Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Pity the Poor Typewriter

In our Leadership Board meeting last week, we continued to talk about how to use technology effectively and efficiently in our congregation.  It's a stewardship issue (among other things):  how can we be most effective in our use of technology so that we have time to do what is most important in the life of our congregation and community.

I freely admit that though I know a lot about computers and the internet and email, my knowledge is spotty and incomplete.  Though I was a little taken aback with the vehemence with which one member of the Board pointed out how backward we are:  "You still have a TYPEWRITER."

It's true.  There is a typewriter in our office, although, to be honest, we don't really use it. Much.  We type names in Wedding Certificates and those baptismal cards, and that's pretty much It.  And (to give the particular typewriter all the credit it is due) it is one of those huge, semi-computerized typewriters.  It can remember whole lines of type before it writes anything down.  (I always hated those.)

I learned to type in junior high, two summers in a row, in summer school.  The first summer I took typing on a manual typewriter, slamming down the keys and using the return lever.  The second summer they had at least semi-electric typewriters, and I got better.  My mother tricked me into learning to type by telling me, "if you want to be a writer, you will need to be able to type your manuscripts."  I have never come out and asked her this, but I suspect that she was actually more interested in the idea that I would actually have a Marketable Skill.

When I got to college, my parents bought me my own Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter.  I was thankful, but in my heart of hearts I coveted the Selectrics I typed on when I went to work in offices.  I could type much faster, and I loved how heavy the machines were.  The little portable typewriter sort of bounced around on the table when I got going too fast. 

When I was growing up, we had an old manual typewriter just sitting around our house.  No one ever used it, but it was sturdy and gleaming.  Until I learned to type, it seemed as mysterious to my as a computer would have been.  For many many years people typed on something very similar to that old typewriter, and not much changed.

In recent years, things have moved much faster.  First typewriters re-invented themselves as electric.  Electric typewriters then took many forms.  Typewriters had self-correction devices in them, and then there were "memory typewriters" (I always hated those.)  It wasn't long before computers took center stage.

There is a typewriter in our office, but I'm thankful that I don't have to use it.  I haven't used a typewriter for a long time.  Pretty soon, no one will. 

Still,  the computers I have used are not so sturdy as that old manual typewriter, or even the Smith-Corona that I had in college.  My first computer as a pastor was a desktop varietry of Mac; I loved it dearly, but it was obsolete not long after I got it.  It was not capable of email or internet connections.  Now the computers I am interested in are ever lighter and more portable.  I suspect the latest variety will too soon be old.

I'd like to think this:  that hidden inside each one of those sleek new laptops and tablets is an old sturdy manual typewriter, the parent from which all of this communication was born.  I'd like to think this:  that nothing of the past is really lost, that somewhere the things we throw away are cherished, that their stories are told, typed out on old typewriters  by strong fingers, and saved for another time.

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