Old School Tech

I recently read an article about the executive director of a professional association who uses an IBM typewriter to send notes to members. He said he liked using a typewriter to personalize the notes. I thought it was pretty cool to use old school technology so effectively. I could never afford an IBM typewriter, those workhorses were expensive! I had a couple other typewriters; and I still use one of them occasionally – it gets the job done. (The other one I had for a few years made the trip to Australia with me and spent a year with me sending letters home – it remained Down Under when I left.) A few days after I read that article, I was doing a task I have to do regularly, auditing a credit card statement. I rely on another piece of old school tech for that task, a printing adding machine. It is an “modern” version of a very old technology, an electronic version, but it uses adding machine tape. I’ve used such a device for many years and I’ve worn out a few. It gets the job done specifically, allowing me, or any other user, to keep track of the numbers I’m adding up. It has fascinated me that virtually no one I’ve ever hired in over 30 years of hiring, has seen, much less used, an adding machine. In fact, I’ve been given “flack” for using it. It is so simple, far easier to use than a spreadsheet or a handheld calculator, or worse, the calculator app on a smart phone, for this type of task because the numbers can be visually verified. I remember playing with an adding machine that was in my Dad’s office when I was a young child. It was big, probably heavier than an IBM selectric typewriter which itself could anchor a small boat. And it was mechanical, with lots of clackity clack. My grandmother was a secretary for decades and she used a manual typewriter, even at home, well into her 80s. Hers was a modern model for the time and it made lots of clackity noises too. These devices occasionally have issues, but there is no software to update. No rebooting. Again, they just do their job. Feed them a ribbon and paper and all is good. I think it is important to keep in mind that not all useful tools are the latest inventions. Many old school tools do the job better, easier, and more accurately, than modern devices. Improving on them is difficult. Learning to use something old school can make modern work places better. I’m not advocating using an abacus. Just don’t dismiss something that isn’t a software driven with a keyboard because it is old school.

David and I have written about our fondness for “old school” things in several previous posts.  Although I never owned a typewriter, nor am I a good typist, I appreciate David’s fondness for his trusty old typewriter.  It comes in handy when he makes labels for files in our personal filing cabinet.  I remember David’s grandmother, whom I considered a dear friend, typing notes and letters with her typewriter until she was no longer able to see well enough to use the keyboard.  I share David’s fondness for old school or retro things, including:


-record albums (LPs), which sound a whole lot better than any other form of music reproduction;

-expressions, such as “groovy,” “cool,” and “boogie,” all of which are common in my everyday language;

-music, with music by The Beatles at the toppermost of the poppermost of this list (Yes, I do enjoy making Beatles references whenever I can!):

-entertainment, including the lava lamp and Magic 8 Ball on my desk, as well as The Game of Life, Cootie, and more;

-cars, such as old Corvettes, Camaros, 442s, and MGs;

-t-shirts, particularly those I bought at concerts including The Rolling Stones in 1981, The Police in 1984, and my large collection of Beatles and John Lennon attire;

-music stores that are independently owned and operated, with a little grime for the sake of “character”;

-gritty beach towns, such as Venice Beach, the towns that line the Jersey shore, and if it’s not too late (meaning over developed), Jacksonville Beach;

-memories of gritty towns, such as Key West before the cruise ships and tourists came along;

-shoes, such as old school flip flops and platform shoes;

-department stores in small towns that are not part of a corporate conglomerate;

-books, real honest to goodness books (not a book on my iPad);

-sitting in the sunshine, on the dock of the bay, or on a sailboat with manually operating sails; 

-clocks and watches with analog faces; and

-my childhood friends (the friends I have made in adulthood are great, but they will never come close to the ones I made while growing up in Fort Myers!).


I’m sure I could think of more retro things I enjoy, but the point has been made. In my opinion, newer isn’t always better, faster, or smarter.  As Bob Seger said, “I reminisce about the days of old with that old time rock and roll.”


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