Happy 50th birthday!

The IBM Selectric typewriter is 50 years old.

My high school guidance counselor registered me to take typing so that I’d be prepared to type papers in college. I didn’t want to, but he made me.  I thought it was for girls. I balked at the old manual machines that the Business department had, each one perched on a massive wooden desk.  Those manual typewriters were ancient, clacking, bell-ringing monstrosities that made your hands hurt after class. But halfway through the semester, the department got all new electric typewriters.  The IBM Selectrics were sleek, powerful, colorful, and creative with their interchangeable font balls. It was amazing to be able to type regular and italic from the same machine just by changing the typeball! Typing on the Selectric was like driving a Ferrari in comparison to the Model Ts I first learned on.

I wasn’t a speedy or particularly accurate typist, but I saw the potential in the new devices.  My dad’s co-workers were always looking for someone to type a resume or letter, and he’d pimp me out for 30 cents a page.  I could use the typewriter at school after class and make my weekend spending money.

When I went off to college, I carried with me a brand new electric Smith-Corona that I’d been given as a graduation gift. It didn’t have the same sexy appeal as the Selectric office machines, but it got the job done. The S-C got me through grad school too.  Computers and printers took the place of typewriters after that, so I never again used an IBM Selectric.  It was a graceful piece of engineering, though.  And it proved to be a great learning tool for preparing all the letters, resumes, sermons, and even blog posts that have come along since.

About Ron Dauphin

Photographer, writer, proud dad, and UCC pastor.
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One Response to Happy 50th birthday!

  1. Chuck Miller says:

    As I read your typewriter account the words sounded like my own. I too was directed to take typing in high school–also on a manual typewriter. Mine was a half-year class. My parents also sent me to college with a portable Smith-Corona electric. I never made any money typing for others, but the skill has served me well all my life. I observe so many around me hunting-and-pecking while I touch-type along. As I have made a career or two (or more) out of the personal computer, typing has been so valuable to me.
    Thanks for the memory!

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