Thursday, October 7, 2010

Typewriters & Tweeters

I decided to spend my Quality Time this evening working on the old Royal Quiet Writer typewriter.  I was all prepared to dose it down with brake cleaner and silicone, etc.  Much to my surprise, when I really looked into its innards, it didn't need any lubricants.  Yes, it had some dust built up so I got out the air compressor and blew out all the dust and thoroughly cleaned the machine.  Then I took off the ribbon and completely rewound it tighter than a piano wire.  And then I flipped the ribbon upside down in the machine.  That's an ancient typewriter trick--the bottom of the ribbon doesn't get used much.  This ribbon's bottom happens to be red.  Nobody uses red and almost nobody ever did unless they sent bills to people back in the old days.  So, the red part of the ribbon is pristine.  Plus, there's something odd about the red dye in the ribbon ink--it lasts a LOT longer than the black part.  Those red inks and their dyes are really strong.

Sure enough, I popped the rewound ribbon into the machine with the red on top and the thing purred like an attention starved kitten.  Bear in mind, this is an OLD machine and the "key throw" is over an inch per key.  That means you have to depress the key at least a full inch before the actual face of the key hits the platen and makes an impression on the paper.

Since electric typewriters and computers came along, people have long since forgotten all about "key throw" and platens and such.  With electric typewriters and computers, you simply touch a key gently and, BAM, as Emeril would say, the letter shows up on the paper or the screen, as the case may be.  Nobody gives it any thought any more.

But we're back in the Dark Ages.  It's one of our favorite places.  Old manual typewriters help us connect with the Dark Ages in really fun and primal ways.  When you hit a key on this Royal machine, you have to wait what seems like a really long time for the key to get its act together and go out on a search mission to somehow find the platen and make a permanent impression on the paper.  It's so mechanical!

I was outside this evening in an early fall mist.  Not enough mist to worry about messing up the typewriter, mind you, but a mist nonetheless.  And I was admiring the beauty of all the red letters appearing on paper after my pecking of the keys.  The keys are so hard to press I used only one finger per hand and POUND those puppies like nails into a two by four.

As I typed I began to make a sketchy connection between Typewriters and Tweeters.  The more I typed, I more cautious I became.  Each letter was a struggle to produce--it required a LOT of physical effort.  And that's when I realized that people who use Twitter have to go through almost the same kind of thought process as people who use typewriters.  Twitter People are limited to a mere 160 characters for their Tweets.  They can't run off at the keyboard.  That's the inherent beauty of Twitter--it's restrictive, disciplinarian and the line is drawn in the sand--Thou Shalt Not Exceed 160 Characters!  Consequently, Twitter People choose their characters carefully, especially if they are using an old style cell phone without the QWERTY keyboard.  Each letter requires thought and, yes, you might even say a slight degree of effort!

And so it is with typewriters.  Each letter takes a conscious decision to strike a specific key, knowing full well and good that it's going to take a LOT of effort to depress that key far enough and with enough physical force to actually make a letter happen on a piece of paper.

Somehow, though, both paradigms seemed the same to me tonight. When I wrote the original post about I wondered if Maybe I will wake up the next morning and totally rotoroot this post. The post passed the "morning after" review and we're leaving it stay here on the main blog.  We're going to give it a lot more thought, of course, but at this point, Twitter and Typewriters do actually seem to share a common bond.

We look forward to your comments on this off beat, esoteric, fringe topic.

Cheers, jp

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