My adult grandson (who is special needs but high functioning) and I were cleaning out my garage recently. He found something bulky wrapped in a trash bag and opened it.
“Hey, Gramps,” he says, “what’s this?”
I look over his shoulder. It was something I’d forgotten about. “It’s a typewriter,” I say.
“Well, it’s like a word processor, but it’s not electronic.”
“What’s a word processor?”
I can see this is going to take awhile. “Uh, it’s kind of like when you text on your phone. But it uses a full size keyboard and a big screen and it creates a document you can edit and print out.”
“Like on a computer?”
“Why didn’t you just say that?”
[Sigh] “Well, word processors came along before computers did . . . at least personal computers.”
“Okay, can we throw it out?” He picks up the typewriter.
“What good is it? You don’t use it anymore.”
“It’s a piece of nostalgia.”
“It’s a piece of crap,” He glares at me. I realize he doesn’t know what the word nostalgia means.
“It’s an antique, kid,” I shoot back, suddenly on the defensive
“You’re the antique, Gramps,” he counters, chuckling.
He’s probably right. If nothing else, the ancient and honorable Royal triggers a trip down memory lane for me.
“You know,” I say, “I wrote my first stories and articles—and probably my first book or two—on that ‘piece of crap.’”
“So this was before electricity?” he says. He knows damn well it wasn’t. But he’s picked up my sardonic sense of humor over the years.
“No, smart ass, but it was certainly before you came along.”
I’d written my first book, nonfiction, on that old Royal in the late 1970s. I couldn’t afford the IBM Correcting Selectric typewriter then, but I seem to recall I was able to pick up some kind of cheap knockoff electric in the early ‘80s.
At some point in that era I became aware of the Wang Word Processor. Wow, I thought, an answer to a writer’s prayer. You could actually make corrections on a screen and electronically move words around. Words? Good Lord, you could move entire sentences and paragraphs around. Cut and paste electronically. Magic. A novelist’s nirvana. (Okay, I wasn’t a novelist yet, but I like the alliteration.)
Of course, I couldn’t afford a Wang Word Processor either.
Then, salvation. My stepson, Steve, worked at an Apple retail store. He got me, at cost, one of the first Apple Macintoshes to come out. 1984. I’ve used Apples ever since. First an iMac G3, then an iMac desktop—that still sits on my desk as basically a paperweight. I do all my work now on a MacBook Air, but it, like me, is aging. It’s nine years old which, in the universe of technology, is near death. As soon as I get a movie deal for one of my books, I’ll buy a new one. In other words, I’m stuck with the old one.
“Gramps, whaddaya want me to do with this piece of crap?” My grandson points at the dusty typewriter.
“Bag it. Save it. Sell it at an estate sale when I’m gone. You’ll probably get more for it than from my book royalties.”