I’m feeling a bit sentimental tonight. Very recently, I upgraded my Apple OS to Lion (a belated hear me roar! to Steve J.). That’s when I discovered that I could no longer use my trusty Microsoft Word, version 10 or thereabouts! You have to understand that I’ve been using Microsoft Office software since 1989, first at work, and then at home. I’ve written reports, done graphs in Excel, setup PowerPoint slideshows, written books (yes, completed and whole and not published), short stories (some published), letters, and this particular blog: A Writing Primate. I loved Word, although I never upgraded after the 10.1. Once I left the working world, I only needed a word processor for my writing, and I was quite happy with the version I was using, thank you very much. After all, you don’t want something too complicated to interrupt the muse at her literary efforts. But, when I went to write after installing Lion, well, the big cat bit me in the ass by telling me that it wouldn’t open this particular Office software version.
Now, I could get an upgrade to Office 2011, but I had Pages on my computer, and I made a life changing decision to try it out. Pages (an Apple program) has been on my Macbook Pro for a few years, but I never got into using it. After all, I had the Word and the Word was all I needed, but sometimes you have to try something different, to make sure your brain cells don’t calcify or dribble out your ears (which can be quite messy). So, this blog is being written on Pages, and after it is done, I will uninstall the Microsoft Office with a ceremonial piping generally used for retiring admirals.
Which brings me to Smith Corona and Underwood. For you youngster, these are typewriters. What are typewriters, you ask? Ah child, they were used before the computer came along, and they were glorious machines. They made clackety-clack noises as you pressed down on the keys, and if you made a mistake, shame on you, you either used “white-out” to cover over the mistake, or start all over again, which, when you think about it, really made you think first about the words you were laying down on that pristine sheet of paper. My mother gave me her Underwood typewriter when I was ten years old and the thing had to be thirty years old then. It was a huge, hunk of metal and I loved it. At a later Xmas, I got a Smith Corona that purred like a kitten because it was electric. The clack wasn’t quite so clicky any more, but there was still a noise. (When I write on my Macbook Pro, all I hear is my brain yelling, “THINK, THINK, WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE NEXT, DUMMY?”, so I do miss the noise of a typewriter.
The concept of a typewriter dates back to at least 1714, when an Englishman filed a patent for an artificial machine to impress or transcribe letters singly or progressively one after another. The first typewriter built was for a blind Countess in Italy, so she could write letters, and that was in the early 1800’s. The first successful for the public typewriter (1870) looked like a pin cushion with a writing ball above the paper. Others soon followed, looking more like the typewriters we remember, and one in particular, Sholes & Glidden became popular, because it introduced the QWERTY keyboard (a layout we still use on our computers), although it only typed in capital letters. In the 19th century, the cost of a typewriter was $100. The typewriter also helped our grandmothers and great grandmothers find respectable jobs in office around the country, typing away at business letters written by men. Times have changed our perspective, haven’t they?
I miss my typewriter, and I miss my Word, but you know what? I kind of like this Pages software, too. Whatever tool you use to express yourself, it can only be good, whether using a pen or pencil, or typewriter or laptop, or iPhone, or iPad. It’s awesome to think of all the machines I’ve used to write. What fun, it’s been, and will continue to be. I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Quick! What was the first published novel written on a typewriter?
If you are interested, check out the Comments section below for the answer…