Do you remember Typewriters?

This coming week we celebrate National Typewriter Day 23 June and National Writing Day 23/ 24 June.

I know there will be several generations of youngsters who have never seen a typewriter, and certainly have never used one. 

6 Typewriter Facts

  1. One of the first commercially made typewriters was patented in the US, in 1868 by Christopher Latham Sholes, Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule.
  2. The very old typewriters didn’t have a number 1. Instead, the lowercase L was used, because it looks like a l.  Although to be honest, in my mind, it’s a lazy 1.  It allowed the manufacturers to save some space in the overcrowded area where hammers were located.
  3. The keys were laid out in the QWERTY system, rather than ABCD etc.  This was partly to stop the keys from jamming, (which they often did if you typed too quickly), but the main logic of that layout was based on letter usage in English.
  4. The QWERTY system has been kept for computer keyboards, because typists have learned to type that way, and it would probably make life much harder.
  5. There are three different types of typewriters.  Mechanical typewriters, electric typewriters and electronic typewriters.
  6. Mechanical typewriters don’t need a power supply. The typed documents cannot be corrupted or modified as the printing is permanent – there is no delete key.  Also, it doesn’t lead to eyestrain, like electronic devices like computers, even when working for long hours.
  7. The disadvantage for me was having the change the ink ribbon, which I hated doing. Another disadvantage, you can only type one copy at a time.
  8. The older Mechanical typewriters were large, heavy and harder to press keys down. You had to have stronger fingers than are needed on a computer keyboard.

When I was in the 6th form, we had extra things to study to fill our timetables, alongside our chosen ‘A’ levels. I studied typewriting, even though I knew I didn’t want to go into an office, and was going to Music College. My dad bought me a small portable typewriter.

As an aside, the other subject I took, was Woodwork!

Learning to touch-type one of the most useful things I ever did. Being able to touch type has been so useful.

Firstly, I think it was fairly easy to learn, because my fingers are used to finding their way around a piano keyboard, which I know is nothing like a typewriter, but when you play the piano you have fairly equal strength in all of your fingers.

At college I could type my essays, which was far more legible than my handwriting. The ironic thing was, I could make notes very quickly, and often people sat beside me in a lecture, could copy my writing at the time, but later, I sometimes couldn’t work out what the hell I’d written!

I also typed out the poems I wrote at that time, which I kept and still have 53 years later.

After being made redundant when working as an Music Advisory Teacher (the whole Arts team was made redundant), I set up as a Music Consultant and worked self-employed. However, I was worried I might not earn enough, so I enrolled with a recruitment agency. I did a typewriting test, and passed with a good speed, so I got some work as a typist. I covered for the secretary of the main editor for Simon Schuster, (Education) in Cheltenham for a week. His writing was even worse than mine!  I had a weird link with them too, because I had co-authored a music scheme for schools, published by Nelson Publishing, who Simon Schuster bought.

When computers came in, again, my typing skills were useful, and still are. I can type pretty quickly, and it helps when I’m writing my books. Sometimes I type quicker than my brain can think, so I do end up with rubbish, and if I misplace my hands of the home keys (to touch-type), I get real gobbledegook!

My biggest problem is the fact that mobile phones don’t have a QWERTY keyboard. I find it annoying because I have to use one finger, to tap as quickly as I can, and I regularly suffer from FFS – fat finger syndrome!  I’ve never learnt to use the two thumbs approach.

I have a lot to celebrate about typewriters, especially as an author – what about you, do you type, or have you ever used a typewriter?