Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day and Daily Labors

by Julia Buckley

Hello and Happy Labor Day!!  Like many Americans, I will be devoting some time today to labor rather than leisure, but it will be a good sort of labor--the writing kind.

Recently I had to get a new laptop because my old Dell had developed enough problems that repairing it would have cost almost as much as replacing it.  Hence my new Toshiba, on which I am typing this article. As I contemplated my shiny new keyboard, I was reminded of the days of typewriters: the buying of ribbons and correction tape, the slamming of the carriage return, the strong fingers resulting from pressing down hard on those keys (remember the great sound it made?).

I decided to do a little research on the amount of time that took us from Gutenberg's printing press to the modern computer and the advent of the Internet. What, I wondered, were the spans of years between the various innovations?

Though China and Korea both pre-date the Western world in the creation of moveable type, the Europeans credit the printing press to Johannes Gutenberg, who created his design in 1450.  By 1500, the printing press technology had helped to create "more than twenty million volumes" (Wikipedia).

The Rotary printing press, powered by steam, arrived in 1843, and allowed for "millions of copies of a page in a single day" (wikipedia).

The typewriter was invented in the 1860s, and immediately became indispensable to professional writers and to workers in homes and offices. Prominent typewriter companies included Remington and Sons, IBM, Imperial Typewriters, Oliver, Olivetti, Royal, Smith Corona, Underwood, Adler and Olympia.

By around 1910, typewriters had reached a "standardized" design.

The first electric typewriter was introduced by Varityper in 1931.

IBM improved on this in 1941 with the Electromatic Model 04.

By the 1970s, word processors and computers had entered the scene, but as recently as 2009 "typewriters were still used by some government agencies in the U.S." (wikipedia), and Brother made what they claimed to be the last typewriter made in Britain in 2012.  They donated it to a science museum (Wikipedia).

Now we see technology changing far more rapidly than did the world of typography.  Anyone reading this can probably write a detailed accounting of their own evolution when it comes to putting words on paper--real or virtual.

Where do you see us going from here?  Though writing and correcting are easier now, is there anything you miss about defunct technology?

Happy Labor Day to all--may you appreciate the evolution of the printed word as you read and write today.


Anonymous said...

I miss the "typewriter song," no words, just the rhythm of clacking keys punctuated by the ding of the end-of-the-line bell. Would probably have no meaning to the younger generation. In typing class, we had to practice typing to music, to help us hit the keys evenly and not wind up with several keys jammed together in the strike position.

A benefit of the old technology, I guess would be not having to learn a new version every few years. Still haven't figured out all the commands for the latest version of Microsoft Word. Frustrating when the word processing program insists on double spacing where I don't want it to.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Yes, the old typewriters didn't try to be helpful, bless them. I hate it when my computer tells me I have perfect spelling--I know I do, and who asked it? Years ago, I passed up my first chance to get an electronic "word processor" (I think the monitor showed three lines of text) because it didn't recognize the word "dysfunctional"--a word that, as a mental health professional specializing in addictions, I use every day. ;)

Julia Buckley said...

Anonymous, I miss that song, as well. But the good news is that we can both hear it in our mind's ear. :)

Liz--haha--you outwitted the computer. It is strange to have this whole new interactive ability. With the typewriter, the typist was the boss.

JJM said...

"The Typewriter", by Leroy Anderson. Along with his "Fiddle Faddle" and the music for Goldilocks (Broadway, 1958/59, starring Don Ameche and Elaine Stritch, with Margaret "Wicked Witch of the West" Hamilton), my favourite of his compositions. --Mario R.

Julia Buckley said...

Leroy Anderson, who did my favorite arrangment of "Sleigh Ride?"