When you open up a blank document and realise that you have to write 620 words to fill the space, the first thing you do is wonder what to write about.
It’s empty, awaiting some sage words of wisdom to remove its empty space and grace the words of this newspaper and website.
A long time ago, before there was internet and the media wasn’t social except with itself, when you started to write, the first thing you did was put a clean sheet of A4 paper into the typewriter.
I have a hankering now to find an old typewriter, simply as a reminder of the way things used to be, when writing seemed so much more of a physical act.
Yes, there are mental strains as well, but the physical exertions of tapping hard onto the metallic keys and the having to grab the line lever and advance the paper and start a new line seemed to be far more satisfying than simply creating a document, giving it a name, and away you go by pressing the little buttons on the laptop.
The way these modern laptops are built, a good angry exclamation mark done with anger would likely damage the machine or render that key beyond use. Back in the day, you could take your anger and emotion out on the keys, tapping away with fury and venom, slapping the carriage return back as hard as the machine could take. And if you typed too quickly, then the long arms that strike the ribbon onto the paper itself would become jumbled, a metallic mess that would have to be pried apart.
If you didn’t do it carefully, then invariably one of the keys would become marginally shorter than the others, and the lines of type would forever be uneven as that ‘g’ key was slightly bent and lower on the line than all the rest.
Do they still make carbon paper anymore? That used to be the quickest — and dirtiest way of making a second copy. After a few pages, the carbon paper would become like lattice, and it took great skill to be able to use the diminished sheet for each new copy.
I have started to scour charity shops in search of an old manual, but no joy so far.
I did come across an electric typewriter, one of those fancy ones that had a golf ball-like font that would spin quickly around and hit the page with a gentle sputt-like sound that took a lot of getting used to compared to the clanking thud of a good old manual model. If you worked in a fancy office, you might have different typewriter golf balls that allowed you to change the typeface. Now that was technology at work for you.
If you learnt to type on a manual typewriter then switching to an electric one was a bit like going from riding a bicycle to driving an automatic car. It was far less effort but the keys had a hair trigger. It seemed that if you even rested you hand over the keys, you’d have typed fghkls%5 before you even knew it. And that wasn’t a good thing.
Then again, the new electric typewriters had correction keys, which meant that the fghkls%5 could be erased and you’d be back to the blank sheet of paper that you started with. But it would still be on the carbon copy and the copy would be an intelligible mess.
Ah, enough of the reminiscing about typewriters and carbon paper and the way things used to be, there are 620 words that need to be written...