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Iain Maciver: Tom Hanks is a Big fan of typewriters but they belong in the past

Actor Tom Hanks collects typewriters.
Actor Tom Hanks collects typewriters.

Remember manual typewriters? What a complete faff these clanky old word looms were.

You needed a well-oiled one and they cost a small fortune to service, as well as yards of ribbon to make their mark. These spools with black and red ink-soaked fabric that had to be thumped by the keybars, or the paper strikers, onto the platen, the rubber roll. The idea was to somehow leave what looked more or less like asdf on the left and jkl: on the right. Other keys were available.

You also needed error correction, known in some offices as Dulux fag papers and typewriter cream. Popular brands of error fixers were Tippex, Liquid Paper and Snopake. If you don’t remember these, you must have been asleep in the 70s and 80s. These were to simply blot out your mistakes. Beside each desk was a large wastepaper basket. This was for crumpled typing paper which had been flung there just after the shrieks of “Oh no. Not again”. Entire rain forests were in my bin. It was a jungle down there.

Acting legend’s a Big fan of typewriters

So I’m not with American acting legend Tom Hanks, who collects old typewriters. He wants us all to keep our ancient office pianos in case they may come back into fashion. Mate, grow up. I know you played a kid who wanted to grow up in the movie Big. You put a coin in an old fairground machine and woke up the next day as an adult – with a 12-year-old’s mind. Listen, the return of clicky typewriters instead of self-correcting connected computers ain’t gonna happen, big man.

Even if you can type a letter to your auntie in a power cut to say thank you for the Christmas socks and write to the Queen to congratulate her for driving at the age of 95, they won’t get your good wishes for a few days. Too long, dude. Nor you can use a clanky old Olivetti or Smith-Corona to go on Facebook – or should I say Feta. No, wait. That’s a cheese. I’m sure the Facebook company’s new name starts with M. Meat? Mate? I haven’t met a single person who likes the new name. That’s it, Meta.

The last portable typewriter I used had a sticking key. Taking it back to the London shop where I had only paid a deposit, the shopowner couldn’t see the problem. I typed something to show him. It read: “A k y is sticking on this typ writ r.” Nothing wrong, he fumed. “You lie, mister. You lie like a flatfish.” I just wanted my deposit back but the shop owner wanted the rest of the balance there and then.

Kids younger than Greta come out on Halloween and sing songs. Not last week though.

I was not having that. I handed back the Smith-Corona and left with the owner threatening to send debt collectors after me. That was in 1985 and I was about to move back to Stornoway. One day, because of many years of accruing interest, his heavy mob may turn up to seize all my worldly possessions. Oh heck. I’d better keep the door bolted.

Is anyone listening at COP26?

Meanwhile, the door was virtually bolted on people who could not get near their own homes because of some conference in Glasgow. The climate crisis is being discussed by the 26th Conference of Parties (yep, that’s what COP26 stands for) but no one is actually listening. With sleepy Joe Biden apparently having a wee norrag now and again, the star of the show is not Boris, despite his attempts at being statesmanlike. Yon wee Greta Thunberg again. Singing a very rude ditty which sounded like Ye Can Shove Your Climate Crisis Aff A Bus the other night in Govan.

Kids younger than Greta come out on Halloween and sing songs. Not last week though. Who turned up at the door on Friday but these two big hefty lads. They came straight out with it and demanded: “Hey you, mister. We want money.” They were scary as they seemed older than usual. Still after lockdown, everyone wants to have a bit of fun. Their costumes were really realistic. They were dressed in black uniforms with badges which said Sheriff Officer.

These two guys insisted on staying put until they got something worth a bit of money. I now wonder if these two actually wanted to recover the balance for that dud portable typewriter, plus 36 years of interest? I didn’t wait to find out. I gave them a lolly each and told them to get lost.

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