Monday, February 6, 2012

Post(Card)-A-Day 6: Typewriters and the Literary History of Word Processing


To read more, here is the link to the Slate podcast, and to the NYTimes article.

Oh, and here is that very first (blurry) picture of the Scheidegger in a thrift store in May 2010:

9 comments:

  1. Interesting. the study of typewriters to modern desk top publishing and the authors who used what first and last would be interesting. Today it is nice to be able to blend typewriter use with digital communications and for the die hard typer; a USB typewriter.

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  2. I used to write my typecasts in one single process, but for some recent typecasts, I wrote a draft at high speed with quite a number of typing errors and logical mistakes, repeated sentences and so on and then typed it again.

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  3. You surprise me! I probably would have agreed before NaNoWriMo 2010, but the forward momentum was absolutely imperative. I'm sure I could not have finished on the computer. On the computer I am contantly editing, both for typos and rewriting sentences, and sometimes I come to a stop or pitch the whole thing. When you see a very short comment from me you can bet there was a much longer one discarded after half an hour of suffering.

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    1. Not too surprising, I hope :) I think part of it is that I haven't yet challenged myself with NaNo/ other tight deadlines, so I give myself enough time to produce a first draft and then a final version. I couldn't do both on the typewriter because it would feel like a waste of the typed text to use it as a draft, whereas I've been drafting by hand forever... perhaps that is what I should try to get past.

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  4. Of course, what most typewriters were originally used for -- particularly the big office machines -- was the transcription of texts that had first been dictated orally by bosses, either to secretaries who took shorthand notes or to recording devices that the secretary played back. The machines weren't mostly used for composition of texts.

    However, many creative writers most certainly did compose on a typewriter. I'm surprised that the Slaters would question that. Typing is considerably faster than handwriting, and some writers also like the clean, impersonal look of a typescript, which can encourage more objectivity about one's own words. The disadvantage is the difficulty of going back to make insertions and revisions -- but that can also work as an advantage when you're writing a first draft, as notagain said. I found it to be a true help in typing my NaNoWriMo creations.

    One last note: sometimes I need to write more fluid notes, involving some sort of flow chart or a spatial arrangement of ideas that doesn't neatly fit into the linear mechanism of a typewriter. Then handwriting is best.

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    1. Thanks for the great input, Richard. I haven't tried to compose a long work solely on a typewriter myself, but I can see how it would be possible with a bit of practice.

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  5. Certainly the NaNoWriMo Typewriter Brigade had produced a ton of novel-length manuscripts over the past five years or so. Now, I'm not vouching for the *quality* of any of that - certainly not my own.

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  6. It's undeniable that it is much easier to "create" something if you're using a typewriter or a pen instead of a computer.

    If I need to write something, specially in my mother language, I'll use a typewriter to do the draft. It's much faster to type than write by hand, and later I can always grab a red pen and do all the corrections and changes that I may need. Latter, when I'm rewriting it, by hand or in the typewriter, I can always look at the draft and remember what my initial idea was with one special sentence. By the other hand, when I'm using a PC's word processor I'll end up by rewriting the same sentence so many times I loose the origin of the thought.

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  7. I think it all depends on how you are accustomed to writing. As you all know, I used a typewriter from a very early age, so I am very comfortable writing "cold" on one now.

    But there was a long period in my life in which I did NOT use a typewriter, and it took me a while to regain the rhythm of expressing myself in that medium.

    I write my blog posts on the typewriter, no editing, except for the rare paragraph where I made so many typos that I re-typed the paragraph immediately below.

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