By A.J. Llewellyn
When I was twelve years old, my father gave me the best Christmas present of my life. It was an Olivetti portable typewriter. He was a little concerned about my obsession with writing and reading, but somebody must have given him the idea of the typewriter (he says he regrets it now because he hates my books!) and I will be forever grateful. I loved that thing. For me, messing with the typewriter ribbon, blue carbon paper (memba those?) and thick pieces of paper on which I taught myself to type was the stuff of dreams.
I wrote my first celebrity fan mail to actor Richard Chamberlain on it. I wrote stories, poems, ideas…and have never stopped.As a journalist, which was my first and only career choice, the company I worked for had giant behemoth manual typewriters. You had to pound on the damned things. Hello carpal tunnel!
To this day, I can always tell if a person learned to type on a typewriter first by the way they pound a computer keyboard.
By the time the company I worked for invested in electric typewriters, I was in love. Mine was an IBM Selectric and it came with an extra corrector ribbon. Remember those fiddly little orange plastic spools?
Gone were the days of having to retype each and every page because of one misspelling.
I bought my IBM from my boss because I was working on articles for a magazine in my private time. I had become attatched to the machine and was worried it would disappear one day the way the behemoth had…but I did feel as if I was cheating on poor Olivetti.
That beautiful machine has traveled the world with me. He (I think of him as a he) sits in my office in my loft and has been looked after by the House of Typewriters here in Studio City for decades. When computers became big, the store changed its name to House of Office Machines, but they still love handling typewriters.
I covet many they have on display (people dropped them off and never picked them up again) and once had a sizable collection. I cut them all back and have kept Olivetti and my laptop. The thing of it is, I can’t let go of my first love. The machine that listened, without judgment and let me pour my heart out. Computers will come and go but Olivetti will be with me until some natural disaster separates us.
How about you? What was the first thing you learned to type on and do you still have it?