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Nostalgia Memories of the typewriter, rotary phone are fresh

Morning, UP

March 10, 2012
By RENEE PRUSI - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

The other day at my doctor's office, the nurse drawing my blood and I had an interesting conversation about typewriters and telephones.

She told me her young son is fascinated with the Royal typewriter she had stashed away. It seemed an antique to the youthful computer user, no doubt.

And it's a piece of equipment which I speak about with youngsters visiting here on educational tours of The Mining Journal. They look at me like I am Mother Time when I explain that typewriters were what everyone here used to write stories back in 1982 when my career began.

Perhaps it is that my mind can't wrap about how many years have gone by but to me, as much time as I spend with my fingers on computer keyboards, typewriters are not antiques.

They're not something I want to go back to, but they aren't museum pieces just yet.

We still receive via the U.S. Postal Service (remember them?) an occasional news release that has been typed out, not computer generated. Often, these items arrive on lovely stationery or thick embossed stock.

That's rather sweet. I imagine someone even older than me sitting at a Smith Corona or IBM Selectric and hitting the keys. Not tapping, hitting, because for some typewriters that's what you had to do.

My point of emphasis when speaking to classrooms, as I do now and again, is to stress that learning does not end when the diploma is in hand, with the evolution of my job here at the paper a prime example.

In 30 years, our newsroom has gone from typewriters to computers that transmitted via phone line to iMacs and better. And thankfully, my kind coworker Dan Weingarten has done much of that educating through the more recent changes, earning the nickname "Obi Wan Kenobi," because he has been our only hope many days.

This all has turned me into a computer-aholic. While I don't understand how things work exactly, I do spend an inordinate amount of time on the computer, by necessity here at the office and by choice at home.

And at home includes time on my iPhone. This is a self-induced problem, but I have become an iPhone junkie. My left hand even seizes up sometimes because I have the cell in it so much. Too much.

The discussion the lovely nurse and I had about telephones centered on that old favorite, the rotary dial and she laughed when I told her this: Several years ago, some family members were staying with me at the house I was renting at the time and the young son was completely baffled by the black phone hanging on the wall at the top of the steps.

"Where are the buttons?" he asked.

Of course, there were no buttons, just a circle with holes in it that allowed the user to dial a number. Slowly as the circle moved, the numbers were registered, one by one.

It really was a foreign object in the age of cordless phones, let alone wireless phones. While I am sure there are a few homes that still have rotary models, they really have become a thing of the past.

Explaining the party line system was something I didn't even want to begin with my young cousin. If a rotary dial was baffling, can you imagine how confused he might have been about sharing a line with a neighbor?

"The times they are a-changin'," Bob Dylan wrote nearly 50 years ago. But back then, we couldn't envision an iPad 3 or iPhone 4 or Kindles or any of the other pieces of technology which are now commonplace.

What's next? You know, I am rather excited to see. Even geezers like me enjoy new gadgets even if we don't know how they work.

Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is



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