Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday's noPubl - What's a typewriter?

Whatever IS that bunzie?
Our lives have changed so much.  I wrote the next piece in the early 1970's.  I have a hard time believing this was me talking.  It's hand typed on legal sized onionskin paper (so it erases easily).

Writing Tools

I have a new typewriter ribbon.  It surely is an improvement over the old ribbon.  It's the wrong ribbon for this typewriter, but I put it anyway.  By the way, I think it's silly to write yourself notes on the typewriter.  If it was one of these machines that talked back to you, wouldn't I feel strange?

I saw a machine like that at Learning Foundations last winter.  You put a card in the machine, typed the spelling for the word, and then the machine pronounced the word and gave you the correct spelling.  I wonder how a kid feels with this big machine telling him how to spell.  He certainly must feel he's smarter than the machine.

I feel that I'm smarter than the machine.  I just stand here watching it parrot out the words on the card and I feel so superior!  As a human being, I think thoughts other than those programmed into me and I make mistakes.  I have a right to make mistakes.  The machine doesn't. 

I resent the attention the machine receives for flawlessly reproducing the thoughts of men, and then receiving all the praise.  Isn't it so smart!  Think about it.  Somewhere there's a human who thought all this up.  This machine that receives so much attention is just a glorified tape recorder.

There's another machine - the computer!  Do you know how much of our lives are tied up in computers?  Did anyone ever tell you how these things count?  By ones and zeros.  You know - 01001101.  Using that method, the computer can count all the way up to 386,995,774,123.44 (where on earth did I get that number?).  Even my kindergartener can do better than that.

They do have a super smart computer that counts 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 2x 2,  The only problem with it is that it can't talk in any terms but 2 x 2 x 2.  So, if you want to know what 64 multiplied by 128 is, you have to tell it 2 to the 6th power multiplied by two to the seventh power which gives you 2 to the 42 power, and which I am not going to work out for you.  Use your friendly neighborhood computer.   (I am dismayed to find out that I can't raise the power numbers for easier reading.) 

My husband has a computer he uses in his work.  It saves him countless hours of man labor.  This computer is so small that it fits in the palm of your hand.  It's so fast you can't see the numbers flying by.  It just sort of blinks and gives up the answer.  It can even remember the answer until a later time - up to 16 totals, I believe.

That brings up microfilm and microfiche.  Now they don't have to save your original correspondence, they just film it on an 1/2 inch square of film and file it away with millions of other tiny squares of film  That way, there's room to keep everything.  No one has to clean out files any more, they just film it.  Do you have any idea how many boxes of tiny films are sitting around these days?

So people rebel.  The fold, staple, and mutilate the punch cards.  That's not destructive.  That's how an ordinary person shows a computer how easily they can crash it.  You can X-ray microfilm (accidentally, of course) and the film gets all cloudy.  Then we feel superior to the math machines.  They can't do anything until we let it.

Have you noticed no one criticizes or threatens to do away with these inventions?  Last week I saw someone give a computer a karate chop.  It was hillariously funny.  And we all laugh at a movie where a computer goes bersrk.

Still, the typewriter is quietly taking its place among the indispensable.  No one would think of throwing it away.  Besides, mine has a new ribbon in it.

Marilynne (who is shaking her head in disbelief.)


  1. Wow, I remember typing class. Those machines were scary--flipping on the switch made me wonder if it was going to roar off the desk and vibrate me to death. I still get the heebie-jeebies from that memory.

    My computer is my daily companion, though. I write everything on it. And it doesn't vibrate at me. So nice.

  2. Shakespeare, I'd forgotten the vibration - and the whiz of the little ball going round and round. At the time I wrote this, I was probably using a manual typewriter. The type looks like it - letters dark or light depending on how hard you hit the keys.

    Yes, I'm thoroughly computerized and my blogs are my way of talking to the world.


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