On my first day on the job as a copywriter at the highly respected ad agency, Boase Massimi Pollitt in Paddington, I was given the latest and greatest piece of writing technology – a manual typewriter. Yes, it was all mine to tap out convincing, compelling paragraphs of prose. It was wonderful. If I screwed up a spelling or wanted to change anything, why that was no problem. A big dollop of Tippex white out solved that little snafu.
Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat…all day long, and when my wordsmithery was ready for client presentation, it went downstairs to one of the secretaries who would type it out again on posh paper at a mind-boggling speed. They weren’t single digit key thumpers like yours truly, oh no. These young women were ninety words a minute on a slow day with all fingers blasting. But they had an advantage; their typewriters were state-of-the-art electric. How I yearned for one of those black beasts to grace my desk. Two years later, my dream became reality. No more Tippex. This baby could backspace and correct without any big dollop of white goop. Splendid thing it was and I remember it fondly.
Fast forward a few years to 1983 – I was now working in San Francisco at the ad agency B.B.D.O. Electric typewriters were ubiquitous and all was well in my writing world until one morning, I was summoned into an account director’s office. He beamed a huge smile and pointed at a strange little rectangular piece of plastic with a small black and white screen. “What do you think?” he asked, still smiling.
“What is it?” I replied.
“Sit down and type something,” he enthused. I sat down and typed on the small keyboard. Letters magically appeared on the small screen! I was amazed. And when I hit the delete key, my words instantly vanished! I was blown away.
“I want one of these!” I demanded. “What’s this thing called?” The account exec was happy I was happy.
“It’s called a Macintosh. Made by a company called Apple. We have the account. Want to work on it?”
Yes, I did. My electric typewriter was now toast. For the next year I regularly visited Apple HQ in Silicon Valley and got flown to Paris to consult with other creatives on the follow-up TV spot to the famous Ridley Scott 1984 commercial which launched this very same machine.
Fast forward again to 1994 and Nashville, Tennessee. During the move from California, my wife asked what she should do with our Macintosh. “Keep it or toss it?” she asked. I looked over at the dumpster and shrugged. “Toss it. The ad agency gave me this amazing desktop that blows that piece of crap away.”
Eight compooters later, I’m now typing this on a super-fast laptop that blows away everything else I’ve ever worked on, but the thrill is gone. Because of all these fine machines, I still miss that old manual typewriter most of all.