Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Monday, June 8, 2009

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I hope the pictures show up right. That's my IBM Selectric II, all 40 lbs of her disco-era goodness. I got her for free on Craig's List from a guy who just wanted her out of his closet. This is very close to the kind of typewriter I learned to type on back in the 80s, but I think my high school's typewriters may have been Selectric IIIs. It uses a ball instead of a wheel or arms. What a blast from the past it was remembering how to take it apart for cleaning and re-install the ribbons.

I have to give a hat tip to Professor M for the idea. The typewriter was his solution to being distracted by the internet. It really does help. Feels weird to be physically unable to check Twitter while writing. Exhilarating in its freedom.

Nothing feels like a typewriter. I love how tangible the output is. I mean, on a computer your stories don't really exist. You always have to have that interface: a machine to view it on, electricity to run the machine, the correct software to open the "document," a printer to whisper out pages...

With a typewriter, you feel the creation of your words with your fingertips and in the vibration of the table. The volume of that creation announces to the world, "I AM WRITING NOW. DO YOU HEAR ME WRITING? Thinking... WRITING AGAIN." You can hug your pages to your chest or rip them up and throw them wadded against the wall. You can fold up your creation right away, put it in your pocket, and take it out to show someone later. Also, typewriter ribbon is way cheaper than printer ink.

There is only one con, as far as I can see, and that is the inability to easily correct a typo. But even that isn't a con to me. I have to type it into the computer later anyway, so I'll just mark my edits on the page and rewrite as I go. Or I could scan the pages into Word and do a spell check.

I wish I had gotten a typewriter long ago, and I recommend all writers do the same. Typos schmypos.

{ 12 comments... read them below or Comment }

  1. Do you have OCR software? That's way cool! Scanning pages AND being able to spell check?? That'd ROCK!

    I need to get me one o' these!! Maybe I'll make fewer mistakes when they COST so much in time and paper! Awesome!

    Oh, the pics looked fine to me. :)

  2. Typewriters aren't the only things that come out of the closet on Craig's List, if you know what I mean.

  3. The new typewriter I got (my mother's from college--an AT&T 6210 Surespell) has an automatic lift-off tape feature that erases text (well, depending on how well that section of tape has aged), which is nice but when I use it I find myself missing the sound of that clunky, noisy Smith-Corona.

    I'll probably bounce between the two, but the Smith-Corona is definitely my favorite. As for its age, mine's got yours beat by a couple years:

    Hooray for typewriters!

  4. Oh my gosh, yellowcat, I 'bout peed my pants. LOL

    Knyt, I've used Word before to translate some scanned-in pages, if that's what OCR means.

    M., your link didn't work for me. The AT&T is an electronic typewriter? You're right, it's just not the same as an analog one. I had a Brother a long time ago, and it didn't impress itself upon me like that old IBM did in high school.

  5. So THAT'S what that noise was! ;)

    I used to have a Smith Corona word processing typewriter. It was pretty cool - it had a little display and like a 50k dictionary so you could look up words (and it would beep if you misspelled something), and it had a lift-off tape for corrections - you could hit the backspace key and it would lift off the last things typed. I thought it was awesome, and even though the typewriter is no longer manufactured, SC is still selling supplies for it. I kind of miss it.

    You keep up that good work hon - great things will come of it. :)

  6. The SC you're talking about is similar to the Brother electronic one I had, with the backspace corrections. Mine had a daisy wheel that never grew on me like the ball did. Guess I just like balls.

  7. Yeah, mine had a daisy wheel.

    So ... you like balls, huh? I think most girls do. There's just something so ... round ... about them. ;)

  8. wow, this takes me back to the admissions job I had in the eighties, working at a university, pounding away on my Selectric II. I feel like I should sport a modified shag haircut while wearing a belted, oversized shirt and leggings, and lots of bangles on my wrists that click in time to the keys...

  9. Sarah, I remember those days. Oh, the bangles...


  10. Here, try this link. If that doesn't work, just imagine an owner's card taped to the inside of the carrying case marked October, 1973.

    Yes, the AT&T is an electronic daisy wheel typewriter. It's nowhere near as fun as the Smith-Corona, but it's much quieter and some days that's exactly what my head wants in a word processor.

  11. That one worked, but I imagined it anyway. :)


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