When I was a child and deemed careful enough to handle (read: play with) stuff belonging to my parents, they let me use their Royal typewriter. It was heavy and gray. It came in its own substantial suitcase.
I loved that Royal. As a sensory experience, that Royal felt solid, had a pleasing bumpy outer texture, and rewarded me with a satisfying “clack” for every letter typed. You could, if you wanted, type in red for emphasis (there was no bolding possible). It was my partner in crime in writing stories and poems, and, later, for school, papers and other assignments.
My parents gave me an electric typewriter when I left for college. It was an Olivetti – a new Olivetti – and it had automatic carriage return. Right – what’s an “automatic carriage return”? For those of you who are young enough never to have recorded your own mixed-tapes (you know who you are), a typewriter carriage return was a lever, placed somewhere near the carriage (the roller around which the paper curled so that you could type upon it) so that you could type on the next line, Think: text wrapping. Automatic carriage return was revolutionary, mind-blowing, an advance that was designed to save the user oodles of time and preserve his or her concentration. It meant that, at the end of a line, you just kept typing and the machine would do the work of advancing the paper to the next line.
I loved that Olivetti, I really did, but, at the same time, I was aware that my parents wouldn’t let me leave their home with their beloved Royal. Just sayin’.
No matter. Both the Royal and Olivetti, or any typewriter for that matter, produced a very satisfying sound – the sound of productivity. Most kids at college had some kind of typewriter. Computers were huge things that existed, mainly, in large spaces in University buildings. Only a few kids who were students at the school of Computer Engineering had (often homemade) computers in their dorm rooms, and laptops didn’t exist.
The good part of everyone having typewriters was that, beginning at some time in the early evening and continuing throughout the night, one could hear the clacking of fellow students. Whatever dorm I was in, I could travel down the hall and know from the clackity-clacking that I was part of a striving, writing community.
For me, that’s why I love NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and NaBloPoMo (National Blog Post Month), both of which begin today. They are the virtual equivalents of walking down a Harrison House hallway and knowing that you are a part of a community unified by everyone endeavoring to achieve something.