Years ago, when I first started writing, I used an ancient underwood typewriter with the round keys and the ink ribbons that I rewound by hand and reused several times until the words became so faint on the page I had to break down and buy a new ribbon. There were no easy corrections either. White-out was my friend, but also the reason why I wrote everything in longhand first then typed it out. I used to scoff heartily at the series Knots Landing, when Val decided to become a writer and dressed every day in her cute little velour jumpsuit, hair and makeup perfect, rolled a sheet of paper in her typewriter and plunked out Chapter One then just started typing. A few weeks later she submitted the manuscript, hair and makeup still perfect, had a *phone call* back from the editor saying the book was accepted, and a few weeks later had a book tour scheduled for her NYTimes bestseller!
Meanwhile, there I was still whacking out a key at a time, going through gallons of white-out and the only natty thing I had was a thick file of rejection slips.
Fast forward to the age of electronic typewriters. I thought they were the next best thing to sliced bread! The first one I had came with a three inch screen over the keyboard with enough memory to erase four whole lines of print before it showed up on the page!!! Nirvana! Heaven! I was chuffed as hell to be in the modern age, but it still took ink cartridges and they had to be purchased by the case because there was no way to conserve (okay, be cheap) and rewind the ribbons. And if revisions were needed…and I’ve always needed bazillions of revisions…whole pages, scenes, sections, chapters had to be retyped. I did cheat when it came to making minor corrections and white-out was still my friend, but I learned to print with black ballpoint over the white out so it almost looked like it had been typed. Those were the days when you took the finished mss and had it xeroxed for $$, or gave it to a friend who snuck into their xerox room at work and ran it off a chapter at a time.
The next great leap forward into the electronic age came with typewriters that could save *gasp* TWO pages at a time in memory. The screen above the keyboard was still only about four inches big, but you could scroll and correct and cut and paste. Nirvana! Valhalla! Heaven! I turned out three books on that machine, during which time personal home computers came onto the scene.
AUGH. That was too much. Too many changes for this dinosaur. We had gone to a friend’s house for dinner and he scoffed at my fear of the cyber world and took me into his computer room and showed me all the wondrous things he could do with a PC. Back then 500MB’s of RAM was the delux super geek machine, and I had no idea what a ram was other than a male goat. He flicked some keys and pages showed up on the screen and I felt like a caveman being shown fire for the first time. And then, wonder of wonders, it crashed. Screen went blank. He cursed and swore and said: this never happens. And I thought yeah, fool. I could just see me writing out a chapter and having it crash and burn and get lost in cyberspace forever. Nope. Not for me. I resolved to slog on with my nifty electronic whiz-machine for another two books. Friends all around me were getting computers, telling me how easy they were to operate and use for writing. Surfing took on a whole new meaning, along with the ram thing, and okay, I ventured into another computer room and watched another friend surf the web without even going near water! Oddly enough, that wasn’t what caught my dino eyeball. It was the little square disk that she slipped into the slot and hit *copy*. Hmmmm. “Copy” stored what she had written on the floppy disk (even though I saw nothing floppy about it). I started to see the possibilities.
Even though I swore I would never succumb to the world of computers, I woke up one morning and went into my office and there, all gleaming and new, was the beast I had purchased the previous day. Top of line. 500 GOATS. Came with a free AOL disk to connect to the internet, which I couldn’t use because I hadn’t called the phone company to set up a line. All I wanted was the capability to write and store and correct and copy and paste without having to put a new sheet in the typewriter or brush on white-out.
Eventually, of course, the internet connection came, and with it another whole new world. I could email! I could surf the web! I could only open one window at a time, view one site at a time and it took forever to load the page, but man did I think I was hot stuff! I still didn’t trust the thing and I made sure I copied everything onto a floppy at the end of the day, because of course the one day I forgot to do that was the one day the thing crashed and I lost a full chapter of revisions I was working on.
I won’t bore anyone with the progression through the various upgrades to new machines that held 800RAM and 1000RAM, then woo hoo Gigabytes. Or the various Windows editions that called for huge adjustments each time a new machine came into the house. Frankly, I never wanted to change Windows XP. Loved it. Never wanted to lose WordPerfect either and kept loading the old floppies onto new machines until I finally bought a new puter that came with Vista and had no slot for floppies. Bummer. Bigger bummer to have to learn how to use Word and to be honest, I still get frustrated as hell trying to change the format on some things.
The next HUGE leap in this troglodyte’s computer development was a laptop. I truly hated the things. Still do. About the time I progressed from MB’s to GB’s I discovered ergonomic keyboards, which pretty much relegated standard keyboards to the trash bin. Laptops, however, come with those cramped little keyboards and now the infernally stupid touchpads…both of which I have ignored in favor of connecting an external mouse as well as a useable keyboard. Means lugging around a lot of equipment when I travel, but the alternative is cursing and swearing and hitting the wrong keys all the time.
Over the years I’ve also become somewhat knowledgeable about how the beasts operate. I can fix most problems when they come up, and I’m fondly known as the puter geek down here in Florida–which is particularly funny if I think about it too hard because at home I wail on the phone to my adopted son-in-law, who can diagnose and fix anything to do with puters in about five seconds.
I would be wailing now…which is the whole point of this vent…except I’m in Florida and he’s packing for a vacation to Punta Cana. I’ve had *issues* with my laptop that require either a) hurling it out the window at velociraptor speed or b) throwing it on the floor and stomping on it until the pieces are good only for lining the bottom of flower pots.
Seriously. Some days we trogs look back fondly on simpler times. Rip a page out of the typewriter, feed a new page in…all was well.