Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Things kids don't recognize anymore...
When was the last time you used onion skin with carbon paper? What the heck is that, you thirtysomethings-and-under may ask?
Back in the good old days, well before Commodore and Atari broke down the doors for personal computers, before pagers, brick phones and then "new" flip phones broke down the doors for smart phones, before Hewlett Packard became the go-to choice for printers, and before Xerox became a generic word for copier, there were these noisy things called typewriters (many were made by Remington) on almost every desk in the office.
You typed on a keyboard, just like today, but the keys were linked by mechanism to long "arms" with letters at the end. Very noisy when those arms hit the paper, which was on a hard-rubber roller and it moved as you typed. At the end of the line, you then hit a return bail with your hand, and manually advanced one line/moved the roller back to the beginning position. More noise. You can most likely see one of these at nearly any antique store these days...
How would you make a copy of that letter for your file? And one for your boss in Paducah? Remember, there was no Xerox. You went to the shelf, picked up two sheets of onion skin (very thin, almost transparent paper, like the outer skin of an onion - great for sending via air-mail, which doesn't exist anymore either), and two sheets of carbon paper (thin paper backed on one side with lightly-bonded carbon. Very messy.) Stacking the paper properly with letterhead paper on top, a piece of carbon paper facing carbon side down, a piece of onion skin, then another piece of carbon paper facing carbon side down, and the last piece of onion skin. Roll it into the typewriter, with the letterhead facing up, and go ahead with typing your memo.
Woe betide you if you made a mistake...there was no easy way to correct carbon copies (remember, no white-out yet, nor any correction key!) You simply tear the whole thing out, crumple everything up, and start over. (No recycling yet...just throw it in the garbage!) Be careful, don't make any more mistakes... Need to calculate some figures to use in your memo? Remember, there are no calculators as we know them. Adding machines multiplied by repeat addition. 103 x 6 calculated very clumsily as 103+103+103+ 103+103+103. Ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-chunk, ka-CLUNK.
I can remember on Saturdays, playing with the "calculators" at Dad's office, huge old things that had gears and made all sorts of noise. One thing for sure, Dad (the manager) could always tell when his employees were working, from the din in the office...and nobody was talking! At the time (early to mid-1950's), this was advanced technology, since you didn't have to write figures down and do the math manually.
Even a slide rule was considered "high tech" - for those privileged few who knew how to use one.
Just a little refresher course about "the way it used to be..." back in the halcyon days!