My Corner Online


Manual Typewriter

I feel SO old when I talk to younger people who are baffled at why manual typewriters were so difficult to type on.  They may have access to old electric typewriters, but manual typewriters are out of their realm of understanding.

I learned to type on a manual typewriter in high school.  I remember there were electric typewriters, but there were only a few and they were reserved for the secretarial class, which I eventually did take.

(Image Source)

I am having trouble remembering exactly what those first typewriters I used looked like!  I need to drag out my yearbook I supposed to see if I can find a photo.  I believe they looked similar to this photo, but I am thinking they were all black.

(image source)

Or maybe it was a Royal!  I sure wish my memory was better, but I remember this typewriter too.  Or maybe my Grandma had it!  Regardless, I did learn on manual.

(image source)

Oh, but I do remember typing on keys like this!

For manual typewriters, to insert the paper, I would pull the paper release lever on the right side, put in the paper, then push the paper release lever back. Next, I would turn the knob that turned the paper roller to move the paper into position. If it was not quite on line with previous typing, the paper release was pulled once again and the paper was manually adjusted.

To set the margins, there were stops on the left and the right of the roller. When I reached near the end of the row, the typewriter would ding to warn me. However, if my word was too long and went beyond the margin, I would have to start all over! Sometimes, if I were going too fast, or if three typewriters near me all dinged at the same time, I would not hear my ding in time and go past the margin. Of course, it was a big no-no to type on the platen (roller) and the teacher would be very unhappy.

When I reached the near the end, hearing the ding, I had to reach up with my right hand and carefully move the carriage return back, which moved my paper to the next line. Carefully and quickly, without looking, my hand had to find the right keys or else it would type gobbledygook and I would have to start all over again.
Speaking of typing, my fingers became really strong by pressing the keys with force. Otherwise, the key would not reach the ink ribbon and make a solid enough mark on the paper, if any at all.
If you wanted to center your text, you knew the center of the paper and space over to it. Next you would look at the word or group of words you wanted to center (because we always seemed to be typing from something already in print, or you would hand write your text on paper to view) and hit the back key for every other placement of key or space until you arrived at the point where you would begin typing. Of course, you had to know where the center of the paper was on the ruler first!

Oh, was that typing class room noisy when we all began typing and I sure was glad to get out of there at the end of the hour!

(image source)

I remember having Selectrics in my senior year of high school and they were only for the advanced secretarial classes.  I used to have special permission to come into the classroom during my lunch hour to practice or do homework.  Yes, I was a computer geek even before there were computers!

(image source)

Of course, I remember all too well the keys sticking should I try to type too fast, which totally worked against my timed test score.

The typewriters all have covers on them. It was not a good thing to get dust down inside the keys. Yes, we were well disciplined in school!

I remember the first typewriters with memory! We had one in our high school in the advanced secretaries class and it was limited to so many characters in the memory. You would type your sentence and then view the little screen on the front of the typewriter to proof the typing. If all were okay, a hit of a key would send the typewriter whizzing across the page typing what was in memory. This was the foretaste of computers. Of course, to me, it seemed more work proofing each sentence one at a time as it really slowed me down with all the interruptions.

I remember in college there being a room with SO many specialty typewriters with memory and we had to learn them all which was a difficult task. Maybe that prepared me for learning computers. I remember in college my first real computer being an Apple and being AMAZED when I hit the space-bar and the cursor moved across the page.

How fun to recall all these memories and look forward to how far we have come.


Copyright Cheryl Rutledge-Brennecke
Thank you for visiting.

Follow me: Substack | Facebook | Instagram | Youtube | X | Pinterest | Facebook Group Rutledge | Facebook Group Boyer & Marechal | Etsy Store