Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 24 October 2008

With the Remington, it's personal

I mentioned how changing from typewriter to word processor (May 20) benefited most people who write for a living. But I was dismissive about the earlier technology and the benefits it too conferred.

In 1952 I began journalism proper at the Bingley office of Bradford’s The Telegraph & Argus. Owning this 17 lb portable I avoided sharing the office’s ramshackle Underwood with two other reporters and/or writing my stuff with a fountain-pen as my boss did. On National Service I typed letters home during a year’s RAF training in the UK but left it behind when stationed in Singapore.

The Remington accompanied me to work in the USA. On my return it suffered a grievous blow when the New York Hilton insisted on piling it high on a trolley whence it fell. It was repaired and, home-based (as in America), pounded out three-and-half unsuccessful novels plus rewrites.

Other than the above repair it wore out one roller and nothing more. The evidence that millions of words have clattered through its works appears on the northern periphery of the E-key, eroded by an unremitting assault from the nail of my left index finger. I have used it to apply for jobs, to write to my fiancĂ©e who became my wife (sparing her the ambiguities of my handwriting), to maintain exchange correspondence lasting several years and to complain about service from various national bodies. It is as intimate with me and my life as any mechanical device could be. I have said I’d give it to a worthy cause but I’d rather not.

When I mentioned I was doing this blog my wife said why not put the Remington on a side table in our dining room. A noble suggestion which I will accept.

9 comments:

marja-leena said...

I can see why you would not part with this! Those who have used the typewriter usually have the skills to make an easy transfer to the computer's keyboard. Something I don't have and probably why I don't 'write' more.

Sir Hugh said...

I have a Kenwood Chef food mixer given to us as a wedding present in 1970. Like your tpewriter it took a tumble from the kitchen worktop but survived. It now looks a bit shabby, but still performs as it did when new.

I have no doubt that such things were much more solidly made in the past with much more use of metal than plastic.

The worn out boots I used in my walk from Lands End to John o'Groats this summer now have pride of place on my hearth.

Plutarch said...

My relationship with typewriters has never been satisfactory. They never seemed to work for me. (They produced constructions that I didn't intend and the damn things, just like me, couldn't spell). Not for me did they behave as they do for journalists in movies, and, by the sound of things, for you, producing clear, snappy copy in a steady stream. It wasn't until word-processing came along, that I came to enjoy the qqwerty key board. However, I admire machines like yours and love the idea of using your worn and well used Remington as a piece of sculpture, signifying an important tranche of your working life.

Lucy said...

Greater love hath no woman... that was a nice suggestion from your wife!

Barrett Bonden said...

I admit I was surprised and said so. "It's your house too," my wife said. It now occurs to me we should make a more prominent display of her SRN badge.

marja-leena said...

This article made me think of you:

http://www.languagehat.com/archives/003291.php

Barrett Bonden said...

M-L. Thanks for the link. Given the mechanical complexity of a typewriter I was always astonished they could be repaired. Surely a little bump over here would throw everything out over there. Ironically, while I was still using the Remington I regarded it simply as a tool with no more personality than the belt that held up my pants. It's only now that I ponder the things he (he's not feminine) and I wrote together.

It looks quite good on the side table. My younger daughter, visiting at the weekend, approved and my grandson sought to write the definitive novel of the Welsh Marches on the very masculine keyboard.

Avus said...

That has become part of you - you could never say that about a PC word processor. That one is a "writer" and the other a "processor" says much about the two machines.
Apart from self-discipline and cleanliness the Army taught me to type. I still have fond memories of the massive Imperial which I dismantled comprehensively at frequent intervals to clean and oil. It did not need such frequent attentions, but there was nothing else to do. (I seem to remember that, with a fellow clerk, we would sit, each with a pocket chess set in the desk drawer, doing the "Queen to Bishop 4" routine for hour after hour. I might not have been a perfect soldier but I got quite decent at chess!)

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: The word processor is more efficient, of course, and because of its infinite capacity for editing is an extra step towards better writing (as I blogged months ago). But a word processor is a disposable. Over the last decade the guts of mine have been replaced three times. On another occasion it was even necessary to ditch the outer case. A veritable George Washington's axe! I salute its purposefulness but would never sentimentalise it.