I’ve used a portable Smith-Corona from the 50s since the late 90s. I bought it at a store way west on Fullerton Avenue. It was full of electric typewriters which I had no interest in. Apparently many city institutions were still using them then. The store is long gone.
The typewriter wasn’t entirely an affectation. I didn’t own a computer but wanted to write something about my adventures driving a taxi in Boston. I made ink drawings from memory, then cut-and-pasted sentences, paragraphs, sometimes single words, underneath. It was a laborious, often frustrating process. But I didn’t know any better. I’d never taken a writing class, knew nothing about how it was done aside from schoolwork or my own reading.
I’m into my third decade with this old machine now. It’s been a faithful and trusted tool. When I designed my website seventeen years ago I used the Smith-Corona for all the text. I scanned typed pages, then made hotspots for hyperlinks. I do it the same way to this day. A friend asked recently what platform I use for my site. I had to tell her the “platform” is just a bunch of html pages my ex-wife made that I’ve been copying and readjusting for nearly twenty years. My method is nearly as outmoded as a manual typewriter at this point.
But the Smith-Corona retains its attraction and maintains a few mysteries. One is why there is no exclamation point key. There’s a question mark but no exclamation point. Maybe the makers didn’t want its users to get over-excited. I typed a question about this into a search engine just now and learned how to fake it: Type an apostrophe, do a backspace, then type a period. Why I’ve never bothered to look into it before will give you some clue into the strange workings of my psyche.
I typed out the first forty pages of my book in progress. I’m such a poor typist that it took almost two weeks. But slowing down the rereading process is the whole point. The old typewriter keeps giving and giving.
Now I’ve bought another Smith-Corona. It’s from the 70s and has a Cyrillic keyboard. The idea is to type out Russian poems in order to improve my comprehension and spelling. Above is my first effort. It’s a New Year’s Eve poem by Boris Ryzhy from 1995.
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Happy New Year!