15. Computer Lust (post 1)

In the beginning was the void, for there were no computers, and I wanted one badly.

When I was in the Navy, before I had any intention of writing novels, there was a time when I thought writing non-fiction articles and books might be a good way to pick up a little side money. I began with a book on woodworking projects. I still have the prototypes I designed and built, but the book went nowhere. I did sell two articles, one on ”A Basic Toolkit for the Home,” for Woman’s Day, and one on bicycle camping to Travel and Leisure.

I used the money to buy a Smith Corona electric typewriter and retired the portable manual I had used through high school and college. Three years later, just out of the University of Chicago, I was ready to write novels. (see 2. Turn Left at Chicago and 3. It was 40 YearsAgo Today)

Those were good days. Writing was a joy and selling had not yet turned sour. My cat China Blue spent his time draped around my shoulders. Leonard Cohen, on vinyl, kept my mood carefully balanced between ecstasy and depression, as only he can. I had a head full of characters, images, and ideas, and time to write them.

Unfortunately, my fingers spent most of their time arguing about who was going to go first, which doesn’t make for smooth typing. In high school typing class I used to brag that my speed was sixty mistakes a minute.

There are so many conceptual and artistic errors in any first draft that fumble-fingered typing is not a real issue. Eventually, however, you get to the final draft.

I couldn’t afford a professional typist and the correction technology of the day was crude. My TYPEWRITER had a function that allowed me to BACKSPACE and shift to a white RIBBON which would OVERSTRIKE the previous letter, if the paper had not shifted on the PLATEN. If you recognize those words, you are of my generation and you have my sympathy.

I didn’t just want a computer, I needed one.

More next post.


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