Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Did You Use A Correcting Selectric?

ibm-correcting-selectric-iii-red.jpgI’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 ibm-selectric-fonts.jpgstyle–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?)

February 13th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work, Training, Technology, Blogs, A/V etc. | 7 comments


  1. I used a Selectric II! I loved it, but not as much as the Selectric Word Processor I got in 1982, that let you see two or three sentences at a time on a screen, so you could go back and correct. I hadn’t thought it in years. Thanks for the reminder. Great site, by the way! D.

    Comment by denisek | February 14, 2008

  2. Thanks, Denise! I remember the Selectric Word Processor too, but never used one. We’ve lived through a lot of changes, haven’t we? T.

    Comment by Tina | February 14, 2008

  3. Congratulations on a beautiful and informative website/blog! I am sure many people will find insightful resources and will want to return to visit on a regular basis. Also, I’m honored to be on your short list of links. You stated that you wanted to combine a standard business website with a blog concept. You have done it and done it well. So, does that make this a wog or a blite?

    Comment by Jeff Adams | February 15, 2008

  4. Thanks Jeff! I’m going to do an entire post about you one day!

    Perhaps, since I’m a girl, this site could be a Pollywog. On the other hand, since I do a lot of speaking, it could be Sound Blite. 🙂 T.

    Comment by Tina | February 15, 2008

  5. STILL do use a Correcting Selectric III, and I love it!!

    Comment by Shawn Rodgers | October 14, 2013

  6. Loved this article, thank you. Am currently waiting on delivery of an IBM Selectric III that I ordered from Amazon.com at a fantastic price…cannot wait to feel those keys below my fingertips. I always loved the Selectrics II and III. Not a fan of the Selectric Wheel Writer or Word Processor though. I am retired and would like to write and feel that having the electric typewriter at my fingertips is just what I need to get me started. There is just something about the feel of an electric typewriter; it isn’t the same as a computer keyboard.

    Comment by Theresa | June 21, 2015

  7. I recently bought an IBM Selectric II Correcting on craigslist for $20. It was make in 1984 and was all gummed up. I have repaired it and it works very well. Now I am adding some elements to the collection via ebay. I always liked the sound of the Selectric typewriters even though I have many computers that I could use instead.

    Comment by Glenn | April 28, 2017

Leave a comment