Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Typing Class, Part 3

As I wrote the other day, when I met Joyce in the summer of 1969, I was still using the old Sears (awful) typewriter that my parents had given me as a going-to-college gift in 1962. That summer, I had finished my third year of teaching at Aurora Middle School and was back in grad school at KSU, limping toward my master's degree. I had two courses that summer: one in educational philosophy, the other in American transcendentalism (where I met Joyce). Both required papers--and, thus, the Sears (awful) typewriter continued its usefulness, if not its efficiency.

There had been a recent advance in technology to help the fallible fingers of typists: erasable-bond paper. It was coated with some sort of chemical that permitted easy erasures with the rubber end of a common pencil. So much better than the various typing erasers I'd tried over the years, erasers which often put a hole in the paper, or moved the alignment slightly so that when I resumed typing, the line of type looked a little off kilter--as if it had slumped its shoulders in disapproval at what I'd just written. None of the various erasing devices really worked worth a damn.

So ... erasable-bond paper was a godsend. The only drawbacks: it felt ... greasy ... on the fingers; the type sometimes smudged just with ordinary handling; and some professors (curse their bones) refused to accept it (I guess they didn't like greasy fingers, either). Joyce and I used to buy it by the ream at Campus Supply near the KSU campus. (She, by the way, was/is a very swift typist, swift enough that, early in our marriage, I was a little ... what? Threatened? Oh, the insecurity of young men!)

Corrasable, by the way, was Eaton's brand name, and trusty Wikipedia tells me Eaton no longer manufactures the paper--which is good news for those of us who are fastidious about our fingers. I just realized--right this moment, after all these years--that the corr part of it alluded to correction or correctable.  DUH.

When grad-school demands increased on both Joyce and me, we decided, early in the 1970s, that it was time for an IBM Correcting Selectric--which, at the time, cost about $800, a small-to-large fortune for us. Her parents helped us with it, and we got one that looked a lot like the one at the top of the page. And then we had to work out arrangements for ... sharing. During the summers, I would work in the morning and watch baby-toddler Steve in the afternoon; Joyce had the opposite shift. As a result, the typewriter was going all the time. Later, when Steve started kindergarten (1977), his teacher reported this exchange:

Teacher: What do your parents do, Steve?
Steve: They type.

I loved that machine. Errors were easy to fix (an automated roll of sticky tape in the machine just pulled them off); different fonts--including italic--were possible (though it meant stopping the machine, removing the ball, replacing the ball). It was heavy--very heavy--its very weight suggesting sturdiness, reliability, permanence. Supplies were expensive (typing ribbons, correction tape), but worth it.

By the time we moved to Lake Forest College in the fall of 1978, we knew that one good typewriter would no longer suffice (we were both writing, a lot), so, flush with cash after selling our house in Kent, we bought a second one--a black one. And so things went for a few years until, as I've written here before, we bought our first Kaypro II--and then, soon, we had to buy another one because the ... demand ... was so high for the machine. Ever since, we've been a multiple-computer household (one for each of us, a few old ones lying around feeling neglected).

Even though we were thoroughly computerized, we kept one of those Selectrics around for years--mostly because there were always forms to fill out. During most of my second stint at Western Reserve Academy (2001-2011), for example, I used our typewriter almost exclusively to type CommonApp forms for students applying to college. But by the last year or two of my tenure, the CommonApp had gone online, and the typewriter had become superfluous.

By that time, both IBMs were long dead, and I'd bought, online, a Brother electronic typewriter, which I've used a few times (it ain't such a good machine), but which now lives, full-time, beneath the little "typing table" that used to hold my IBM but now holds our wireless printer and assorted junk-in-my-study. Look carefully at the picture at the bottom of the page ... you'll see the end of our typewriter era ...

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