Revenge of Things that Last

Our typewriter hasn’t had a room of its own for about 20 years. I’ve tried giving it space. If there is an empty office I put it in there. I later find it unplugged, on the floor and ready to be moved to the basement. I save it. If there is space on a countertop I put it there. I later find it shoved behind archive boxes and magazines. I save it again.

It’s an IBM Selectric II. Grady Britton bought it in 1979. It was top of the line, avant-garde with changeable fonts and self-correcting tape. It glowed. Thirty five years later, everything still works. I used it yesterday to type IRS Form 1096 and last week for file folder labels because Microsoft Word couldn’t hit the template just right. Still unable to give it a desk, we type standing up, with a stack of recycled cardboard boxes at our elbow.

We started buying truck loads of computers in the eighties. We’ve thrown out truckloads of computers since the eighties. The IBM, on the other hand, hasn’t even been serviced since the nineteen hundreds.

Just a few days ago I read the following headline: “Russian Security now using typewriters to thwart the NSA.” India, by the way, is doing the same. First I laughed. Then I went to the dark corner where the IBM now sits and dusted it off. It glowed.

Post Date
September 10, 2014
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