I have not heard of this brand called BBE; have you? Actually, it’s a brand for Olympus. Notice any difference in the layout of the keys compared to our computer keyboard?
I remember growing up in the kampong, my father used to have an Underwood typewriter. As one of the few English-educated men in our kampong, the neighbours often came to him for assistance in official correspondence. Hence the clacking of the Underwood was a familiar sound in our home.
One day, during my Secondary 3 year-end holidays, I was feeling bored and decided to teach myself how to type using my dad’s Pitman’s typewriting manual. I faithfully followed the instructions and practiced the lines; “asdfgf”
After completing the 3 main rows of letters, I decided to stop, and skipped the last section which was for the top row; the row with the numerals. I figured that I would not have much need to use those numerals. I was already quite satisfied with my progress. Whenever I see my friends laboriously ‘typing’ with 2 fingers, and having to fix their eyes on the keyboard while they worked, I feel glad that I invested those hours in this project back in 1967.
It’s been decades since I last used a typewriter. I remember that when you wanted to type a single sheet, you had to use an additional sheet of paper so that the keys would not damage the drum. Of course, if you wanted a duplicate, you had to use a sheet of carbon paper, which was usually blue or black. And when you reached the end of a line, a small bell goes off and you literally had to use you left hand to push the ‘carriage return’ lever. Of course you could manually set the tabs as well as the line spacing and even Cap Lock.
Things have really changed since those typewriter days. I remember looking for a typist to type out our university final-year project report. My project partner was able to get the help of a relative to do the job for us at a discounted rate. Still it was expensive; especially since the university required our report to be typed with double-spacing, and we were charged on a per-page basis.
When I started work as a trainer at the National Productivity Board in 1984, I remember there were two engineers in my IE class who were from Smith Corona. I visited their plant at Bedok South which employed more than 1,000 workers. By that time they were already producing mostly electric typewriters.
There was another typewriter factory located in Ayer Rajah Industrial Estate. Do you know the name? Hint: Begins with the letter ‘O’. I remember bringing a Japanese JIT expert to visit the company sometime in the 1980s.
In the 80s, many companies had started to use the work processor. At our NPB office in Cuppage Centre, we had a huge typing pool (they don’t label us National Paper Board for nothing you know). I think they were using the Philips word processor. The other well-known brand was Wang. Whenever, we had a job, we would submit our draft in the In-tray and explain to the typing pool supervisor our requirements. And then we had to wait; sometimes up to a couple of days, for the document to come back. And then you make the corrections and the process is repeated. It paid to be nice to these ladies as we often needed to beg them to expedite our last-minute assignments.
We certainly have come a long way, haven’t we?
Do you know what this numbers 1, 0 and 2 signify?
I just found another photo of a typewriter among my collection. This one is an Olivetti. I cannot recall with 100% certainty, but I think I took this photo at the AVA Sembawang office in Lorong Chencharu a few years ago. I noticed that they had a typewriter in the corner. I asked them to remove the cover and let me take a photo. They said they used it occasionally to type out cash receipts or something like that.