Native Writes: Yesterday’s technology compared to today’s


When I was about 13, my girlfriend got a typewriter. It was a piece of cake, since her mother was a legal secretary and got a new one at her office.

She could type faster than anyone could imagine and conversed knowledgeably with the clients who stopped at her desk.

Today, almost every teen needs a cell phone, computer and printer.

As I envied my friend and I imagine what one of the grand kids would do with just a simple typewriter and a couple of reams of paper.

Nothing. Nada.

Talking with a colleague about half my age, I learned electronics are taking over.

My grandson, now 16, went into his uncle’s storage building several years ago and returned to report on a great find.

“Gramma, Uncle Rich has an amazing thing out there.”

I wanted to see and he led me.

“That’s a typewriter.”

“No. It’s a primitive computer. It prints on paper even as you write and you don’t need electricity.”

Never missing an opportunity to spoil his nieces and nephew, Rich offered to give it to the kids.

“You can save the environment and live off the grid.”

The young nephew squinted his eyes. “No, you need it, then. You’re old.”

There were laughs to go around.

Not too long ago, my home WiFi went down and I was without the Internet for a few days.

None of the grand kids liked my primitive home.

When the system was back, they were filled with distrust.

Their electronic world was in peril.

Today, they can check their grades, print homework and become educated, all with a “smart phone” in their hands.

I had to wait until the teachers wrote grades on paper and report cards.

The test papers smelled bad, cranked out on an old Gestetner mimeograph. Mimeographs were a common technology in printing small quantities, as in office work, classroom materials and church bulletins. Early fanzines were printed with this technology, because it was widespread and cheap. It also had smelly solvent, probably alcohol based. Boys discovered volunteering to help led to a slight high.

In the late 1960s, mimeographs, spirit duplicators and hectographs began to be gradually displaced by photocopying.

Enter Xerox.

Today, electronics at the school belch out copious information each day and tests don’t lead to intoxication.

Boomers like myself typed and did assignments on those “primitive computers” in the library.

The day has dawned with young people looking subjects up, checking on assignments and viewing life on the ’net.

I love that primitive computer in Rich’s shed and sit amazed at how far that old Royal has come.

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