I remember…

Posted: 28th May 2008 by ElShaddai Edwards in Uncategorized

HT: Iyov, for the link to this article.

As tedious as footnotes can be to read, they can be even more so to produce. For high school students and undergraduates, footnotes seem less a test of research skills or academic honesty than a trial of one’s endurance and equanimity. In the heyday of the typewriter, footnotes could easily turn a five-hour assign-ment into a 10-hour labor. First, you had to figure out the math: How many lines do I type before I start inlaying the footnotes? Then you had to handle the Latin: Do I mean op. cit. or loc. cit., ibid. or id., q.v. or cf.? Finally, you had to roll the platen just so–no more, no less, exactement–to get the superscript numbers to sit correctly above the line.

I remember renting a typewriter from the local library to type out my high school science fair paper on the relative speed of corrosion of various metals in marine saltwater. We did not have a word processing program or a printer for our new personal computer (Commodore 64) and hand-written reports were not accepted. I remember rolling the platen…

Today’s students miss out on these joys…

  1. Jim Swindle says:

    I’ve been behind on my reading. One advantage of typewriters: they lasted longer. I went through university on the same portable typewriter that my mother and her three sisters used in college. (Three of the four sisters graduated; two went on for advanced work.)

    However, a computer with a good word-processing program makes formal writing much, much easier.

    Copy machines are also easier to use than the old mimeographs and spirit duplicators.

  2. For some of my classes in the music department at college (early ’90s), we were still getting handouts done on some kind of ditto machine. Mind boggling, actually. I think it spoke more to the lack of technological prowess by the department’s elderly admin than to the available copy machine that we students used.