Monday, June 30, 2008

Careers My Father Chose for Me

Antique Underwood at The Bunny Bungalow

1922 Underwood No. 5 Typewriter

Qwerty Keyboard

When I was fourteen, my father brought home a gift that would define my future, an old 1922 Underwood typewriter he had found at a second-hand shop on his beat, as a police officer. "You are going to learn to type so you will never go hungry." My father did not want any of his children to depend on anyone to take care of them. He would say things like, "Who's always there when you're in trouble?" Then he would answer his own question before we could, "You, Kid!"

That old typewriter has traveled the world with me. I typed my way through high school and college with it, only switching to a newer model in graduate school. Word processors then computers came along, replacing typewriters but I kept the old Underwood with me. My keyboard skills, learned on that old Underwood, have kept me better than just fed. I've written work reports, articles, and books (my typing wasn't the reason the books weren't published.) And now I'm blogging and using those typing skills; no hunt and peck for your kid, Dad. Wish you were here to see me now!

One reason Dad turned out to be right about his choice for me is that some things never change. After the Qwerty keyboard made its first appearance on the Remington writing machine in 1874 and people learned it, Qwerty has persisted.
This strange arrangement of keys was utilized, not for typing ease, but to keep adjacent type bars from hitting each other. Your computer has a Qwerty keyboard unless you went to some trouble to find another kind. You will notice in the computer keyboard photo above that the name Qwerty came from the consecutive arrangement of the q, w, e, r, t, & y keys, spelling Qwerty.

If you love old typewriters, as I do, check in on the websites of some really serious collectors. Two of my favorites are Martin Howard and Richard Polt. They both have the history of the invention and some wonderful photos of their collections.

A few years back, I entered the The Bad Hemingway Contest, typing my entry on the old Underwood. It looked really great and should have won on looks alone but it didn't. I really wanted the prize, a trip for two to Harry's Bar and American Grill in Italy (Hemingway's favorite watering hole.) Dad, couldn't you have sprinkled a little magic dust on the old machine before giving it to me? Oh, I forgot, you didn't believe in magic, you believed in me.

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