The first story I ever wrote was about a purple penguin named Flippy who was different from all the other penguins because he was purple, you see. Look, I was five, what do you want from me?
I did it on this typewriter:
This is an Underwood Rhythm Touch De Luxe model from 1949 (the only reason I know that is because I did some Googling and found this vintage advertisement for one) that used to reside in my grandmother’s old house. When I was little, I used to get dropped off there before school with nothing to do but find ways to keep myself entertained all day. One of them was this typewriter.
It weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of HOLY SHIT and METRIC FUCK TON and it’s faster to watch paint dry than it is to actually type on the darn thing, but I’m sure back when Truman was president this was a pretty sophisticated piece of technology. Just don’t ever drop it on your foot, or you’ll no longer have one.
Typing on it the same way we do our modern computer keyboards is impossible as every key punch requires near-mutant strength. I remember having to press down on each key with two fingers, and even then I wasn’t always successful, leaving only a faint outline of illegible ink where my letter was supposed to go.
The keys would also frequently jam up and I’d have to reach my fingers into the machine’s guts to un-stick them, getting ink all over me in the process. It was all worth it though, just to hear that glorious clickety-clack sound. The only thing better was when you reached the edge of the page and got the hard carriage return, resulting in a cheerful “ding!” Call me old school, but I like technology that rewards you with bells for your hard work. Not that I was writing the great American novel at age five or anything–I mostly just liked to fiddle with the various levers, knobs and buttons protruding from all over this thing while pretending I was doing something important.
When my grandma got too old to take care of herself and moved in with my parents, this typewriter was one of the few things I inherited from her estate–and by estate I mean a small rancher with an interior like an episode of Hoarders. I’m glad she never got rid of this typewriter, though. I never bothered to look up what it’s worth, but to me its priceless. I credit this hunk of iron with inspiring me to want to write, even if all I have to show for my “talent” is this silly blog and a half-finished book I’ve never shown to anyone. One day…
What is it with old typewriters and grandmas?
Here’s another old typewriter I inherited from a grandmother, though not my own (my ex-boyfriend’s). It’s an electric model Smith Corona “Coronet Super 12” from the 1970s that surprisingly still works.
I say surprisingly because when you plug this thing in it makes this god-awful humming sound like you can hear the current flowing through its 40-year-old parts, causing me to have serious doubts about its electrical safety. But knowing it could burst into flames at any moment makes typing on the Super 12 all the more fun.
Plus, I just love the color. When’s the last time you saw electronics in robin’s egg blue?
I like toy typewriters, too.
As it turns out, my affinity for typewriters goes deeper than I thought. Apparently this was one of my favorite baby toys:
So much so that my parents have held onto it for 30 years. I recovered it last weekend when I went searching for childhood treasures over at their house and was delighted to see it still works, even though it’s kind of beaten up. There’s a crank you can turn to scroll through the different words–bears, cats, and apple. The buttons make a great “ding!” sound when you press them, and colored hammers strike the cylinder, which turns slowly as you “type.” It’s a little less sophisticated than the Underwood and Super 12, obviously.