From Pen to Typewriter to Windows 8

Monday, September 16, 2013

My laptop went into hospice care last week. It's an essential tool for my writing career, and I was terrified that it would die at the most inconvenient moment. So I replaced it.
I exaggerate, of course. A computer isn’t an essential tool. Shakespeare wrote with pen and ink and Hemingway used an old-fashioned typewriter, yet they both managed to produce master works that are still selling today. And when I’m away from my computer, I use pen and ink, too. So a working laptop isn’t a necessity.
But it is a huge convenience.
Typewriters were the technological preference of most individuals when I was in college. They were imperfect time-savers. To make corrections, I used an eraser, whiteout, or correction tape. Not very professional looking. So I had two alternatives: (1) hire someone else to type my papers or (2) type each page until it came out error-free. I was too cheap (or too poor) to do the first, so I chose the time-consuming second option.
Then there was that back-up copy. Before the invention of carbon paper, it was done manually. I used carbon paper, but that had its problems, too. Correcting the copy was a messy job that often left an unreadable blob where the error had been. Thank goodness for the invention of the photocopy machine.
I’m sure it was even worse in Shakespeare’s time. Imagine re-copying everything in long hand.
Now the computer saves our changes and spits out back-up copies in seconds. Sometimes it even makes changes automatically—whether we want them or not. (I’m a big fan of turning off most of the auto-correct options.)
In my 30 or 40 years of computer ownership, I’ve progressed from DOS to various versions of Windows, including Vista, XP, and, most recently, Windows 7. Now I have to get used to Windows 8.
New technologies can be daunting, and we have to be careful not to rely on them. But I can’t imagine going back to my typewriter days.

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