magic!!!!

  12. Thanks y'all (that's cause I live in the south) for all these great comments. I'm so glad I didn't skip this post, which I was tempted to do. But how could I? As you see, the typing is in my blood...did I mention my mom was also a secretary for a lot of her life?

  13. From the moment the typewriter - well, perhaps from the moment the QWERTY system was established and universally accepted - we have been a world of keyboarders with either all 10 fingers flying over the keys, or a couple hunting and pecking, keying our way through school essays, business papers, reports, letters, novels, blogs - our fingers have kept busy! One day keyboards may become irrelevant. Even now there are machines that can type as you speak. But I hope that isn't the future altogether. When I'm writing my stories, I create better when I'm pausing at the keyboard. I've tried recording by voice, but it just doesn't work the same. I need my fingers resting on those keys while I pause to think of what it is I want to say.

  14. My mother made me take typing in high school too. Was helpful in typing papers and getting clerical jobs a few times. It wasn't until I got a computer and stayed on so much typing that my speed went up to anything impressive. My father never took lessons but was a two finger whiz.

  15. Very interesting. Your typing skills certainly stood you in good stead.

  16. You've certainly covered all the keys for the typewriter theme this weekend. I am a self taught typist and still have my dad's army issue machine. I don't miss the erasers and whiteout but I do miss the rhythmic clatter of efficient typing.

  17. Isn't this a great post. I'd forgotten all about word processors and what they looked like so thanks for sharing these photos...makes it all come flooding back.

  18. When I got my first electric typewriter (this was 1968), I put my cup of coffee on my desk, typed a first line and hit "Return."
    The carriage came back so fast it knocked the coffee cup (and the coffee) across the room -- boy, what a mess! Great post on typewriter history -- I remember most of them well!

  19. I always loved typewriter brushes, I used to pretend they were unicycles for a fairy or something.

  20. Typewriter brushes and later white-out were my constant companions -- so you can see the kind of typist I am. Loved this personal history approach. My first typewriter was a little portable my aunt had when she was in college in the 1940s. Now I carry my laptop around in a carrier very reminiscent of her portable case. How times change or not.

  21. When we learned typing in high school we had to put masking tape over the keys to stop us from looking at the keys as we typed.

  22. Thanks for trip down memory lane. I started on an old Imperial, very similar to that Underwood, in my Dad'd office, then graduated to my mother's portable Olivetti, and then to my own portable Remington, inherited from my grandfather, on which I typed out all of my geology lecture notes at university. Once typed, they stayed in my head, and I only needed a quick read through before exam time.


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