I love my old typewriter. I bought it decades ago and have moved it to a dozen houses. Yup. As in I’ve moved 12 times since I bought my old Royal.

And I realized a few months ago that it would be much more useful with a tuneup.

So the boys and I took it to the local typewriter repair shop (holla, Berkeley!) for a ribbon and an oiling.

And now, every night, I begin a letter to my children.

Yeah, that's right...no delete key and no white ribbon means I don't care if I misspell.

Yeah, that’s right…no delete key and no white ribbon means I don’t care if I misspell.

And then at breakfast I ask them to finish the letter.

Results are adorable, or worrisome, depending on your expectations for spelling and grammar.

We're still working on this daily habit.

Sometimes I forget, and eight-year-old Peanut does my job for me. Like dishes, but with random punctuation.

Some mornings I forget, and eight-year-old Peanut does my job for me.

I’m keeping every page. If I were an organized person, I’d pretend I were going to make them into a book. But they will stay in the drawer, in order, and then get put in a box. And when the boys are in college I’ll do something creative with them. For now: drawer.

Especially for keepsakes like this one, where our four-year-old patience-tester unwound the whole ribbon, then made fingerprint art all over the floor and fridge.

"You say I'll be right back, I hear please decorate with typewriter ink."

“You say I’ll be right back, I hear please decorate with typewriter ink.”

I didn’t think too much of this daily ritual we’ve just begun until a friend sent me a link to  this adorable video of children being bewildered by the existence of typewriters.

As delightful as that video is, I have to admit to being similarly baffled.

Where is the number one?

Seriously, where's the 1?

Seriously, where’s the 1?


Come on, really?

Come on, really?

I’ve tried hitting the margin release, in case that’s a stealth 1 in disguise. Like a hidden passage in the library, but dumber.


This is getting ridiculous.

This is getting ridiculous.

And now I feel like the kids in the video. Did the past not have 1:00? OR 12:00? Or any of the many, many minutes in between?

What did people in the past do at 8:15? Skip straight to 8:20? Was there a lot of rounding up to the nearest anything-but-ten in history?

Were they always using the slash to designate a 1? Doubtful. Nothing says confusion like “Please print / copy.”

Did they substitute? Probably not, since typewriters use an old school font called…um, TYPEWRITER. Rather serif-y and prone to Roman Numerals. If you use a capital “i” to designate the number 1, you’re stuck using Vs and Xs for the rest of the…whatever you’re typing.

And why so wordy with the tabular key? Tab is too…’80s? Wait…I guess I mean 1880s? Except for the 1, which didn’t exist, so they went from the Dark Ages to 2000?

I’m so confused.

But I’m creating memories, dagnabbit. And that’s all that matters, 1 or no 1.

Word up, little one who dictated this to an older brother. Preach.

Word up, little guy who dictated this to an older brother. Preach.


14 thoughts on “Typewhater?

  1. Ha ha, someone beat me to it: the lower-case L is the 1! I used to have an old typwriter like this also, and my kids were fascinated with it!

    • I am genuinely shocked that I didn’t know that. And even more shocked that I looked at all the keys for a 1-hack and couldn’t do it.


      Thank you!

      Isn’t it sweet to watch kids type? I really, really love it. It makes me feel as though we’re now connected to a long line of Updike, Joyce, Wharton, Twain.

    • I am harboring really high secret hopes that some note some day will rock my freaking world.

      And yours would do that, g.u.a.r.a.n.t.e.e.d. I’m actually excited just thinking of it

      I’d leave you loving notes most nights. And I’d forget some nights, not because I don’t love you. But because of my many flaws.

  2. Now I feel so oooold, because I too knew immediately it was lower case l because I used to use a typewriter quite a lot…

    • Good gawd, people, where was I during the typing lessons you all took? I’ve loved typewriters forever and I’ve never even noticed there was no 1, let alone know the solution. Geez, people. You awe me. I have the best readers ever. Or I’m a total loser.

    • It’s official…I either skipped a day of life wherein everyone else was taught this fact, or I’m a simpleton who has forgotten what I learned that day.

      Either way, I love that Kickstarter campaign. And the story idea. Once my kids can actually write, I’m totally doing this.

    • Curses…I’m so darned literal that when a key shows an uppercase L I literally can’t conceive of the lowercase, which looks, as you’ve noted, exactly like a 1. Except on a computer. CURSES!

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