The Remington Typewriter
The curio known as the modern day computer keyboard is a sassy little sissy. It’s a prissy plastic keypad made of cheap modern materials, not classy modern materials, or moderne either. It is no where in close architectural proximity to the look of sleek, highly polished 1930s aluminum and steel and iron that make up the Art Deco masterpiece, the Chrysler Building, or even vintage radios and chairs made of wood or Bakelite products found around the home and office, that come in multiple hues and uses and are multi-purpose too. The typewriter, however, has class in spades, and an artful design that withstands the test of time.
The keys of a typewriter have a click and not a clack. In fact, it is all click without the clack, without the steroids of the modern computer. Today’s computer keyboard is merely tiny electrical circuits opening and closing as silently as a serial killer stalks its prey. A 90-pound, underfed weakling on the literary beach, delete buttons always at the ready–the new White Out of the digital generation. You don’t have to wait for “delete” to dry, and there are no fumes to try to get you high. The scroll button opens the Gates of Pixel, as words flow downward, southward, sinking below the horizon of the computer screen into a purgatory of words waiting, pleading piously to be released as visible and viable parts of the whole of the paragraph. The kingdom of the keyboard creates a sense of key-boredom akin to the keyless entry of an hotel room. One swipe down and the green light comes on. The entire system is wired for wireless, if such wiring can be done or is even the correct terminology to use when discussing this technology. These Computers. Wireless plasticity means throw away disposability. Name your landfill, name your garbage dump…give us your poor electronic refuse..and we will not refuse it, but recycle it so we can re-use it.
It is a function of the times, but retro returns riding tall in the saddle in the oddest places. There it was, on the bottom shelf of a Goodwill Store. The store where they have faded old field jackets and Aloha shirts on the rack, and old soggy stuffed animals in a bin that kids have drooled on. In the back, an eclectic assortment of electronics in an electroid graveyard. Lamps without shades, shades without lamps, RCA plugs and discordant lost cords, turntables without needles, old toasters, older Singer sewing machines, walkie talkies, waffle makers, VCR machines, DVD machines, CD machines, and other machines with similar designations. There is a large and select eclectic selection of Selectrics, the kind you plug into a wall, but without electricity they too are dead in the water. But there stashed in the back like a bag of hidden treasure sat a beauty. Built like a Buick, it was truly a beast of the best kind – a ’60s-era Remington typewriter. Solid as a Motor City muscle mo’sheen, with that hard to describe heavy metallic brown, maroon, purplish, or as some say, grey, body with the Royal placard pasted on front…a hood ornament on the writer’s muscle car – the author’s Dodge Charger – the typewriter.
Now this one has panache. The keys pound down hard, leaving its inky imprint onto the surface of paper. Unlike the ticky ticky sound of the plastic computer keyboard, the typewriter keys have the thunderous impact of John Henry’s hammer coming down with a roar on spikes to lay miles and miles of railroad tracks. The keys are guided to imprint the impressionable pages. The letters fill the page with the accuracy of a smart bomb fired from a US Naval ship 50 miles away smack dab into the school yard of a small village in Afghanistan. The typewriter ribbon is also a curious oddity. Without it, there is no imprint, no matter how powerful the crashing waves are on the shores of creativity. It slips and moves through its guides silently, a submarine underwater maintaining radio silence. It moves up and down with a gliding motion depending on whether the letter to be implanted, as a bas relief release of the keys, is to be a capitalization of a letter or not. Lower case, upper case, just in case…the ribbon is locked and loaded.
The carriage leaves in its wake the rooster tail carnage of a writer’s vocabulary. Its wounded diction and walking dead zombie apostrophes – its commas in a coma, its gritty little grammatical nuances, which to a writer can be a nuisance when on a stream of consciousness flow propelled by the thumping of the space bar, the bang of the keys, and when the carriage reaches the marginal ends – the bell – the bing! For whom the carriage bell tolls – it tolls for me. Then the writer gives the carriage return a smack and the paper, and the carriage, choreographed in unison, moves down a line so the words can reposition themselves for repository on the next line of the same page. The silver lever is a gear shift with an invisible suicide knob. The words come faster, the carriage moves swifter, the keys work furiously and soon it crosses the finish line of the quarter mile and the paragraph, the article, the book is finished, and it’s ready to go again.
Not once will your Remington machine proclaim””Battery Low” as it has no battery to batter your flow of words or dam them up, like Hoover and stopping them dead in their tracks until the Japanese Tea Ceremony of the Recharge takes place high on some mountain top in some way above sea level forbidden temple full of monks with vows of silence. That is if you even have electricity to draw juice from. The computer can be a royal pain in the ass – but the Remington typewriter is a wonderful word smithing machine that has never heard of Twitter, Myspace, Facebook, Email, Google or Yahoo. That in itself is worth praising! The best part? No batteries required. Pull the plug – proclaim your freedom – and write on!
Photo Credit: Rob Vantyghem