Clickety, clackety, bing ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2008
(Keywords: Cindy Beck, humor, nostalgia, past, poodle skirt, saddle shoes, typewriter, typing, wpm, EFY, YourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Is there anyone that doesn’t have moments where they long for the past? If so, please raise your hand because you win the prize of an Orange Crush and a Moonpie … but only if you’re wearing a poodle skirt, saddle shoes, and have a pack of cigarettes rolled up in your shirt sleeve.

In my family, we frequently feel nostalgic for things of the past. My husband, Russ, misses his hair. My son, Dave, is thirty-two and longs for his youth. I, on the other hand, still have my hair … and my youth (well, sort of) … and what I miss is the old-fashioned typewriter.

My first machine was a portable, manual Royal. I don’t know why they called it portable. It weighed twenty pounds and was like carrying around a bowling ball in a square, hard case. Nonetheless, a good typist could set it up on a desk and punch out 50 wpm—that’s “whacks per minute”—with only two errors. No wait. It’s been so long since I’ve used one that maybe wpm stands for “words per minute”. At any rate it doesn’t matter, because I was never able to get 50 whacks or words per minute out of it. My average was 20 wpm, with 50 mistakes.

Then there was the keyboard, which came attached to the body of the typewriter. Do you know why keyboards are not arranged alphabetically, in an order that actually makes sense to the human mind? According to my vast research—ok, I’ll admit it, I don’t remember where I heard this useless bit of information, it was probably on Paul Harvey—keyboards have the letters scrambled to slow the typist.

I must confess that fact doesn’t make sense to me. If the object is to type as fast as possible, why set up the keys to slow you down? Oh yes, now I remember. With a manual typewriter, when you hit the keys too fast, they’d slam into each other and get all tangled and kinked. The typist then had to reach in and unsnarl them. You could always tell a fast typist by the black ink smudges on her fingers, the prize from untangling keys.

Let’s not forget the inked ribbon. You’d be flying along, whacking out sentences, finally getting the rhythm when the words on the paper would grow dimmer and dimmer. However, only really good typists knew that was happening, because they actually looked at the paper as they typed. The rest of us looked at the keyboard, because we couldn’t remember the scrambled letters. By the time we realized we needed to change the ribbon, we’d typed three pages of invisible words.

Despite the negative points, there was one really neat aspect to the typewriter. Its sound was mesmerizing. You’d zip along, hearing clickety-clickety, clackety-clackety, BING! The “bing” was the signal that you had reached the edge of the paper, and you needed to hit the carriage return lever to start on the next line.

I loved the sound but now that I consider it, the carriage return did have its potential problems. Once, after typing half a line, I made the mistake of putting my water glass at the right-hand side of the typewriter. All went well, until I came to the edge of the paper. I’d been punching along, typing at the whopping speed of at least 15 wpm and was so engrossed in my writing that when I heard the familiar “bing”, I hit the carriage return lever without thinking. The carriage flew back to the right and slammed into my glass, flinging ice and water all over me, the desk and walls.

All right, I’ll be the first to admit it. After thinking back on the era, typewriters were interesting but computers are so much more practical. My computer has never flung a glass of water across the room. No longer do I have to untangle keys, or get my fingers smudged using carbon paper. My computer is far superior.

All the same, despite the improvements they’ve made and the fact that a computer is a souped-up, 21st century typewriter that can think at the speed of light, I sure wish they’d come up with one that goes “clickety, clackety, bing”.

What's playing in my head: Memories (by Elvis Presley)

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Dave Beck said...

Nice blog as usual. The other keyboard layout was the Dvorak but there's controversy as to whether or not it was really faster.

The Guinness book of world records listed the fastest WPM (no indication as to whether this is whacks or words) in 1985 as 212 on a Dvorak keyboard by Barbara Blackburn.

Anonymous said...

Once again, funny bone tickled by author! This was great. I remember the clickety, clackety, bing! I loved that bing!

I can't wait to see what comes into your mind next. Great blogging!

G. Parker said...

Oh yeah...I remember typewriters!! I remember the first time I was able to type on an electric one!! Oh yeah, I'm almost as bad as that man in You've Got Mail...lol My mother-in-law could type over 100 wpm on a manual!! Man that woman had strong fingers! sigh. Personally, I like the Dvorak method, but it takes a little more brain power because I've type the Qwerty way for so long...
Good blog!!!

Anonymous said...

When I first started reading about what you were saying about the typewriter I honestly thought you were nuts. I dread the times I have to use one at work to fill out forms that are not generated on the internet. I love my computer and only use the old fashion thing when necessary.

C. LaRene Hall said...

Yes, sometimes I do yearn for the past, but not for the old typewriters. Sometimes I have to use one at work to fill out forms that are not generated on the internet, but I don't enjoy using it. I would never trade in my computer.

Anonymous said...

You must not be the only one, because I just found out that Mac has a program out to make your keystrokes (the official word for whacks) sound like an old typewriter! Too funny.

I learned to type on a Selectric, and I thought it was wonderful, but editing was torture!