Ode to a Typewriter: Childhood Memories

My own emotional and rambling response to the news that the last typewriter manufacturer had closed its doors for good (though, apparently, this was later revealed to be untrue).

I remember our first family computer. It was a hand-me-down from our neighbors, and thus antiquated even by 1997 standards. Clunky and boxy, I’m sure the old Macintosh computer had some useful quality that, in my youth, I was unable to grasp. Instead, I fondly recall the floppy disks that accompanied our inheritance of this radical feat of modern technology. My brother and I would spend hours playing a highly pixellated, 4-bit Godzilla-rip-off computer game. I don’t remember the actual point of the game, nor am I even sure there was one, but we were entranced nonetheless.

And yet, despite having grown up inundated with computers and advancing technology, I was lucky enough to have a dorky father who went through a phase in his life where he decided to collect typewriters. In my desire to have my own obsolete piece of technology in my room, I one day ventured into the attic to find the coolest looking typewriter (it was blue). I then proceeded to literally drag the machine down the stairs, having been initially unaware that such an outdated mechanism wouldn’t have first been perfected into lighter model, at least not one that my father owned.

After calling the attention of every single person in the house thanks to the thump, thump, thump downstairs, I finally made it back to my room with my prize in tow. I think I spent the rest of the day, sitting at my little fisher-price table, typing away. I don’t remember what I wrote, though since I was only 6 or 7, I assume it was mostly nonsense. I do, however, remember feeling as if I had discovered some great treasure–I wondered why we needed the silly computer when we had this really cool machine that, when you pressed the keys, made fun noises (I still love the sound of typewriters). Granted, I couldn’t play Godzilla on it, but it still kept me amused for hours.

I fondly remember my experimentation with that typewriter. Eventually the ancient ribbon of ink ceased to work and, unsure of how to proceed, I abandoned my brief career as a child stenographer. The typewriter remained in my room for a couple of months after that, untouched and abandoned for newer, more technologically advanced toys. Perhaps this was around the time I got my first boombox, a purple number, just as clunky by today’s standards as that old Apple computer. I don’t know when my mom finally removed the typewriter from my room. I don’t know if I even noticed. Eventually we bought a new computer, and then another one, and then another one. Quickly, each machine became outdated and we moved on to the next big thing, though technically speaking they got small in size. Meanwhile, the typewriters continued to sit in the attic.

One day, about 6 or 7 years ago, my family had a tag sale. It was a miserable day– rainy and gross. We ended up having to move all of our knickknacks inside the garage. Few people showed up, and even fewer people bought anything. It was perhaps halfway through our unsuccessful sale that my mom, who was eager to get rid of just about anything and everything to anyone willing to pay a dime, decided to bring a couple of the old typewriters out of the attic. Dusted free of cobwebs, she placed them on the garage floor and almost immediately we had an interested customer.

That day I saw my clunky blue typewriter sold away. I don’t think I was overly emotional about it at the time. I was more concerned that my old barbies were going to a happy home. I don’t even remember what the man paid for the typewriter, or why he wanted it. While I’ve certainly thought about the my typewriting phase since then, as I have all my childhood memories, it was only today that a great wave of nostalgia seemed to hit.

The news was initially reported that the last manufacturer of typewriters had closed its doors. Updates since have confirmed that there are still minor international companies that produce typewriters, but the initial shock was enough to get me thinking. I guess it makes sense– why would we need typewriters? No matter the advancements made on those antiquated machines, they remain obsolete. With our tablets and iPods, laptops and blackberries– what possible need is there for a typewriter? In many ways, I’m surprised the industry hadn’t been shut down long ago, but I’m relieved it wasn’t.

Someday I hope to own a typewriter again. Sure, it will probably sit right next to my MacBook Pro on a desk cluttered with modern mechanisms of hyperconnectivity, but it will be there nonetheless. I think I’ll use it for writing letters, or just for fun. Just to listen to the clatter of the keys and the ringing of the machine as it hits the end of a row. I won’t be particular about the model of typewriter, I’m not in the antique business. I do, however, hope it will be blue.

Know what I Meme?

The internet can be a mystifying place. And I don’t just mean the labyrinth-esque routes to websites, nor the complex jargon. No, I’m talking about all those memes out there.

What is a meme? Well, I’m glad you ask, because despite being what I had assumed was ‘hip’ to the internet lingo, I still only learned this term during the past year. To discover the definition for myself, I turned to faithful Wikipedia, just another internet creation that couldn’t live without. Wikipedia defined a meme (which they first told me is pronounced to rhyme with cream…good thing I had never actually had a chance to speak it aloud because I’m quite sure that I would not have pronounced it as such) as “ideas or beliefs that are transmitted from one person or group of people to another.” Vague, right? So I read on: “A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena.” Still vague. Here I was, thinking that a meme would automatically be in reference to the internet– how foolish of me, living in the digital age, to assume such. In fact, the concept of a meme comes from the analogy that “as genes transmit biological information, memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information.” They are applicable throughout culture, including in spheres of religion, models of racism, and anthropological theories.

But to focus once more on the internet meme, this term is used to describe to describe concepts transmitted through the internet. Once more I had been hoping for a better explanation, but by coming across these indistinct interpretations I began to understand that the whole point was the memes weren’t as simple as they seemed. I was hoping for a specific definition that I could grasp and pass along, but the truth is that memes are all around us on the internet. By using sites such as blogs, social networking, and (my latest favorite) tumblr, we are constantly transmitting these memes. The internet is the society, and the memes are the culture.

To me, memes are best represented by the internet phenomenon. My internet-saavy suitemate will often show me YouTube videos or silly blogs that, despite obscure or non sequitur references, somehow gather a cult following. These are memes. But there’s more to them than just silly ways for hipsters to pass their time. Public relations, advertising, and marketing professionals have all taken advantage of using memes in viral marketing. Memes help create buz about a company, product, or service. They’re inexpensive and, if conducted properly, can become quite popular, especially with niche audiences. They’re also a great way to show creativity. Often the film industry will use memes to generate attention for movies.

For further information on memes, I highly suggest the website Know Your Meme. You will find yourself bombarded with hours of useless information and entertainment.