The Classic Typewriter Page

Typewriter Tributes

Novel Becomes Nostalgic


Karen Persson

How quickly modern technology has transformed how we do things. What ever happened to the machines of old? Those which haven't been reinvented have disappeared from use. In our everyday lives, from home to the office, we are accompanied by so many hi-tech aides to help us keep up. It's all we can do just to keep up with the new technology, let alone put it to use for our benefit. But what would we do without them? Some facets of everyday life would come to a grinding halt and chaos would ensue.

This hasn't always been so. This past Christmas I was reminded of such when I opened up a gift from my husband: a typewriter. Complete with the severely yellowed, but intact, instruction manual titled How to Use Corona: The Personal Writing Machine and a cleaning brush, I call it my laptop. I discovered underneath the grime from years of dormancy, a shiny gem capable of everything it was made to do. After oiling and making a few adjustments it all but flies.

It is a piece of the nostalgic past that many would look upon as a useless antique, perhaps even a decorator item; to me a treasure. As a writer the feelings it evoked in me were quite different.

I couldn't help but consider, as I dusted and cleaned with brush and cotton swab, that computers are so impersonal and industrial. This little typewriter has romance and personality. My imagination began to soar as I pondered the history of my little gem. The pictures in my mind were sepia in tone; looking on in a newspaper office at the leading reporter busily typing away about the upcoming championship boxing match, creating in print the underdog, to set a stir among the people and bring them to the ringside to cheer on their hopeful champ. I could almost hear the click-clack of each stroke as I imagine her sitting, her back to me with a felt hat atop head. There on her desk is a chipped mug laced with lipstick stains, out of which rises the steaming aroma of coffee. The aroma mingles with the smoke from her cigarette that burns unattended in the ashtray on top of her attaché case.

Then my thoughts turned to a musty, damp library... Books line the dark encased walls to the ceiling. The rain pounds on the eves outside, but within, a wolfhound lounges next to the hearth of a crackling fire. Opposite the warmth of the fire sits a small desk, accompanied by an oversized Louis IV chair richly upholstered in red velvet. A middle-aged man sits comfortably clad in a housecoat and leather slippers and shifts to his other hand his smoking pipe as he looks intently down at the final page of his novel. It will become the best seller of his time, making his name household among the posh of society. But just as humble as his typewriter, he will remain, among the praise and trappings of the fame it will bring.

Pondering yet further into the mysterious past of my Corona, I imagine a disheveled, young playwright. He paces to and fro in the great room of his eclectic house with tea in one pale, slender, hand and a freshly dipped stylus in the other. Rushing to his typewriter which sits alongside an inkwell atop a small table, he plops down on a leather tufted stool and quickly scribbles changes in the leads dialogue, and rearranges the order of the last scene he had typed moments before. Pulling it out of the typewriter, he slaps the page atop the pile on the floor, sets his tea down and loads the next page into the carriage. Little does he know, the masterpiece he will soon finish will become the greatest play of the decade, performed the world over, in the most prestigious theaters. People will clamor for tickets when it comes to their city, driving up the price, causing it to become the most profitable play of his day. His name will be famous, outlasting his mortal existence.

Maybe my little typewriter has been to the continent of Africa with a researcher. It could easily fit inside an old traveling trunk and would have been safe enough within. Looking on, I would see the smoke rising late in the evening from out of a grass hut on the savanna, to step inside would reveal a bachelor carefully typing from his notes of the day describing in vivid detail the sketches on the pages of his well worn journal. Adjusting the lantern light, he would push up the brim on his pith and wipe his brow with the tail of his cotton neck scarf which he would have discarded to the side when he sat down to accomplish his evening task. Needing to wash the days grime away, he would put the thought to do so aside, eager to get every detail down before it escaped his mind. His purpose would be to bring back with him the essence of a land unknown, containing things and animals unseen by the civilized world. He would whisper a prayer of thanksgiving for his typewriter; it would have been costly, but worthy of the investment. He would commend himself for a wise choice and then concentrate on his notes, working late into the night.

The images subside as I rub the final gleam into the black glossy finish of my Corona.

With the invention of the computer and its vast applicability, the typewriters of old have been put aside to collect the dust and cobwebs which the years afflict. People have grown to rely on these technological geniuses with their word processing aptitude that supersedes even our own. Their speed and productivity have given them the edge over the romantic mechanical machine of old, the typewriter. The complexity of the inner workings and capacity of the chip is too much to even comprehend. Repairs are simply out of the question for the average user and the frustration one must endure relating to a breakdown can be enough to cause one to want to throw the computer (and tech support) into the swimming pool. I actually witnessed this happen with a certain laptop which refused to shut off even after the battery had been removed. The identity of the person who did this will be kept anonymous out of respect.

The computer with all its complexity, is now preferred over the typewriter with all its simplicity. Life for most has taken a similar route; simple has surrendered to complex. A sad commentary for those who have given in and boarded that bus which will take them speeding down the road to the future... where simple is forgotten.

As a writer I am always looking for inspiring things to write about; things which spark my imagination and get the juices of creativity flowing. Thanks to my husband, I opened up a treasure chest of inspiration this past Christmas. I have never been inspired more by a single object than I have been by this beautiful and very simple machine of a day lost forever. I have decided to give that flashy desktop a rest every once in a while and instead strike up a little romance and adventure amongst the click-clack of the keys on my little typewriter. Maybe I'll be that best selling author depicted in the imagination of a future writer as they look upon a typewriter of old and consider its story.

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