Anachronisms Under Our Fingers

A few years ago someone, I think my mom, shared a one-panel comic with me. In it a woman is reentering the workforce after time away. When she reaches the end of a line she is typing, she reaches up and smacks the monitor off the computer. To those of us who grew up using a typewriter to bang out papers in school, this is hilarious. To digital natives, this is just oddly violent , Luddite style behavior.

So many vestiges remain, however, from the invention that followed the trajectory plotted by the printing press. With a typewriter, the average person could now quickly create a document.

Each year, I bring a few examples of old technology to class to give students a tactile experience to which they can anchor some references that were merely theoretical previously. I love young children’s reactions to my rotary phone. Many poke the hole in the dial in order to enter the number; their faces register shock when I hold their finger and start the dial rotating. They can’t believe how long it takes to dial a whole number. They groan if theirs has many larger digits.

I also bring in my dad’s typewriter. With this tool, I show them what Shift and Return really mean. They love the mechanical action of the carriage as it advances the paper as it moves to the left margin, and the force they have to exert with their pinkies to push the Shift keys astounds them. Proper touch typing technique flies out the window as they bang away, very respectful of the importance of this typewriter to me. Letters to parents and siblings, complete

alphabets, and other prized pages are quickly put in backpacks to take home and share.

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