Weekly Photo Challenge: UNFOCUSED (2)

It seems appropriate that these typewriters are neither here nor there (or perhaps here AND there). That they are floating in limbo, looking ghostly, out of spatial focus. Because that’s what’s happened to typewriters.

For perhaps a century, manual typewriters were the workhorses of offices and schools and universities. Secretaries typed letters and documents, students typed reports and papers. Authors  laboriously typed manuscripts (I know, I did two of them), fingers blackened with carbon paper, tubes of white-out at the ready to conceal inevitable mistakes.

Dah dadah dadah dadah dadah, ding! Letters scudding across a line, then ding! and throw the carriage back, again and again and again and again—  I suspect this is all incomprehensible to the generations who have grown up on word processors, for whom computers do all the heavy lifting, who are unaware of how much heavy lifting there was.

Two writer friends of mine still insist on manual typewriters, and they have a tough time of it. Finding new ones is almost impossible, finding repair parts and skilled technicians to do necessary repairs to their precious machines is even more difficult. In the window of this typewriter (and computer) store on Amherst’s main street, the last of the few make a farewell appearance. The rest of the store is devoted to the mundane business of computer repairs. But compared to this vanishing species, these glamorous stars of another era, where is there any romance in computers?

Ave atque vale: to typewriters!

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30 Responses to Weekly Photo Challenge: UNFOCUSED (2)

  1. Excellent take on the theme!

  2. I actually had my first job with The Royal Typewriter Co. after graduating secretarial school. Wow, that was way back when. Now here I am on my iPad, iPhone, Toshiba. I was horrible on the typewriter and worse at shorthand! Somehow I graduated, but I must say, thank heavens for computers. I’d never get anything done without them. This did bring back some fun memories, though. 🙂

    • Touch2Touch says:

      How about that, Gemma, I was a Royal woman myself. The choice was usually between Royals and Remingtons, and I swore by my little Royal. (It was even way-er back than your way back, I’m pretty sure.) The memories are fun, and nostalgia can feel good, but I guess when push comes to shove, I cherish my MacBook!

  3. AlohaKarina says:

    We still have an old manual typewriter here at the house–my youngest LOVES to play on it! And the ribbon still (barely) works!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Oh, wow! Smart of you to save the typewriter. It makes me smile just to think of your youngest banging away at it, making her mark!

      • AlohaKarina says:

        We actually bought it at an antique store…but it’s just like the ones we originally used to have in my high school, just before they went all electric. 1982! 🙂

      • Touch2Touch says:

        In an antique store — Oh, my!
        (I’m entitled to be in one myself, having 30 years on you, Karina!)
        It’s an inspired acquisition for your youngest, though, and it does tickle me to think of it still being used.

  4. pauline says:

    You never cease to amaze me. You are one of the most creative people I know!

    I learned to type on my grandfather’s old Remington. I was fascinated with the way the arms brought the letters down with such force. I used to hammer away with my little eight year old fingers, typing stories for my father to read when he came home from work. I learned word processing year and years later when I was required to teach it to budding computer users. I had a leg up because I knew qwerty and the home row!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      “You never cease to amaze me. You are one of the most creative people I know!”
      The words go right back atcha, Pauline. You have astounding creativity — and an honest, direct, and daring way of being in the world which I admire and envy.
      The typewriter memories really are fun, aren’t they? I can just see little 8-year-old you hammering away at your storiesf!
      What you label as qwerty and everyone recognizes as such, I still hear echoing in my mind as asdf ;lkj — because that’s how I began learning it!

  5. I learned to type on a manual typewriter-I don’t remember the brand but I do remember the excitement when our high school received five new IBM selectrics! Oh my and now here I am, decades later, tapping this comment on my IPad. What changes we have seen in our lifetime so far.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      True, true.
      And many more to come, no doubt.
      I remember going to Europe after college on the Flandre, a ship of the French line, not because it was exotic or luxurious, because it was not especially so — but because only the very rich, eccentric and daring went by air. Planes were glamorous and exciting. Immigrants and just plain travelers all went by ship. And look at us now!

      • we went to France in 1958 by ship and came back by ship – the Queen Mary which was not, then, a luxury liner – in 1961. Like you say, that was the way to travel across the ocean unless you were wealthy. Mind you, even there we saw progress. it took us 11 days to cross in 1958 and only 7 in 1961!!

      • Touch2Touch says:

        Maybe in ’61 you had a favoring tail wind?
        Did you actually have the chance to spend that intervening three years abroad, Joss????!!!!!

      • yes. My Mother’s family are from France and we went there to live for those three, actually it was four, we left in 57, not 58 , in the south of France. Looking forward to being back there in a few months. Lot of memories, lots to see and do.

      • Touch2Touch says:

        What a wonderful experience you had! I so look forward to your blogposts as you travel again to France.
        It makes me sigh in anticipation/ çela me donne un frisson!

      • We’re pretty excited about the whole idea although my daughter thinks we’re nuts to be gone for a year and have no house to come home to. heh heh.

      • Touch2Touch says:

        Young people can be so conservative! 😉
        It’s a serious adventure, and will be thrilling. I guess one advantage of experience is knowing you can cope, so you can stop worrying as much!

  6. Jo Bryant says:

    Doesn’t it seem like a blink ago that these were the work horses of our time. I remember typing away at the office and when I see films with typewriters I feel nostalgic for the way it was…the smell of paper…the ink…the whiteout to correct mistakes.

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Just looking at a photo of one brings back the whole experience! I spent a lot of time with typewriters — and loved them —
      Thanks for visiting, Jo!

  7. jfb57 says:

    I like this one – both for the photograph and the memories it conjures up for me!

  8. fb says:

    It may well be time for a Remington man to check in. I had what the Remington people called a Remie Scout. It was billed as a portable desk machine, and now that I think of it, one could call it the mother of laptops. But you really would not want to put it on your lap because its weight could send you to the emergency room of your local hospital. Come to think of it, were there emergency rooms then? But please don’t get me started. To quote Bob Hope, thanks for the Memory, JB

  9. reb says:

    Very nice take on ‘Unfocused’. I learned to type on a manual typewriter and was fortunate enough to be working during the transition period between typing/computerizing. Taught me to really appreciate the digital… Some clinics were still typing, we got doctors who’d worked in the ‘digitalized’ clinics and they could say things like «Would you, please, move that paragraph up, before the other one!», when you sat there with a typewriter and a number of carbon copies…

    • Touch2Touch says:

      One of the biggest changes when computers came in — ease of rewriting involving rearranging, and also global search and replace. There’s a famous anecdote about Margaret Mitchell’s deciding to change the name of the heroine of Gone With the Wind from Pansy to Scarlett! Took forever, and I think they missed a couple of places. Now it’s one key stroke —

  10. Terrific capture and interpretation of the photo. There are so many layers to this photograph, it almost appears endless! Here’s my interpretation of “unfocused”: http://wp.me/p1TywS-rc

    • Touch2Touch says:

      Wow, hard to imagine a greater contrast, civilization and the savanna, typewriters and cheetahs! (You’re right, your unfocused captures look a lot like water colors, and are amazing.)

  11. Nothing compares to that satisfaction of a firm keystroke, that wonderful feeling of words hitting a page, that sound of thoughts and ideas coming faster and faster and fast…ding, and that notice you’ve completed your task: the tick, tick, tick tttttttick of paper pulled out and read aloud!

    • Touch2Touch says:

      You make me, and perhaps a number of other people, very nostalgic! Lovely description, Jen.
      A friend of mine is off for three weeks in Wales right now — with typewriter!

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