Thursday, April 11, 2024

Ode to the Computer

Bad Old Days

When I think back to the first novels I wrote, I shudder. For several reasons.
One, they weren't all that good. Hey, I was a beginner! Thank God I had a talented editor or I really would be miserable about those first few novels. Second, and more importantly, I wrote them on a typewriter. Not even an electric one. A manual. Of course, back then it was what everyone did, but that doesn't erase the bad memories.

The carbon copies. The correction tape. The White Out. The retyping over and over again to get a page error free or at least not weighing a ton because of all the White Out used on it! You see, when you sent your manuscript to an editor back then, it needed to be as error free as you could make it and you had to send the actual typed pages! The whole enchilada. Mailed. We also did not have handly little tools like Spell Check, Grammarly, or search engines. We looked up stuff. Definitions. Spelling, Punctuation rules. Research on locations, clothing, customs, language, every darned thing! In books! The horrors!

See what I mean? Thinking back to those days makes me break out in hives. I sat for hours on end at my dining room table typing, correcting, typing, finding another error, starting all over again. I made carbon copies because it was expensive to have the manuscript copied (and there weren't that many places that would do it!) and I had to keep a copy for myself. You see, typewriters don't "save." They actually do very little other than type letters and get their keys stuck.

I graduated to an electric typewriter after I'd written three or four novels. I felt like I had been blessed. Of course, I still had to make carbons and use copious amounts of White Out and correction tape, but it was still an improvement. I found a bottle of White Out in the back of one of my desk drawers not too long ago and promptly tossed in the trash. But it did cause a few nightmares, nonetheless.

Even after all this, I resisted using a computer. I worked as a newspaper journalist back then. The computer was introduced to the newsroom and we were told that we would all be expected to use them. The monster technicians came in and spirited away our Royal typewriters so that we couldn't cheat. They were replaced with big, bulky boxes with screens. We were given confusing lessons on how to use them  --  and we were off! Like a bunch of blind rats in a maze of keys called "Enter" and "Home" and "Esc." It took a few weeks, but it happened. I fell madly, deeply in love with computers. I even dipped into my meager savings and bought one for my fiction writing.

The love affair continues. After one has endured the rigors of writing 350 page novels on a manual typewriter, you never take computers and their software for granted. I don't even cuss out Spell Check very often when they change "duck" to something naughty or "count" to another something naughty. These are tiny potholes compared to the sinkhole of manual typewriting without instant online assistance. I'm sure editors have a keen passion for computers, too. No longer do they receive huge packages in the mail. Now they are sent novels by email and can do their editing online if they wish.

When it comes to manuscript preparation, the "good old days" sucked. Big time.
Now all we writers have to worry about is AI replacing us.  



  1. What an excellent, and memory inducing, post. I wasn't a writer, but I was a high school student with many papers to write. Type. Type again. Throw wads of paper at the wall. And. Footnotes!!

    Yet, computers scare the stuff out of me.

    1. Buck up, Buttercup! If you used typewriters, computers are nothing to fear! Get a laptop and live a little.

  2. Not anonymous. Winona Bennett Cross in previous post.