Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dittos and Disney

We sometimes amuse ourselves by comparing technologies.

Example: I was eight in 1955 when my family got its first television, a black-and-white set. That meant I could watch the “Mickey Mouse Club” without  having to go next door to Susie Hekman’s house.

By the time Michael was eight, in 1972, he could watch “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday nights – with fireworks in full exploding color.

I remember phone numbers with letters in them, like  CH3-0303 , or 5473J.  Michael doesn’t.

It seems a given that age-gap couples would suffer a technology gap, but ours seems to narrow with time. What we both remember: transistor radios, 45-rpm records, rotary phones, a world before hand-held calculators, and our first electric typewriters.

Technology isn’t always a reliable way to measure how we experience time. When Michael and I met in 1991,  I was the one who had a CD player; he was still buying vinyl records. In 1992, when we lived along the Delaware River for a summer, we brought along Michael’s first PC – a clunky Atari – as well as a manual Royal typewriter.

In the March/April issue of Poets and Writers magazine, author Eileen Pollack recounts how she began writing stories in longhand, then moved to typewriters and finally to computers.  In the article, “Track Changes: Ditto Machines to Digital Literature,” she notes that it’s now possible to write and publish entire novels without producing anything you can hold in your hand. (Irony: I can’t link you to the article. It’s available only in the magazine’s print version.)

Pollack also remembers using ditto machines, which got us thinking about them too. I last used one in 1971, teaching junior high English and handing out sweet-smelling purple-lettered papers to my students.  As late as 1998, when Michael was a graduate teaching assistant at the University of Arkansas, he had to make class handouts using an aging ditto machine. Sometimes it took a screwdriver to make the thing rotate.

Now here we are in the blogosphere, yet neither of us live full-time in the digital world. Maybe we came together because we were like-minded about things: we love the smell and feel of newsprint and books, the turning of pages.

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