Just My Type
Oh you poor Snowflakes, forever complaining about your download speeds – do you have ideas what we Base Dates* had to go through?
It began with the desire to write something, anything. I started with a black biro, never blue because blue was for private letters, and I wanted to draw too. Soon I was creating vast detailed narrative landscapes, then magazines, comics and one massive continuous comic drawn by this time with a Rotring No.5 pen. I still have much of this juvenilia – the stories are execrable, the jokes cribbed, but some of the artwork is quite robust.
Then I started a magazine (circulation: 1) with written stories (by me), comic strips (by me), pages of jokes and puzzles (stolen from whatever source I could find), read by no-one.
My mother had an ancient Imperial typewriter she kept on top of the wardrobe like a secret (I have no idea why, but it didn’t seem odd then), and I used it all the time. It’s probably where I got my habit of banging at the very heavy keys, a habit I still have and cannot shake.
When she upgraded to a Remington Portable I did too. It was small and comparatively light, and easy to use. Then on to an IBM Golfball. It was elegant and near-silent. I now kept ribbons, paper, onion-skin carbons, Snopake and Tippex beside it. It never went wrong. This was my favourite mechanical writer.
My father had noticed I was writing, and that I wanted a typewriter, but as we were broke and he was out of work he bought me a blackboard. I think he figured it was all writing so I’d be happy with a piece of chalk.
After this came the Brother typewriter, an appalling halfway post toward computing, which showed a single sentence of dot-matrix type above its keyboard, causing a mental time lag inside your head as you typed. It went wrong all the time and pleased no-one, but filled in until we got our first computer, a BBC Wordstar thing finished in grey plastic which took cassettes. It was impossible to use, but you could play a terrible game called ‘Chucky Egg’ on it.
And so to Apple – and the world changed. So, unfortunately, did the software, seemingly every five minutes. I went through every stage of Apple development but still printed everything out, just to be on the safe side.
I bought an old portable manual typewriter designed for reporters at a Barcelona typewriter fair (who knew?) to remind me how far things have come.
Now I write in the Cloud, in which I have lost more documents than on all the other devices put together. The Cloud updates – boy, does it update. And the system somehow gets tangled with other apps on my phone, including the one that controls our sound system, the TV, and Nest, the little gizmo that sets our central heating. I have a lot of robot conversations now; ‘Siri, what the hell is going on?’
Finally, I have rediscovered the utter joy of keeping a pad and pencil beside my laptop, the better to flesh out abstract ideas with drawings and diagrams, thus going full circle. And of them all I probably like the pencil best.
*Base Dates – when you drop down a menu with your birth year on it, and find you have to head almost to the bottom of the column