Sunday, August 19, 2007

It Was Different Then

The QWERTY keyboard is the same, but it was different writing on an Olympia Portable. I first saw it in the window of a stationery store on Columbus Avenue in 1960. I had to have it. The typewriter font was "shaded pica"---very smart indeed---almost like having a sculptor chiseling each letter on the page!. Such a typeface was sure to improve my writing 150%. Up until that time I had used an old Underwood machine that we pulled out from a closet and was shared by my family, a machine notorious for blackening in each e and a. But the Olympia was a machine for dreaming writers who needed the excellence of West German technology and precision to put their dreams on paper. It was such a beautiful feat of engineering and could be taken anywhere. It was so elegant that I even wrote poetry directly onto the paper with my Olympia.

That Olympia took me almost all the way through my graduate study, until I was seduced by the IBM Selectric, especially with Selectric with memory! Goodbye, whiteout! Now my words were saved as code on a cassette tape. It was the beginning of the end to the sound of a typewriter slapping the paper in a relentless rhythm with an automatic carriage return, except the carriage return had yielded to a roving ball of type that could easily be changed for a different typeface. Soon the QWERTY keyboard would be embedded in the silence of a computer interface where the only sound would be the quiet tapping of my fingers on a keyboard, a quieter and more subtle rhythmic envelope.

Recently I found myself yearning for an Olympia portable typewriter of the 60s vintage. I know you can't go home again, but there was something about that Olympia and the romance of the word that still beckons like some eloquent siren of past voyages. Googling it does no good. Such romance is beyond Google since the Olympia is more than word. As good as it can be, Google doesn't capture the essence, the romance of words embedded in a distant and almost forgotten reality.

1 comment:

rick said...

Great to see another blog in the nostalgia and "almost forgotten reality" strain.