The most valuable class I ever took in school was typing. Other classes were more provocative and inspiring, for sure, but none have served me so well over time. Knowing how to type made subsequent schoolwork easier, and has helped me land jobs. As a matter of fact, I once worked as a typesetter. (I’m pretty sure there aren’t many typesetters left.) I can type very fast and with few errors. When my fingers are flying over the keyboard, I’m engaged in some very satisfying yoga: I’m extremely relaxed, I’m at peace with the world.
When I was a kid, we typed on manual typewriters. They required formidable hand strength to ensure your key strikes delivered a quality impression. You had to line up a sheet of paper perfectly; if you wanted a copy, you put a piece of carbon paper between two blank sheets of paper. Corrections were to be avoided at all costs. Portable manual typewriters came in a sporty blue tote bag, as I recall.
Electric typewriters, like the classic IBM Selectric, were a lot easier to negotiate. Instead of individual keys, a round ball of type carried all of the characters. Very modern stuff, at the time.
Like the manual version, the electric typewriter made a very assertive sound when metal met paper. It’s a sound that used to be heard on telex machines and ticker tapes, as well. Losing an antiquated machine to progress is one thing; losing a sound is another thing altogether.
I can still fly over my laptop’s keyboard, but of course I don’t get the payoff sound (yeah, I know I can install software to simulate the sound, but to me it’s like margarine when only butter will do). I love that clatter. I miss the whirr you’d hear when you pulled your typed sheet of paper quickly out of the roller. I miss the smudged hands you’d get from handling carbon paper. As a matter of fact, I miss the smell of paper, the singular crinkle of oilskin paper, and the exquisite order of a ream of letter-size high-quality stock. I miss typewriters and a lot of things that went with them.