I’ve decided that’s one way to group people–you’ve either used an IBM Correcting Selectric or you haven’t. If you have, you will recall that in the 1960s and 1970s, it was considered the most spectacular item ever introduced into an office. The Selectric II is the one most of us remember as being so phenomenal: The elements–the font balls that could be removed and replaced with different text size and style–were easy to use and so much fun, I found reasons to bold and italicize words, and go from 10 pitch to 12 pitch.
Courier, Helvetica, Script, Presidential and Orator, were among the font choices and I used all of them, whether it was necessary or not. Up until the Selectric II, the small letter l was used for the number one. The Selectric II had the number. Pretty exciting stuff!
The big advantage of the Correcting Selectric II was the built-in correcting tape that allowed us to get away from the little pieces of white tape that littered most desks. (Although that was a big improvement over correcting liqud that made blobs on paper.) Do you recall searching around looking for a strip that wasn’t totally used up, so you could correct an error?
When the Selectric II was first introduced it had a ribbon that picked up the carbon from the paper, but the preferred correction method was the white tape that covered the error. AND, there was a half space key to allow re-typing a longer word over an error that had less letters. Just writing about that gives me chills of excitement!
Here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know: The original Selectric design that moved the type-ball across the paper in a brand-new way, was a modification of a toy typewriter from the 1950s for which IBM bought the design rights.
I’ve asked participants in the last dozen or so audiences or groups to hold up their hands if they have used an IBM Correcting Selectric. A few say they are still using Selectric III models in some office functions; several who used Selectric and Selectric II models hold up their hands with pride and look around to see who else was a Selectric graduate. The majority haven’t heard of the concept and have only used computers. That’s fine too. But if they get a new computer, it will look about the same as the old one, and work about the same as well.
They’ll never know the joy of having a a brightly colored, futuristic looking Correcting Selectric, with a nifty cover, delivered to their desks. I can’t help but feel slightly sorry for them. (But, I wouldn’t want to replace my computer with a Selectric, would you?)