There are certain obscure pieces of technology (although I guess we would hardly call them “technology” in this day and age) that I find myself inexplicably drawn to. One of them is the typewriter. The other is the record player.
I have a typewriter. It sits on my desk, right next to my computer. It was my father’s when he was in college. It is a light-blue Smith-Corona. It’s as heavy as a sack of bricks, and, as my fellow columnist Brian Bayer can attest to, it takes a special amount of skill to type anything on it.
I guess it’s pretty pointless for me to have a typewriter with me. It’s not like I’m going to type a five-page essay on it or anything. Heck, I can barely type one page without my forefingers going numb and my ears starting to ring from the pounding of the keys.
But there’s something nice about the “ding” and the “zing” of the carriage return. And for some reason, type-written letters just look nicer to me than the ones typed on a computer. They seem more real. You get to watch them actually get pounded onto the page. They don’t just come from some connection of sensors and wires and whatnot (I have no idea how a computer keyboard sends the signals from the keys to the screen).
And there’s something super fulfilling about a typewriter, even more so than writing. If you’re writing something, at least if you’re writing something in pencil, you can always go back and erase your mistakes. And even if you’re writing in pen, you can do the unprofessional cross-out. If you’re typing on a typewriter and you go a sentence or more without messing up, you stop and say a quick prayer to the typewriter gods, because there is nothing worse than having to go back and correct a mistake made while typing on a typewriter.
Of course, I only use my typewriter to tap out trivial things, and so I typically ignore mistakes, since no one is ever going to read what I type, besides myself; and I know what I meant.
I don’t know why I brought the thing to school with me. I guess you could say that I feel like it connects me to writers of the past. For years, writers put ink to page via the typewriter. I feel like when I’m using it, I’m channeling a little (a very little, mind you) of their writing spirit. Since the Jesuits are big on solidarity, I figure I’m just doing my part. I’m in solidarity with the writers of days gone by.
The second item of nostalgia is my father’s record player. We’ve had it for as long as I can remember, although I don’t ever recall him using it for playing his vinyls until I was at least in eighth grade. It’s not that he didn’t; I just didn’t appreciate it, so it wasn’t something he shared with me. I was young; what did I know? I wasn’t yet old enough to appreciate summer nights on the porch, listening to David Bowie, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Rolling Stones.
But as I’ve grown, I’ve become more of a music lover; and as a music lover, I seek the audio experience in its purest form. To me, the vinyl album played on a quality record player is second only to being directly in studio with the band while they’re recording (or experiencing them live, if it happens to be a live album).
If you’ve ever listened to an album on vinyl, I think you’ll know what I mean. There’s something about the sound that’s just more pure, more full. They layers of the music are more distinguished. The sound is more multidimensional and the richness of the music is more apparent.
Listening to a CD for a while was okay. The sound wasn’t too horrible. I can even tolerate listening to music on my computer; but that’s only because when I’m at school, that’s really my only option.
As a society, we are constantly producing new technologies that make our lives easier. A computer is more practical for typing than a typewriter. You don’t have to work as hard, it’s easier to correct your mistakes, all-in-all it’s much more efficient.
The same goes for a record player. When we realized that we could produce a way of listening to music that didn’t require the album to be spread across three different vinyls and that didn’t require the listener to get up and flip the album every four songs (although some nice record players would do that for you) we jumped at the opportunity to make our lives easier.
Yes, newer technology makes our lives easier, but is it that much better? Sure, it’s efficient and high end, but it costs a lot, and, should it break, it’s expensive to fix. And if we’re sacrificing quality for efficiency, I think we need to take a hard look at ourselves as human beings. Because what if the same goes for us? Are we more efficient? Are we lower quality? Does technology make us lazy? I don’t have the answer, but it’s something to think about.