I’m a whore. My partner John has reminded me of this fact by sending me a photo of something I claimed I’d love forever and have now pretty much abandoned: my IBM Selectric.
For years I would work only on my Selectric for a simple reason: it was indestructible. When the Selectric did bad work, I could hit it, and it would laugh. An IBM Selectric is a tank.
I didn’t grow up with these machines, which havn’t been manufactured in over thirty years. I discovered them and became addicted. You could buy reconditioned Selectrics for very little money, so I soon owned four. There was one man left in New York who still knew how to repair Selectrics, and everyone in the Selectric underground would use him.
For some reason, they still manufacture the complicated ribbons which Selectrics require, along with the correcting tape and the metal balls which allow the user to change the typeface:
After a handwritten first draft and many Selectric drafts, I would finally transfer my work onto the computer. I was my own secretary. I was always terrified that I’d push the wrong button and lose whatever was on my Mac forever. And yes, I have all those backup whatevers in place, but we’re not talking about rational behavior.
When I first watched Madmen, there was a scene in the secretarial pool where every desk had a Selectric. It was Selectric porn.
I still have my Selectric horde, but I’ve almost stopped using them entirely; the computer is just too convenient. My Selectrics sit there, gathering dust, like army surplus. I may never type on a Selectric again, but a Selectric will always be useful – as a weapon.