OPINION: Yes, they still make typewriters ... somewhere
May 01, 2011 (The High Point Enterprise - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The "NCPA e-press" popped up on my computer screen Thursday as it does every week.
It's the North Carolina Press Association's quick-hit electronic newsletter that tells members about "upcoming" events, provides easy access to the NCPA Job Bank, lists headlines for what's "inside" and provides: news about NCPA, a quick update on the General Assembly, people news, "news from our members," industry news, columnists and "replay" with options to choose any back editions that may have been missed.
The next-to-last headline of the eight in the "inside this week" list caught my eye. It read: "Don't throw out that typewriter ribbon yet!"
Recognize that I am the only person working at The High Point Enterprise that has a typewriter adjacent to a desk, and there's another -- for use by anyone in the newsroom -- just outside my office door. They are used primarily for completing preprinted forms, addressing envelopes, etc.
I had determined as a seventh-grader that I wanted to be a journalist so, at my first opportunity to take a typing class -- sophomore year in high school -- I jumped in with both hands. I have to give credit to classmate Rich McMillen, a halfback in football, for my ability to type quickly (100-120 words a minute) and accurately.
The typing teacher, in her 30s, had a body similar to that of Marilyn Monroe. Because she couldn't see well, she wore really thick glasses that made her eyes appear to bulge and she would bend over, trying to get her face closer to the paper in the typewriter so she could examine the work students did. Sometimes, her breasts would brush the shoulder or arm of the person whose work she was inspecting. McMillen appeared to enjoy that until I ratted on him.
As payback, every time we took a typing test, he would grab my book and toss it across the room. At first, the teacher would wait until I retrieved my book and was ready for the test to begin. After about a week, she informed me that she couldn't hold up the rest of the class while I retrieved my book, so I'd just have to go get the book, take it back to my desk and start typing.
Always a competitor, I was determined to type faster and better than McMillen. I did, usually typing more than 100 words a minute, sometimes quite a few more with few errors. Those skills came in handy, especially early in my career when I was a sportswriter, when I seemingly always was writing on deadline.
When I was in college and covering sports for a daily newspaper on a regular basis, I bought a slim (21/2-inch high) Olivetti that I used for a dozen years or more. I still had it when, as sports editor for the Idaho Statesman, Betty Lou and I on weekends would travel two-thirds of the way (as far as 250 miles one way) across the state to cover high school sports.
This was decades before computers -- especially laptops -- were available for journalists. In fact, it was probably 10 years before telecopiers were being used regularly for transmitting journalists' stories from game site to newspaper office. On the way back from covering those Idaho sports events, Betty Lou would drive and I would sit in the back seat with the typewriter on my lap, first banging out the statistical material, then writing the story. That was back in the day when service station attendants pumped gas, checked the oil, washed the windshield, etc. We got some pretty quizzical looks from those folks whenever we stopped for gas.
When I arrived back at the Statesman, I could turn my story and the statistics over to typesetters and we were able to get that coverage into the paper well ahead of deadline.
Years later, Betty Lou bought me an electric typewriter only after securing a promise that it could keep up with a fast typist. It couldn't. When we found out we couldn't return it for a refund, we did the next best thing. We gave it to some folks running a rummage sale.
NCPA e-press picked up the "Relax, They're Still Making Typewriters" story from GAWKER, a Manhattan weblog magazine. It told of India's Business Standard reporting that Godrej & Boyce, which had made typewriters in India since the 1950s, had ceased production in 2009. In retelling, GAWKER reported, "this somehow came to mean that Godrej & Boyce was the last existing typewriter manufacturer in the world." No so, GAWKER says, "The typewriter is alive and well."
Moonachie, N.J.-based Swintec, for example, still is manufacturing typewriters. Swintec general manager Ed Michael told GAWKER. "We have manufacturers making typewriters for us in China, Japan, Indonesia," Michael says. "We have contracts with correctional facilities in 43 states to supply clear typewriters for inmates so they can't hide contraband inside them," Michael explained. "There you have it: So long as you can smuggle a nail file inside a MacBook, the typewriter will live to jam another day," the Business Standard wrote.
Yes, I used a computer to write this column.
firstname.lastname@example.org -- 888-3543
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