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Category Archive: Technology

May 05

In love with the typewriter, a glorious piece of machinery

“The gentle and soothing lullaby of a piece of machinery so perfect…” – swooned Frank, a character in love with his typewriter in the 1998 movie “You’ve Got Mail”.

The last company on earth to produce the typewriter closed its doors this past week, wrote Todd Wasserman in an online piece, “R.I.P. Typewriters.”

I cried.

Well, not exactly cried, but I was sad when I read the obit.

Reading about the end of the typewriter’s long run made me think of my dear friend and journalism colleague, the late Tom Ladwig who loved to write exclusively on his typewriter.

When he died in 1994, a story about his death in the Columbia Missourian highlighted how much he loved his writing machine.

Tom wrote a lot, every word of which as I recall, on his portable, manual typewriter.

He penned columns for the Columbia Daily Tribune and the Missourian and also was a journalism professor at several universities including the University of Missouri, Columbia. In fact, Tom wrote two books using only his manual typewriter.

“He didn’t like to use a computer and preferred the old hunt-and-peck typewriter, and that’s how he did his work,” the Missourian story read. Writing was his forte, and he preferred the way a typewriter touched his senses.

A typewriter, unlike a computer, did indeed evoke our senses of touch, hearing and sight.

As our fingertips came in contact with the hard keys, we actually “felt” typing happen. We applied pressure and voila, magic occurred.

Those born long after the heyday of typewriters likely would not understand the noisy ding and clack of the keyboard and metal keys nor the soothing gentle whir of the machine.

And when we came to the end of a line of typing, we moved the carriage to the left to start a new line, resulting in another sound, a loud thud.

Hearing those sounds was central to the typing experience and was pleasant, even calming.

The typewriter also engaged our sense of sight. Simply look inside the open contraption, and one could see how its machinery worked. Everything was visible. We could observe its ribbons and spools spin and watch the keys hit the ribbon and transfer ink to paper.

I found it fascinating.

The visual aspect of the finished product was paramount.

We crossed out mistakes by typing over them or corrected mistakes with strips of white paper. If the finished product was not good enough, there was no choice but to pull the error-filled paper out and start over. Insert a clean sheet and begin again.

In the sixties when I was in high school, the goal was typing perfection, however one could achieve it and no matter how much practice it took.

The idea, as required by many a high school typing teacher, was to be highly proficient at both speed and accuracy.

By the time I graduated high school, I could type 73 words a minute with no errors. Sixty words a minute was allowable then but would not win a typing award or land a secretarial job.

Today, I cannot type a sentence without an error. I wonder if that is because it is too easy to correct mistakes on a computer and we don’t have to try as hard.

If you are nostalgic for typewriters as I am, there are a couple of online typewriter museums that are easily searchable. There, you will find an in-depth history of the typewriter as well as brands I had not thought of in years, such as Brother, Olivetti, Underwood and Remington.

I enjoyed wandering through these sites and searching until I found my Smith-Corona traveling typewriter, turquoise with white keys, in its very own carrying case. I loved that machine.

Leaving me with nothing else to say but good-bye, R.I.P. to one of the greatest inventions in communication technology of the 19th Century, a glorious piece of machinery—the typewriter.

Or, as my friend Tom might add with a wink if he were still around, “They’ll have to take my typewriter from my cold dead hands.”

I miss Tom. I miss my typewriter.

Apr 14

Tweeting with Charlie Sheen, the #sheenious

Dear readers, I have a confession.

Quite recently for reasons that escape me, I succumbed to the hot, trending, global madness of tweeting with Charlie Sheen.

I joined the ranks of 3,569,518 followers of Charlie Sheen, the number of followers at the time I joined. However, that total grows expeditiously.

For awhile, yes I resisted, but eventually the #sheenious won me over, #Duh,winning.

Perhaps, @Mozarkite (moi) joined out of curiosity, I don’t know. One thing is for certain, Sheens’s tweets are entertaining, edgy and never boring.

By Twitter standards, Sheen has tweeted, as of this writing, a measly 203 times, peanuts in the Twitter world.

He follows only 42 people, and I am not among them.

Twitter tells me that I know eight people who also follow Charlie Sheen. However, I am not exactly sure why I know @lostremote or @ShakespeareGeek, but never mind that.

The point is, no one can keep up with Charlie Sheen’s shennigans, let alone his number of followers.

It’s mind boggling.

No, it’s madness.

In fact, just about everything about Charlie Sheen is maddening, even fun, and at the very least surprising.

Thus, imagine my surprise when I clicked on the @charliesheen button and found that we do in fact follow one person in common: @FloydMayweather.

Problem is I don’t know who Floyd Mayweather is, and why I follow him. When did I do that, I wonder.

Naturally, I immediately searched the web and found out that he is ranked as, #Duh, winning, the number one Welterweight boxer by many boxing publications. Yes, he is indeed the number one pound-for pound best boxer in the world.

And I don’t know him, but we both follow the #sheenious.

It is fair for you to wonder, when will this madness end?

I wonder that, too, but the answer is, not anytime soon.

A Time.com blog notes that “Charlie Sheen, not merely content with taking up more news cycle time than could ever be deemed necessary, is now seeking to trademark 22 of his catchphrases. Don’t we all have enough to be getting on with for Sheen to be concerned with this? And how the heck did he get to 22 without us noticing?”

Sheen is already selling T-shirts and other merchandise highlighting some of his trending catchphrases that are making their way into the English language, whether we like it or not.

A reporter for PCmag.com writes: “Whether you think actor Charlie Sheen’s recent behavior is…sad, highly entertaining, or hilarious, one thing is for sure – he has made quite the impression on the Twitterverse.”

In “Twitterverse”, these phrases are preceded by a hashtag symbol (#). If you use a hashtag before a word it shows those tweets more easily in a Twitter search and also shows you similar tweets on the same topic.

When a hashtag word becomes popular, it often is listed on Twitter as a Trending Topic.

And thus, many people now use in their common vernacular:

#winning and #Duh,winning–to generally express something you’ve done that might be considered winning.

#TigerBlood– if you have something to tweet that requires the extra punch.

And #Buh-Bye—when you need to end a conversation.

On more thing before I say #Buh-Bye, Miley Cyrus rejoined Twitter this week after a year-and-a-half absence. Here is why, according to CNN.com, “I’m not gonna lie. I came back to twitter for 2 reasons. My fans and to follow @charliesheen #winning.”


Mar 24

Seniors and the iPad, love at first sight

“To this technology-ninny, it’s clear in my compromised 100th year. That to read and to write are again within sight of this Apple iPad pioneer.”—Virginia Campbell, age 99.

Seniors and the iPad are becoming quite a team these days. In fact, it is looking like love at first sight.

News stories in papers and on the web are plentiful about how the iPad seems to fit seniors, hand in glove, if you will. Now mind you, these are not advertisements but legitimate news stories that say that it appears the iPad was indeed made for seniors.

In fact one story calls it a “senior saver”. Phillip Moeller writes for money.usnews.com saying, “By providing Internet and e-mail access, and a full range of media capabilities that can be remotely downloaded, the iPad can help seniors avoid becoming isolated. If you can’t get to the library, the video store or the newsstand, they can come to you.”

And take the story of senior Virginia Campbell whose experience with learning the iPad went viral on YouTube.

Reports say it was like falling in love for Virginia when she used an Apple iPad computer for the first time at nearly 100 years of age.

Dan Reisinger in a technology blog on cnet.com described how this 99-year-old Portland, Oregon, woman, Virginia Campbell from Lake Oswego, Oregon, is using the iPad to overcome medical difficulties. She is in her 100th year of life and suffers from glaucoma, making it nearly impossible to read and write, her two favorite pastimes.

A story in The Oregonian newspaper also reported that the iPad has clearly “changed her life.”

Campbell’s daughter Ginny Adelsheim told The Oregonian “that her mother is now reading books on the iPad, thanks to its ability to increase the size of text to a readable level. Campbell has also increased the brightness on the display to further enhance her reading experience. And although she has never owned a computer, Virginia is now writing poetry on the tablet.”

And in addition to that, she is a YouTube star. A video of Virginia trying out her new iPad, using a computer for the first time in her nearly 100 years, is wildly popular. You can find it by searching for “Virginia’s new iPad”.

After watching the video, I decided that if Virginia can do it, so can I.

I bought one.

The hype was true; it was easy to learn and easy to use.

However, I did have one small problem in the beginning.

No matter how many times I tried to adjust General Settings I could not get sound to play through the earphones.

I tried to turn the little button on the side on a cajillion times. Or is it off? I still don’t know. Anyway, there was no sound. Nothing. Nada coming through the earphones. I tried three different sets, too.

I was too embarrassed to call my kids, who would surely lecture me about how simple the iPad is and say something like: “Come on Mom, it’s just like an iPhone. How hard can it be?”

There was nothing left to do but get in the car, drive an hour to the Apple Store and admit to some 19-year-old techy that I could not get the earphones to work.

It took him two minutes.

Ma’am, you have to push the jack in very hard until you hear it click, he said kindly. You didn’t have it in all the way. It’s just like the iPhone, yunno.


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