On the day I was born, my parents told me, a neighbour gave them an old, upright, cast iron typewriter. Not seeing it for the omen it was, they chose to leave it behind when they moved to their new council house. So, for my twelfth Christmas present, they had to go out and search junk shops until they found another old typewriter. A good present: I was still using it seven years later. I started my career on it, even though I could hardly lift it and was constantly having to move it (to make way for meals). Just bashing the keys down was a work-out.
For those who've never seen or used such a thing:- bashing a key levered up a long metal stem, on the end of which was a metal stamp forged in the shape of a letter. This slammed an inked ribbon against the sheet of paper rolled into the machine, thus transferring an image of the letter to the paper. There was a whole nest of these metal stamps on stems - one for every letter, plus punctuation marks. When you typed fast and raised more than one stem at a time, they'd mesh together, and you had to stop and dislodge them.
If you wanted a copy of your work, you had to layer a sheet of carbon paper between your two sheets of plain paper, and roll this flimsy sandwich into the machine. If you needed two copies, then you had to add another sheet of carbon, and another sheet of plain to your sandwich. Then you had to align all these flimsy, floppy sheets, and persuade them to be rolled into the typewriter without becoming creased or misaligned. This seldom happened.
But what I dreaded about the typewriter was changing the ribbon. The inky ribbon, black above and red below, wound backwards and forwards between two reels on top of the machine. At the middle, it passed through a clip, which held it in place for the keys to strike. It was a simple, uncomplicated system, and worked very well, except that, eventually, the ink in the ribbon ran out. So much did I hate changing the ribbon that I would keep using the old one until people thought I was using some kind of MI5 designed machine for spies, with special invisible-ink ribbons.
Removing the old ribbon was easy and clean - there was no ink left on it to make a mess. You opened the spools, took out the ribbon, and threw it away.
But as soon as you opened the new ribbon's packet, you were smothered in ink. You still had to unwind it, tether one end to a spool, thread it through the little clip, and fasten it to the other spool. A fiddly business, all of it. By the end, you needed a change of clothes and a bath.
I'll draw a veil over the rug-biting rage that came on me when I discovered I'd put the ribbon in upsidedown, and would have to type everything in red unless I took it out and started again.
And then, one day, a friend showed me his Amstrad computer...