Thursday, September 09, 2004

Correcting Selectrics

"Thud" best describes:

1. The return to Earth of the Genesis space capsule, now embedded in
the Utah desert;

2. Macier Izturis' double falling behind a scrambling Sosa, taking with
it the Cubs NL wild card lead;

3. Another sheaf of damaging documents grudgingly released to the press
in the dark of night by the Bush administration.

Salon has the best coverage of the Bush
National Guard controversy
, with

extensive links to sources:

Ironically, that means strings were pulled to get Bush out of the
Guard in

1973, just as they were pulled to get him enrolled in 1968.

There are some great investigations
underway in blog-land to compare the “original”  CYA memo regarding
Bush’s National Guard service with Microsoft Word versions typed today.

Part of the argument hinges on whether typewriters in 1972 had proportional

A quick check of on-line references

Even so, all Selectrics were monospaced -- each and every character
was the same width. Although IBM had produced a successful typebar-based
machine, the IBM Executive, with proportional spacing, no proportionally-spaced
Selectric office typewriter was ever introduced. There was, however, a
much more expensive proportionally-spaced machine called the Selectric
Composer which was considered a typesetting machine rather than a typewriter.

This agrees with my memory of typing technology of the time. Not proportional.
No way. Not on the slickest, fastest machines which were coveted like today's
latest Pentiums. And the Army would not have had many of those fanciest
Correcting Selectrics. Grunts and REMFs would have typed up five-carbon
forms (always with the government, five copies, hence the rainbow bottles
of boo-boo juice:  white, pink, pale blue, light green, and goldenrod)
on tired chugging Selectrics and manual bangers. Thud, thud. MSWord is
a whole different animal.

When computer-based word processing was phased in (mid-70's to mid-80's),
first as batch jobs sent to mainframes(you haven't lived until you've tried
to coach office assistants through preparing and batch-printing grant proposals
in UNIX, on deadline), then using increasingly powerful desktop machines
(remember working on the first Mac, the one that maxed-out at 5 printed
pages?? But it was WYSIWYG, and we loved it) the aspects of word processing
which were amazing to users, which completely blew us away (justified text,
proportional fonts, bold, italic, etc.) were trivial from the standpoint
of programming.

And now I sit on planes next to folk thumb-typing their grant proposals
on Black Berries, completely oblivious to the genesis of the QWERTY keyboard: 
the need to slow down typing speed so the slender flying typebars, propelled
upward by the typist's keystrokes in an acrobatic ballet would not crash
into each other and tangle, resulting in inked fingers, smdged pages, and
misaligned letters (which gave each machine a distinctive "signature",
so useful in detective fiction.)



Blogger christina said...

The facts will out. If it's a physical impossibility, then it's an impossibility. I'm fascinated by the history of printing machines.

3:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home