Do You Know How To Use A Typewriter?

A young associate at my office approached me the other day and asked…

“Heidi, do you know how to use a typewriter?”

My gut reaction was to roar with laughter.  But instead I replied with a simple “Yes, how may I help you?”

Immediately images ran through my head of us students taking Typing at Morgan Park High School, our fingers running over the keys, intent on not making any typos.  Several times per week, our teacher, the lovely Mrs. Sanders, called out timed tests where we spent five minutes determined to beat our last speed. Speed and accuracy were important, but we also learned to set margins, format text, correct errors, create a table with tabs, and how to care for our machines.


Things are different now. My co-worker has never used a typewriter.  But what was striking to me is that she had no curiosity to learn how to use one.

What on earth for?  To her it must seem very outdated.


Vintage Typewriter /

As a pre-teen I used the manual (think heavy!) typewriter sitting on the desk in the front room to type letters to pen-pals.  When I finally took proper lessons, learning Home Row was an eye opening experience.  One could actually type without looking at the keys.  Amazing!  Imagine all I could do with this skill.  I was excited to get started.


This had me thinking of many other things from not so long ago that are obsolete.  My daughter warns me not to be like Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey – he was sometimes reluctant to embrace progress.  But there are things that we must explain to younger generations and chuckle over the fact that they find them odd.

Growing up, each morning the dog would bark at the milkman as he set a fresh gallon outside our front door.  First kid downstairs in the morning had to yank it indoors and put it into the refrigerator.  I still recall the deliveryman pleading with our mom not to cancel the dairy deliveries for our house.  Unfortunately for him, it was cheaper for families to purchase milk at the grocery store.

Long gone.


Wall-O-Newspapers at the Metra Station

And coin-operated newspaper machines look so empty and lonely these days.  They were always filled with stories written by dedicated columnists and staff.  There they sit as a reminder of not so long ago when we passed time on the train by reading a book or newspaper or chatting with friends.  Nowadays everyone is plugged into their own device.

Gone as well.

I can recall the newsboys downtown, standing on the corner with a 15-cent late-day copy, calling out “Tribuuune… Final Maaarket!”

Nowhere to be found.


And the above indicates many jobs are now obsolete —  trades that were reliable and sustained families.

My father worked at R.R. Donnelley for 40 years.  His job as a pressman would be outdated — we no longer receive the large Sears catalogs and heavy phone books.  That employer shut down its Chicago facilities decades ago.

Packed up and gone.


There are so many more.

Too many to count.  And they are all missed.

And I still love it whenever I spot a good ol’ IBM Selectric.

They don’t make ‘em like they used to.

Going, going, gone.


IBM Selectric /

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