Seven years after the IBM Selectric’s debut, I was a high school Junior, taking a typing-for-business course. All the machines in our typing-lab classroom were gray, utilitarian behemoths until the day the IBM Selectric arrived.
Like a tall, dark, handsome transfer student, the IBM Selectric mesmerized me. Maybe it was the machine’s unique golf-ball head. I watched in amazement during the demo by our typing teacher as her lightning-fast fingers flew across the keyboard. I saw the golf-ball head zip across the page. This eliminated the need for a carriage return, the motion that slowed a speedy typist like me.
Then our teacher demonstrated something truly amazing: the golf-ball head was interchangeable with other golf-ball heads, bearing different fonts, italics, scientific notations and even other languages. I was smitten, and I longed for the chance for my fingers to dash across the IBM Selectric’s keyboard. When it finally happened, the moment was sweet: I clocked 100 words per minute.
I never forgot my typing-class crush.
Four years later, with high school and two years of college behind me, I accepted a secretarial position to pay the bills while I launched my writing career. On my first day I was assigned to a workstation with a bright-blue IBM Selectric, and I fell in love all over again.
Unfortunately, I was in a long-term relationship with a stready but unexciting — and slow — Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter.
I knew it was wrong, but I just couldn’t help it. I cheated.
At first it was only during lunch hours. I’d use the IBM Selectric to type final copies of query letters and article manuscripts. Then I grew bolder and decided to write a non-fiction book. That meant staying at the office after close of business (with a wink and a nod from my wonderful boss, of course), putting the finishing touches to the publishing proposal.
The day I received the book contract, I knew that the IBM Selectric and I would be together for an entire weekend, typing the final book manuscript from the Smith-Corona’s draft.
Those were two glorious days! I even swapped out the regular golf-ball head for the one with italics to type the bibliography. Oh, the joys remembered of that weekend!
My first book Biorhythm: Discovering Your Natural Ups and Downs was published by Franklin Watts in 1978.
Thank you, IBM Selectric, on your 50th business anniversary! I will never forget you. You were just my type.
Blogger Bio: Pauline Bartel, M.A., is President and Chief Creative Officer of
Bartel Communications, Inc., an award-winning corporate communications firm,
specializing in marketing, public relations and business anniversary consulting
services. The firm created “The Bartel Years™” and “The Bartel Years 200™,” rosters of business anniversary symbols to inspire two centuries of business anniversary
“sell”-abrations. Download free copies of “The Bartel Years™” and the special
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