Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Things that clacked

When I was a kid, I'd visit my aunt's office. I spent time playing with the wonderland of things that presented themselves to a six year old kid. A 1960's office held great things, most of them consigned to history's dustbin by now, sadly so. These were things that clacked.

IBM Selectric typewriters made noise. The carriage ticked as you put in paper. The typewriter keys clacked when you struck them. The machine binged when you got to the end of the page. The typewriter clattered as you yanked the page out of the roller.

The electric calculator had huge, solid buttons, which made a satisfying plonk when you pressed them, and the roll of paper advanced with a  hearty snap.

The office rubber stamps had a hefty spring that boinked when it snapped up from a satisfying downward stroke. The rotary phone back-dial skittered and stuttered. Even the heavy oak office chairs boomed as you moved it from one place to another, so heavy were they. I have one and the knob to adjust the height is massive and the screw even more humongous. The 1966 office was an office that made noise. It sounded productive.

Today's office machines are not as satisfying. The computers whir, the calculator beeps, the cell phone whines. Everything is so ... light and insubstantial. You see, my reminiscence began with a stapler. I have a Swingline, a tried and true name to be sure. It has a translucent top and is really light. It also jams when you put staples in and it jams when you use it. It is made of plastic. It gets the job done...usually...but it is certainly not a pleasure to use.

It got me thinking about where we have come from and where we are going. Look at the first, early stapler here, a Hotchkiss from the late 1800s. Isn't it gorgeous???

These were from the 1960s, heavy metal, and solid, never-jamming and useful life practically as long as Methuselah. Now this, from today's lightweight Swingline and the infamous Swingline Tot stapler. A nickel is included for scale.

Now, I do not miss White Out, nor carbon paper. Messy they were. As an aside, carbon paper, when you inserted a piece between two sheets that you were typing you could make a copy as you went along. That is where we got "carbon copy" from and is what CC on the email means. But I do miss heavy-duty, well-made tools that keep on working flawlessly every time you needed them. I'm glad I have a stapler, it's convenient. But I miss my heavy stapler I'd found in an old office supply furniture store in Auburn Maine. Now, where did that go?


MUD said...

I had many of those heavy duty staplers and when they worked, they would attach two sheets of cardboard together. When they didn't work, they would eat staples and you would have to take a screwdriver to pry out the bent, flattened staple. One you put a screwdriver into that tiny slot, it forever didn't work right. I'll bet I personally threw away 10 of those HD staplers. MUD

Elizabeth Prata said...

I'm sorry you had a less than pleasant experience with the heavy staplers.

Muriel OK said...

Although the Hotchkiss goes back to 1890's the one you have pictured was invented in 1920. I collect staplers and have ones that never jam and others that mostly do. So far it is the APSCO 2002 c1950 that has never jammed and staples very quietly. It was made in Sweden. So give me the old time stapler any day.