Do you even remember typewriters? They are museum pieces today! Yet, what an advance they were when they first became available as manual machines, later graduating to the electronic versions. According to https://www.britannica.com/technology/typewriter the first typewriters were marketed in 1874, and soon became known as the Remington. Originally designed to prevent the jamming of typewriter keys, the QWERTY keyboard is still used on our computers and mobile devices.
My father purchased a small portable typewriter when he began writing notes for his book Golden Memories of Barberton. He used the two-finger ‘hunt and peck’ method and, over time, became quite adept at typing so accurately that he was able to place carbon paper between two sheets of paper in order to have a copy of his notes and writings. He once made an error while writing the above mentioned book. As it was near the end of the page, he simply changed the name of the person (thus creating a fictional character whose story is dying to be written) and included it among the real characters. No-one has ever questioned the existence of this chap!
My own relationship with a typewriter began many years ago, when I realised how the skill of typing could help me in the preparation of my teaching notes (we used Gestetner roneo machines then!) and I enrolled for a typing course at our local technical college – starting at what would now be called a Grade 10 level. I plonked away at the large machine against the back drop of either music or the teacher clapping a rhythm with her hands. Clack, clack, clack went the keys as my fingertips bore the bruising from whacking the sticking keys with gusto. There were speed tests and times when we had to look up while typing to increase the accuracy of our work. These were manual machines which required one to flick out one’s left hand to deftly move the paper to the next row without losing either the rhythm or one’s place in the text: ting, ting, ting … one could tell that everyone present had a different speed of typing. Clack, clack, clack, ting, ting, ting … it was sometimes difficult to keep pace with the music or the clapping, until I learned to screen it all out and focus on my own sounds – a useful skill. I inadvertently entered for the matric (Grade 12) level examination at the end of the year and was greeted with a variety of challenges I had not prepared for. To my delight I passed well and have never regretted the evenings spent on that course.
It proved to be an extremely useful skill when my husband was preparing his manuscript for the first edition of his Field Guide to the Natal Drakensberg. Not owning a typewriter yet, we borrowed his sister’s electric one. What a joy that was to use – especially as I frequently had to rock our first child to sleep in his pram with one foot whilst typing! I used a different electric typewriter when typing his Master’s thesis and appreciated the smooth rhythm and fairly quiet keyboard so much that, once we could afford it, I purchased an Olivetti golf ball typewriter – how useful it was to be able to change balls to alter the fonts!
I loved that typewriter so much that I kept it for years after we had moved to a computer. With my husband’s PhD in the offing though, I simply had to get to grips with our new computer. I learned about spacing and tabulating and all sorts of finer aspects of producing a thesis on a ‘need-to-know’ basis and by trial and a lot of error! I have never looked back … my beloved electric typewriter was eventually taken to the Hospice Shop complete with a set of golf balls and boxes of ribbon. I hope it found a happy home and proved to be useful for a while longer.