Keyboard evolution

I was tippety-tapping along on my laptop writing a news story on Monday when my mind flashed back to the bang-bang-bang-bang of the Associated Press teletype in the newsrooms of my youth. They made a constant racket as they banged along shouting the news of the world at us in ALL CAPS, as was routine in broadcasting.

I remember my fingers hurting after a day of typing stories on the old manual typewriters, each typewriter key connected to a hammer with a letter on it, and you had to hit the keys hard enough to bang the hammer through an inked ribbon and leave an impression on the piece of paper beyond.

Now you need only tap the keys to make the letters appear on an electronic screen. If I had to guess, I’d say you need about one-tenth the amount of energy — and probably even less — to achieve the same effect as pounding the old typewriter keys.

Of course, memories become nostalgia, and now there’s a certain charm about the jangling thumping and bumping machines with their occasional alert bells, which had to be kept in a closet down the hall lest they be a background distraction every time the studio mike was live.

As time went on, the pounding of the automated typewriter became the zzzzt-zzzzt-zzzzt of dot-matrix printers, but the bell remained for bulletins. I remember the bells going off and the zzzzt-zzzzt of the AP bulletin “SHUTTLE CHALLENGER LIFTS TEACHER INTO SPACE,” followed 73 seconds later by more bells and a second, more sobering bulletin.

Our machines and devices have grown quieter, faster and more efficient through the years. Bells and whistles belong to a bygone age now, an age of “We interrupt this program” and the like.

OK, boomer, what’s my point? Some stuff I’m nostalgic about is just remembering younger days; I’m thrilled that the technology has advanced to the point where I can type at all hours of the day or night and not wake a soul in the house. I’m grateful that I’m tippety-tapping these words into existence instead of BANG BANG BANGing at them. 

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