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Thursday, 6 January 2022

Keeping the Memory of Typewriters Alive in Lockdown

I was tick-tacking yesterday with Typospherian and Canberra Times journalist Jasper Lindell about the constant flow of by-lined front-page lead stories he has been producing lately. It hasn’t been easy for a dinki-di journalist like Jasper to stay on top of developing yarns, as he has mostly had to work from home during the past two pandemic-ridden years. No sooner had the Canberra Times announced an award for Jasper, the week before Christmas - at a function to unveil plans for a new city office - than the virulent new variant Omicron struck Australia with a vengeance and sent reporters scurrying back to their domestic desks.

I know Jasper yearns for the kind of days I enjoyed in newspaper strewn newsrooms, when one could barely hear oneself think above the clatter of typewriters and newswire machines, and the constant loud chatter of editors and reporters. Those wonderful, deeply cherished days when smoke dimmed the ceiling lights and the room stunk of cigarettes and printers ink and glue. In the course of our online conversation, I sent Jasper a photo of Woodward and Bernstein in their Watergate days, as the two Washington Post reporters exchanged Nixon notes over an Olympia SG standard typewriter. I said to Jasper that at least he had an Olympia or two, if not an SG3, to help recreate that scenario in his home.

Jasper responded with a great image of the Canberra Times newsroom back in the 1970s, when the staff was still working on Mort Street in the city. Jasper has placed the print in the carriage of his Olivetti 82, since that was the model most prominent in the Canberra Times newsroom photo. Conditions on Mort Street were extremely cramped and cluttered, and that decidedly accentuates the impression of a busy, bustling, productive newsroom. Still, it’s one of the best newsroom pics I’ve ever seen – the more so, of course, because of the number of typewriters in it. Yes, it even makes me pine for “the good old days”, when lung-busters impaired no-one’s pursuit of the truth in their haste to beat deadlines amid such extreme disorder.


Daniel Burgoyne said...

Fascinating photo! I have never seen tables like those that can sit 6 people around and with four small drawers underneath.

I see also a blank paper holder sitting on top of dividers. Clever!

Would you please enlighten us about the use of so many typewriters with very large carriages?


Jasper Lindell said...

While I'd much rather be in the newsroom - even with its contemporary tidiness, smoke-free air and silent keyboards (though, my mechanical keyboard adds a touch of sound to the place) - I was thinking I'm glad I wasn't working from home in the hot-metal era. I imagine filing upwards of 2000 words a day over the phone would become tiresome, particularly if we were running out multiple editions. And think of the home phone bill!
- Jasper Lindell

Richard Amery said...

Liked the article Robert, we met Jasper a few times during our typewriter trips and it is very pleasing to see him meet success in his chosen career. Pass on our best wishes.