Friday, June 24, 2016

Fired-Up Friday


Back in the Day

          When I sold my first short story over 33 years ago, I bought two things: an electronic typewriter and a copy of Merriam-Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (copyright 1983). The Smith-Corona electronic typewriter replaced the JC Penney electric typewriter I’d been using, and when I saw all the marvelous things it could do, I thought I was in writer heaven. I could choose different fonts by changing a wheel. I could delete up to ten words back just by pushing the delete key. I could make corrections without using whiteout or those tricky little correction strips. I could type fast! It was amazing. The dictionary I bought was also top of the line at the time. It listed the year a particular word or phrase came into use as well as having its own Handbook of Style with punctuation and capitalization rules. I felt both the new typewriter and the dictionary were investments in my writing career and a good way to spend half the check. Those were the days.

            The typewriter served me well for a number of years and helped me sell quite a few more stories. It held up even when a glass of water got spilled on it. But needless to say, it has since gone on to the place where all outdated machines go. I never cried when computers allowed us to cut and paste and make corrections and move scenes around without having to actually get out the scissors and tape. Yet I sometimes wish I still had a typewriter to address an envelope without involving the printer or to fill out a form.

            The dictionary, too, has gone the way of the albatross now that computers can show us the correct spelling of a word (and even correct it) without us having to leave the keyboard. We can look up the meaning of words online as well as Google just about anything to find an answer. But I have kept that Ninth Collegiate, though I can’t say it’s the newest version anymore, and I use it on occasion to look up a spelling or word meaning. As you can see from the photo, it's showing its age, but it still has a place of honor among the research books I own. I know it will serve its purpose when I get around to writing the historical trilogy I have in mind, and I need to make certain a word was in use during that time. In some ways I feel like the old dictionary is a friend who, although coming apart at the seams, still keeps me company and remembers the days when we first started out on this adventure called writing.
                                                                




7 comments:

Alyssa Alexander said...

Oh, I love this! I have a few old friends (books) myself that I just can't part with. A thesaurus from high school, a condensed encyclopedia from college. Google and spellcheck are all well and good, but sometimes I just want to pull out the book!

Diana Stout said...

So happy that you've kept the Dictionary, and yes, I purposely capitalized that letter as it is our true source when it comes to spelling and meanings. I have mine, which looks exactly like that, though mine is a bit younger than yours. I keep it by my bed, to use when I'm too lazy to get up and go to the computer. It actually gets more use than the computer's version.

I still have my manual typewriter, too.

Diane Burton said...

Good for you, Lucy, for hanging onto the past. I have that dictionary in your picture along with the one I got when I graduated high school. Wont't say when that was. LOL Isn't it amazing how far we've come? I love the dictionary on my Kindle. I never trust spellcheck or grammar check on the computer, so I still have my old Strunk & White and the Chicago Manual of Style. Thanks for bringing back memories.

Lucy Naylor Kubash said...

The poor Dictionary really is in a disreputable state, but I think I'll always hang onto it. Sometimes it's nice to just turn the crinkly pages to look up a word. :)

Patricia Kiyono said...

I still have my college dictionary, too, as well as a thesaurus and various other resource books. Like you, my electric typewriter is long gone, but I'll probably never part with these books.

Jolana Malkston said...

Back in the day, I used summer job money to buy a four-inch thick Webster's Unabridged Dictionary. When that fell apart, I bought the Webster's Unabridged Deluxe Second Edition. I still have that one. It's huge and heavy, and I always feel it is like going to the candy store whenever I leaf through its pages. My folks bought me a portable Olympia manual typewriter when I graduated high school. I still have it and it still works--that is, until I run out of ribbon for it.. I believe it qualifies as an antique now. When I got my first reporting job, my dh bought me a portable electric Smith-Coronna cartridge typewriter. I still have that one too, and it still works. My dh would love to see me rid my office of them, but I have an emotional attachment to those old friends and refuse to part with them.

Lucy Naylor Kubash said...

I went from a manual typewriter to two different electric ones before I bought the electronic. I really do wish I still had one of the electrics. They were so handy for a lot of things that computers aren't. But yeah,never enjoyed changing the ribbons. ;)