Things I miss. miss the sound of manual typewriters.

Typewriters sound like you’re actually doing something, like sentences are being yanked into the world, possibly against their better judgement, and when all is said and done, you will have A Thing to hold and show the world. I should probably note that I don’t miss actually using typewriters (manual or not), because word-processing is much kinder to my bad typing and changing thoughts. But I miss that sound, what sounded to me like the heartbeat of words.

I miss handwritten letters — real letters, not thank you notes, not yearly and uninformative Christmas cards, but real letters. The kind in which my best friend and I would go on for 12, 15, 20 pages, the kind in which people would tease out their thoughts and feelings even as they wrote, thoughts and feelings they might not have shared, had they had access to a backspace button.

I miss LPs. They felt like something substantial, they felt like they really were one step away from the artists themselves. I miss big, 12 x 12 inch cover art, I miss the gatefold of double-albums, I miss the ritual of cleaning the record, cleaning the needle, setting it down, then there’s that scratchy bit and – sound. Much better sound that MP3s, of course, and possibly better than CDs, but I will admit that my ear isn’t sensitive enough for the latter. I miss judging people by how they treated my records, and I miss knowing that that judgement was accurate.

I miss going shopping for school supplies. It’s true that I actually do go shopping for school supplies every year, not once but twice, but the supplies are not for me. I don’t get to choose the folders, or the pencils, or (indeed) the clothes. I don’t get to wake up of a September morning and feel new and shiny. Indeed, at 48, I very rarely feel new anymore, if I do occasionally feel shiny, but the real point, I think, was the pencils and the notebooks. And sure, now I can buy a bunch whenever I want to – but that’s not new. Or shiny. That’s just having a driver’s license.

More than anything, though, I miss my babies and my toddlers. They were lovely, you know? Well, perhaps you don’t, but they really were. Here, see?


The boy.

The girl (and a bee).

The girl (and a bee).

The world is a better place without typewriters and LPs, and my children are a delight at any age. But some things, some times, will always be missed, even if that which comes after is a blessing.

And some things I will never miss. But perhaps that’s a different post.



  1. I also miss LPs, for the same reasons you mention and particularly what you learn about someone by how they handle someone else’s LPs.

    I do not miss carrying more than a couple LPs anywhere for any reason. (Okay, CDs aren’t much better in that department.) I dread the day I must move my LPs (and CDs) and hope I can afford to pay a guy to do it instead.

    • My mother gave away all my LPs at some point…. It’s my version of baseball cards.

    • As someone who worked for a record company, and 20 years in radio, I don’t miss LPs one damned bit.
      I dread the day I must move my LPs (and CDs) and hope I can afford to pay a guy to do it instead.
      I owned 3500-4000 LPs when mrs efgoldman and I met. After moving them three times, I sold just about all of them once it was clear that CDs were going to succeed in the market.
      I miss the ritual of cleaning the record, cleaning the needle, setting it down, then there’s that scratchy bit and – sound. Much better sound that MP3s, of course, and possibly better than CDs,
      Sorry, Emily, but it isn’t so. No-one as ever proved in a true double-blind test that LPs sound better. It is true that in the early days of CD (mid-80s) a couple of major labels, notably CBS, released CDs of existing recordings without changing the equalization (a fancy name for professional-type bass and treble controls) so they sounded awful.
      As a one-time pro, I certainly don’t miss the whole cleaning/cleaning/stylus/crackle. I <especially don’t miss having to hold the record by the edge and label every time I handled it or turned it over (don’t miss that either); gave me thumb/wrist tendonitis so bad I couldn’t let the toddler hold my hand on that side.

  2. How nice. I’ve still got my LP’s wouldn’t part with them for the world (I’ve still got my singles and EPs as well.) I miss the little ones too. They grow up like rockets.

    Did you know that Tom Hanks collects manual typwriters?

  3. dave in texas

     /  January 14, 2013

    I never learned how to type, at least in the traditional sense of placing my fingers at a set point on the keyboard and never having to look at said keyboard when I typed. My first efforts were on a manual typewriter, of course, as I am an old, and what I remember is that you really had to pound the keys to make anything happen.

    The upshot of this really long intro is that I still just hammer at the keys when I type, even though it’s no longer necessary. A guy I worked with several years ago described my typing style not as ‘modified hunt and peck.’ as I’d described it, but as ‘modified search and destroy.’

    As for LPs, I miss not only the cover art, but the tchotchkes that came with them. Lyric sheets that you didn’t a magnifying glass to read. 8×10 glossies of band members (I’ll bet those White Album pix are worth some serious money these days). My Jethro Tull “Thick as a Brick” came complete with a 20-page-or-so full-size newspaper.

    • The tchotchkes! Yes! I loved them! Man oh man alive. When I bought Sgt Peppers, it was already a good 12-15 years old, but I still got all those punch out mustaches and such.

  4. JHarper2

     /  January 17, 2013

    Emily, I never had any toddlers to watch grow up, but I am vicariously watching Jimmy’s toddler grow on his blog, The Book of Jimmy. I defy you to read this post without getting a lump in your throat.


    • I very very ❤ The Book of Jimmy & will read that post anon. When I don't have to get to an elementary school band concert & know I can safely be weepy.

  5. JHarper2

     /  January 17, 2013

    I learned on a manual typewriter and it was drilled into me that you always spaced twice after a period. That is why I cannot give in to the typographical hipsters today and their space only once after a period modern nonsense. It is not like we have a shortage of pixels to display the second space.
    Ironic the way I hang on to that, considering that typing was my absolute worst class in my entire high school career, including phys ed.

    • My mom chocked mein cheinik all through high school to take the after school, no credit typing course. Naah. I had more important stuff to do: band rehearsal, orchestra rehearsal, brass choir rehearsal, imagining I was chasing girls….
      So now, 50 years later, I write letters for a living, and spend most of the rest of my time communicating by typing.
      And dave tx, me too.


      And even in the era of pixels, in eliminates a key stroke, which eliminates the possibility of a typo. It’s why a lot of US newspapers now follow English style wrt periods after letters (ie: US vs U.S.) Fewer keystrokes = fewer typos.