Click Harder

I have a favorite computer guy that I call up when something goes wrong. His first piece of advice is always, “Click harder.” This is accompanied by a dead-pan look (which I can’t see, but know he’s doing) and a slight chuckle.

He used to tell me, “Re-install Windows,” but he knows that I’ve converted to Mac now and am too smart to fall for that.

Usually I’m calling him because I just need to figure out how to do something. Macs rarely have ‘click harder’ problems.

One problem I’m having lately truly is a ‘click harder’ problem: my trackpad is sinking — but only on the corner where I click. My computer guru told me how to configure it so I don’t have to click as much, but it’s a hard habit to break. I am a hard-clicker.

I confess to having worn out several keyboards. On my last laptop I had to have the keyboard replaced because the spacebar wouldn’t work anymore. It’s hard to writewithoutaspacebar. Everything turns into one long word, and the spell-checker goes nuts.

Why am I so hard on keyboards? To answer that, I will have to date myself. Though my youthful appearance and tech-savvy flair belie it, I grew up when there were no computers. I learned to ‘keyboard’ on thing we used to call a ‘typewriter.’ These were not machines that could be plugged into a wall socket (though we had heard of electricity back then). Rather like a car without power-steering –yes (*sigh*) they used to have those, too — a typewriter ran on finger-power. The harder you click, the harder the typebar (the arm-like thingy with the letter on it) would swing up and strike the paper, and the darker the letter would be.

Back then, the only memory we had of what we typed was paper and ink. If you wanted a copy, you used carbon paper. If you made mistakes, they were hard to fix; mostly we just tried to type accurately. Before correction fluid, we used a sort of reverse-carbon paper: a small piece of chalky paper. Inserted between the ribbon and the type guide, it would cover the offending letter with white so that it could be typed over. There was erasable typing paper, but it was crinkly, like parchment. It was a sign of cowardice to use erasable paper.

Miss Palmer taught me how to type when I was in the ninth grade. We all thought that she had probably been teaching since the typewriter was first invented in 1867. Drill and repetition were her method, set to a march tune or a tango played on an ancient phonograph. When class began, she put a record on and we typed: f,f,f, space; j,j,j, space…

I am a very fast typist, thanks to Miss Palmer.

When I went off to college, I took my Smith Corona with me. I think it weighed more than my suitcase. That machine saw me through a lot of papers on lot of subjects that I have forgotten; the machine has forgotten, too. I find it hard to remember how I worked that way.

We live in a day when words can be wasted, like digital photographs that we take and delete. The evidence of bad writing doesn’t have to stick around long enough to incriminate us — or make us take a second look. One click and it’s gone.

Does this make us better writers?

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