National Museum of Scotland's typewriter exhibition has got bits of my life on display – Susan Morrison

The Yorkshire husband and I took a trip to the museum to see the typewriter exhibition.

Friday, 28th January 2022, 12:30 pm
Learning how to type stood Susan Morrison in good stead for the arrival of the computer age (Picture: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)
Learning how to type stood Susan Morrison in good stead for the arrival of the computer age (Picture: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s a gorgeous little gem, if you happen to like typewriters, which I do. I’m in good company. Tom Hanks likes them too.

I learned to type at school. I was in sixth year, and already heading for university, but gap years didn’t exist back then. You just stayed on. Also, I was made a prefect. I sported gold braid on my uniform, which promptly unleashed my inner fascist. I had to have a certain number of classes, and secretarial studies was suggested.

My newly awakened snob was appalled. Secretarial? Moi? Destined for greater things, me. I had a Latin Higher. But I deigned to sit with the Sharons and Junes, who, I quickly discovered, skelped my hide when it came to typing, and my competitive spirit couldn’t take that. Boy, my fingers flew across those keys.

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Of course, Miss Snob 1976 was actually learning one of the most vital skills of the 21st century. Back then, typing was for secretaries, writers and clerks, but now everything is online. Even getting your mince from Tesco requires a command of the Qwerty keyboard.

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To this day I still touch type, but on near-silent computer keyboards. The machines I learned on had romantic names like Remington, Royal and Olivetti, and they made a right old racket.

Until I visited the exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland, I had forgotten the sound of the clack of the keys. Even better was the ting and satisfying smack of the carriage return when you whacked it over. The joy of rolling in a fresh sheet of paper. Fitting a new typewriter ribbon.

Mind you, it’s always a start to see bits of your life in a museum. They’ve got the same Olivetti I sat that secretarial studies ‘O’ Level on, and the Smith Corona portable typewriter I took to university on display.

It’s a great exhibition. Do pop in, if only to experience the warm welcome you get from the staff, who really are chuffed to welcome people back for days at the museum.

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