Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Typewriter - A Marvellous New Invention


When I was about 7 my mum introduced me to a typewriter. I had already become familiar with the keyboard layout due to playing games on the family Atari and Commodore64 computers, I think this was an attempt to prove that keyboards weren't just for games but also for creating things. It worked. I would spend hours typing stories, occasionally getting frustrated as keys locked together or didn't quite leave a perfect imprint on the page. 

The typewriter was a strange halfway house between the speedy input of the computer keyboard and the almost illegible, up hill/down hill, laborious handwriting I possessed at the time. I can honestly say that I learned to write on a typewriter. I already knew how to use words, I knew how to put them into an order that made sense but this was the first time I'd used them to create a story, a worthwhile read.

Understandably I have a bit of a soft spot for typewriters, I like to imagine that in dusty archive rooms and certain offices they are still the standard for producing documents quickly. This could be wishful thinking, I have no proof either way.

What is it?

At the Newcastle Green Festival Mike was using his typewriter to document the weekend. Mike makes zines (zine-it-yourself), quite often using this typewriter. 
"I'm Tweeting." Mike said in response to my curiosity over the content of the pages.

I was surprised by the group of fascinated children that soon gathered around him, surprised that they didn't know what a typewriter was. In the end I was surprised that I had been surprised, of course they wouldn't know what a typewriter is, the computer has completely replaced it. Even my own use of a typewriter was a bit of a novelty. 

"Oh wow, what's thaaat?" 
The response to hitting a key and creating an instant mark on the paper was absolute delight. The classroom computers must seem so disconnected compared to this, having to first type, then tell it to print and then wait for the print. The typewriter might seem like brand new technology to the unfamiliar eye, so instant and responsive, rewarding writers with a real time printing of their words. No messing about with print dialogue or page size. 

Each of the children had a go on the typewriter and not one of them wrote 'Hello'. They were very enthusiastic about it, wanting to type something they would be proud of, after all it's in print. At the same time they weren't overly precious about their creations, it didn't concern them that it wasn't perfect. They typed whatever came to their mind. It's probably rare for children to have something printed without it first being approved by someone else. Having the opportunity to create something of their own, not school work and see it appear on paper as they typed must have been a joy. 

There may not be a place for the typewriter in the modern office or school but maybe there is still a place for it on the desks of children. To make fun stories, with instant rewards. 
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