Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Days of Ribbons and Keys

I'm totally in control of this tiny, tiny world right there at the typewriter.
--Joan Didion, writer

There is a bittersweet melancholy to the remembrance of things past. Recently we were in a river town in the mountains of southern California and the main road had several antique shops. Not sure why other than it is a tourist destination. Saturday morning after breakfast we ventured out to see the offerings of a bygone period.

As we walked through the stores item after item brought back a time of youth. There was a Browning camera that I remember my grandparents used. There were dishes my wife noticed that her mother used frequently when Kennedy and Johnson were leaders of the United States. Long playing records from the same era and even earlier featuring Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, as well as many other bands and artists from the 1950s through the 1960s. Surprisingly Bruce Springsteen’s first box set of live performances from the mid-80s was also in one of the stores.

I purchased a heavy duty Smith-Corona typewriter. It was similar to the gun-metal gray Remington I used as a budding journalist. For those young’uns who might venture to read this, typewriters were the indispensable tools for practically all writing, similar to your smartphone or your computer today. While I have my issues with technology, I have no intention of returning to the typewriter. Once the personal library is restored, the typewriter will grace a shelf along side a 1950s rotary phone with a letter prefix, instead of an area code.

Browsing through the aged goods were myriad unknown family photos and portraits exhibited in various old-fashion picture frames, but my thoughts drifted to the families who were once so thrilled to view and own those photos. I doubt any of the subjects or their relatives would really want their family photos on display as just filler. Sadly, more likely than not, those in the photos had either passed away and their relatives had no idea that a photo ended up discarded as part of an estate sale. Then again, I know people who have no interest in fulfilling a love one’s last request.

What will the antique store in 20 years contain? Will there be smartphones, iPads, DVDs all replaced by Google glasses or will they eventually be obsolete and people will communicate telepathically? But, that may be hard if everything continues to be so dumbed down that any communications will have to be nearly Neanderthal.

Maybe we should return to ribbons and keyboards that allow people to ponder and provide some thought to what is communicated.

Photos by RJW


Nice Jewish Artist said...

Had an electric when I was younger, and wrote many a story on it. Awful, derivative stories actually. But I still have the typed sheets in my file cabinet - and I remember the freedom of writing on a typewriter, having PRINTED WORK INSTANTLY IN MY HANDS, LIKE A PROFESSIONAL WRITER. And the sound of the keys, and the hum of the machine...

Of course now if I were t buy one I'd want a completely manual one, so that when armageddon comes and the power goes, I can still type.

The Misanthrope said...

I couldn't wait to get it home, but the ribbon was dried out, so I ordered a new one; we'll see if the new ribbon does the trick.