Saturday, July 22, 2023

Missing the noise of the typewriter. . .

Hardly anyone is old enough to recall the sound of several typewriters going at it at the same time.  Alas, I am.  The sound of the old manuals was replaced with the electrics -- though it was a change more nuanced than different.  I well recall the great joy the church office received when, in 1981, we purchased a brand spanking new IBM Selectric.  It was blue.  I have several fonts on the balls that magically hit the carbon ribbon and produced a clear and consistent type the likes of which no manual had ever done.  It was elegant.  It was wonderful.  But it was still rather noisy.  I miss that noise.

All around me people have keyboards that look like the old Chiclets but are now somewhat silent.  It is strange to hit a key and hear nothing much back from it.  My way of thinking is dependent upon the sound that echos back my thoughts as they appear now on a screen and once on paper.  I am one of those old fogies who has a keyboard that looks and, more importantly, sounds and feels like the old and venerable IBM Selectric.  I hoard them just in case the one I have dies.  I have a couple of spare for my wife as well.  We love them.  It is what I despair about in the case of the laptop -- the keyboards and pad are terrible.  At least I think so.

It occurs to me that so much has changed with this change.  The newsrooms of old were filled with the sound of fingers on keys and keys striking the paper.  It was a busy sound and a sound of people busy together.  Now the rooms are empty, people work from home, and they work on keyboards designed to muffle the sound of work being done.  I will admit that perhaps because of my experience, I do not like to work in silence.  The noise of others working actually helps me think and provides a certain measure of comfort in the fact that I am not alone.  Somebody no one will ever remember such a thing.

The same comfort comes from the sound of my fountain pen.  Unscrewing the pen or unsnapping it from its cap is the start of a magical moment of creativity.  Filling the reservoir with ink is its own labor of love.  Then, when all is ready, the nib hits the page and there is a certain sound and feel that I adore.  Perhaps it is because I write in the antiquated form called cursive while the world around me texts in their own language or prints.  Perhaps it is because I can recall when ballpoints were the messy ones and fountain pens were reliable or perhaps it is because my father bequeathed to me a legacy of love for that medium of expression or perhaps it is because the keyboard and pen work at the speed of my brain (although, to be honest, the pen is closer to my pace of thought and expression).

All in all, we have replaced the sound of work with the sound of pleasure.  Instead of the keys hitting the paper or the sounds of pens across the paper, we have a sound track playing in the background or in the ear buds.  We don't like the sound of work so we replace it with the sound of pleasure.  In the end, it is a sound at odds with what we are doing.  Could it be that we no longer esteem work highly?  Judging by the way we walk about it, we do not.  We ought to.  Work is good, a gift from God, and, something the unemployed who desire employment know to be a blessing.  The sounds of the workplaces across America have become more and more alien to us.  Artificial intelligence may seal the deal even more until there is no sound from us at all in the workplaces across our nation.  Though, judging by the errors of Siri when I voice commands and texts for her to send, AI is at best an unfinished work.  I wish my typing teacher were here.  You were graded by the number of errors in what you typed.  Look at any social media or smart phone today and it is clear that these things no longer count against what we say or how we say it.  And that is sad.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

Yes, and also missing are carbon paper, the sound of the mimeograph rolling out copies, and the cursing that accompanied having to white out an entire line of type, (broad smile and snicker). I would also add the sound of the telephone clicking through as the dial returned to 0. My husband worked a telephone board plugging in the correct line to connect a caller.

To all of that, add the sound of a shovel scraping in soil, a hoe chopping weeds, the snort of the mule as she dragged the plow through a row, the noise of bumblebees buzzing around your ears as you dive head down into a squash plant, the grunt of exertion as a tree was being chopped down. We could go on, of course, and each step back in history would change and increase the noises of work. Learning to love and enjoy work is part of the life of Christ in us reversing bit by bit toward eternity the curse we brought upon ourselves.