Each of my four children - three of whom are grown - has a cell phone. They all have laptop computers. They can email, text, tweet or call if they want to reach their parents or siblings.
But, occasionally, someone uses a more retro form of communication. They pause a minute as they go by and type a message on the vintage Smith Corona typewriter in the living room, leaving it there to be discovered.
The small green typewriter belonged to my mother-in-law. She used it the way I now use my MAC. She wrote letters, paid bills and typed lists of things that needed to be done. Later, when she went upgraded, she replaced the manual with an IBM Selectric.
At some point she passed along to me the portable, complete with travel case, user’s manual and a replacement ribbon. I put it on the secretary in my living room, as much a tribute to her as a decorative accessory.
I’m always amused when I see a new line or two of print on the sheet of paper. I stop to see who was there last.
Sometimes witty, often snarky and occasionally sweet, the messages teach the typist that it wasn’t always as easy to put words on paper. No delete key. No cut and paste option. No easy-touch keyboard. Typewriting is work. It takes force. It takes patience. Typewriters demand our attention. It’s a lot of trouble to correct a mistake. Every composition is done one (peck) letter (peck) at (peck) a (peck) time (ding!)
To my children, the typewriter on the desk is a toy. For me it is a reminder of a laborious class in high school. It is an echo of the sound of newsrooms when I was a student. It is a marker of just how much the world has changed.
I can’t help but wonder if my children’s children will play with one of my old notebook computers, marveling at the clunky, out-of-date technology.
I would love to know what kind of messages they will leave.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org