At our garage sale recently, one of the treasures we offered for sale was a box of IBM Selectric typewriter ribbons. These ribbons sparked so many conversations with the shoppers who browsed our tables! It’s funny how such a small item can bring back so many memories.
I learned to type during one hot steamy summer in New Orleans, sitting at a picnic table in the backyard banging away at a manual typewriter (for you young’uns, that means a machine that did NOT plug in and was NOT connected to the Internet). I am not kidding about the banging – you had to press the keys quite hard to make the metal letters on the little arms come in contact with the ribbon and the paper. Typing was not a regular class in my elementary school, but my mom had taken it in college, so I borrowed her textbook with its pages of stimulating exercises like “f j f j fj fjfjfj.” When my attention flagged, I would get distracted by the anoles sunning themselves on the chain-link fence or by the fire-ants crawling up my bare legs. Somehow, though, I managed to teach myself to type!
This gave me a big advantage over my non-typing peers. When I had to take Typing Class in junior high school, I was able to breeze right through it. Good thing, too, because by then my attention was distracted by Steve at the typewriter next door.
In high school, my typing ability actually earned me a profit when I was hired one summer to type addresses on index cards at Educational Testing Services in Princeton. This led naturally to a college summer job in the “typing pool” for a federal government publication. There my attention was caught by an editor on the China desk (seeing a pattern here). I remember racing to the In-Basket to grab the China articles before the other girls, so that I would have an excuse to deliver the typed pages to his desk. My interest in the editor faded when I returned to college, but the experience kindled a lifelong interest in Chinese politics and history.
One reason for my fading interest in the China desk editor was my new college boyfriend. Guess what he did for extra spending money on campus? Repaired typewriters! (Ask me sometime about the embarrassing items that students managed to jam into their keyboards.)
My major in college was Chemistry, which was not a typing-intensive career. However, I remedied that situation when computers made their appearance in my laboratory. It didn’t take me long to throw over Chemistry in favor of Computer Programming! And I have been typing my way through various careers ever since.
Digital scrapbooking is perfect for me, because I can type SO much faster than I can write by hand. I have a better chance of keeping up with my racing thoughts! But I could never do it without the backspace key. It seems like I type backwards almost as much as I type forwards! Fortunately, I don’t have to drag out the eraser or the correction tape for every mistake like we had to in the “old days”. Instead, my fingers seem to automatically correct the mistakes without any involvement from my brain. Sometimes.
And those typewriter ribbons at our garage sale last weekend? We gave them away to a nice couple who still have an IBM Selectric.
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