Do my hands really look this old and puffy now, or is it my imagination? I swear to God that I didn’t use to have curled up, stiff little stubby fingers like this. I look at them and think “When did you turn into Vienna sausages”? What happened to the slim, tapered fingers that used to bounce over the piano keys and used to sail like the wind over the typewriter?
Oh, there’s the problem right there. I said “typewriter.” First clue that I’ve been doing this writing thing WAY too long. Told my kids last night that I’d gotten a Smith Corona electric typewriter for my high school graduation present from my parents in 1974. “A what?” my youngest daughter asked. Jeez, it wasn’t THAT long ago. She’s not THAT young. Or maybe she is. Heck, she’s only 13, but even if she was 25, there’s a good chance that she wouldn’t be familiar with a typewriter. A quarter of a century without the “clack-clack-clack-ching” sounds of my old Smithy. Can you believe it?
I remember how I transitioned from being a hard-core typewriter geek into a computer-loving maniac. Started as a journalist who didn’t mind pounding the hard manual keys of the Royal that my parents owned. Found it even kind of romantic in fact, fancying myself as Hemingway without the bulls and the guns. Even chafed a bit (just a bit) when the newsroom switched to IBM Selectrics. “Doesn’t have the same feel as the Royal,” I complained, for less than a minute until I realized it had a built-in white-out capability and you could change fonts in seconds by pulling out one metal ball and sticking in another. See ya, Royal, I’ve got a new love and her name is Selectric. Nice.
Several years later, when I started my first ad agency, I rented a Swintec Superwriter. This puppy was like typing on butter, my friends. Fast, smooth, feature-rich and with a sound that just flat out delighted my ears each and every time. The return bell was the sweetest peal you’ve ever heard in your life, like an angel from heaven was leaning down and tinkling a crystal clear “ting” right beside your ear. Spurred on by that little ting, the words would flow from my brain straight onto the firm, pushbuttons that swacked the letters hard as tacks onto the whitest paper I could find.
I’m telling you I loved that machine, truly loved it. “You’ll get my Swintec when you pry it from my cold, dead non-sausage fingers,” I would chuckle, and I meant every word of it. At least that’s how I felt until my wife bought me my first Macintosh.
There it was under the Christmas tree – a Mac 512K enhanced. Never did figure out what the “enhancement” was all about. But 512K – oh baby. What I could do with that puppy. The things that I could write. The crazy graphics I could make. The sounds I could hear from my new daisy wheel printer with the pre-holed paper.
But something was wrong. For months, there it sat in its box in my office, waiting patiently until someone would open it up and let it perform like a dancing bear. I was afraid of it, I guess. It seemed like something from outer space. Something I couldn’t understand, nor see the importance of ever using. Why use something with such a tiny screen and a poor excuse for a keyboard when I could be riding my Swintec around the corral every day, or driving it on the Autobahn with the greatest of ease?
Then one day, a friend of mine who was working with me for a bit, saw it sitting there in the corner. She pounced on it, like a hungry catwoman who’d seen something akin to a convention of mice with their minds on networking with one another, rather than paying attention to the dangers that were about to befall them. They weren’t paying attention to her, and neither was the Mac, so it was fair game in her mind and I gasped as she ripped open the box and pulled the little white machine out of its Styrofoam packing. There was no going back now.
She gently set it up on my desk and ask me to leave for my lunchbreak. When I returned, I opened the door to the sounds of clattering that I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t my Superwriter, my Selectric, my Smith Corona, nor my Royal. It wasn’t the Canon Wordstar that my wife had originally tried to excite me with. No, it was my Mac 512K enhanced, and it was pushing out paper through the matching daisy wheel printer like a madman possessed.