Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Recalling the Days of the Typewriter

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Recalling the Days of the Typewriter

Article excerpt

When I was a rookie reporter at the Associated Press, I found myself in front of a Royal typewriter, a machine as fast as today's wonder horse, Cigar.

I was so addicted to its boxed keys that my colleagues would swipe it when I went to the water cooler or retired to the restroom.

On one occasion, with a bit of fanfare, I rolled the Royal to the bathroom with me.

I now have 15 assorted typewriters perched in important places in my city apartment, in various states of use.

There is a shiny 1920s portable Corona sitting in my hallway, a couple of 1930s bulky" Oliver standards from Chicago, and various others that I love to look at.

I oil them, poke at them, and sometimes type something to remind myself of what it used to be like to pound my thoughts on paper.

Now, of course, I am a journalistic processor, sending this graph over there, bringing that one back here. Still, I want to believe that better prose was produced at typewriters.

It also seemed to me that the louder you hammered at the keys, the more active the verb.

In fact, every time I write a story, my wife figures l'm going to bust up my computer, as I desperately try to recreate my days at my AP Royal.

I get like Forrest Gump every time I read an article about the days when every newsroom on deadline sounded like a car factory.

My latest round of remisniscing began last year when word spread that Smith Corona, a historic name in typewriter journalism, had gone bankrupt. it was like losing a childhood friend.

Reporters, which is what journalists used to call themselves 20 years ago when stories were more important than the people who wrote them, shared memories of smoke-filled newsrooms. Even though no one had any desire to return to them.

Al Ashforth, a novelist who worked at the New York Times during the sixties, said it took an organized mind to knock out precise prose on deadline.

"We used Underwoods," he recalled. "We'd write everything in triple space, and the copy boys would grab it after every graph. There was no going back. It was a quick way to get a heart attack."

Darryl Rehr, a television producer who publishes Etcetera, the magazine of the Early Typewriter Collectors Association, says typewriters are great for one's psyche.

"Writing on a typewriter is intellectual and physical at the same time," Rehr said from his home in Los Angeles. …

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