Lawlessly Yours: Tales of the early days of journalism

Bill Lawless
Bill Lawless

You can’t beat the old fashioned tripewriter.

Just smash the forefinger down hard on a key, a bloody great arm with the letter on the end of it leaps up and smashes through the inked ribbon and on to the paper. Please note the word ‘smashes’ is used twice because violence is the keynote here.

My first job on a weekly newspaper was to learn how to hammer huge appliances made proudly by the likes of Remington and Underwood. Later, when two-finger proficiency was achieved, some of were sheer magic.

Staggering back to the office after a boozy night job they produced good stories without me, the author, having the faintest recollection of finding the office, let alone writing anything. Bet you can’t do that on a laptop.

The nights of January 25 were always lost in the mists of memory, this being the night of double celebration. It marked the birthday of Rabbie Burns and, even more important, the birthday of me.

Good scotch whisky flowed like water. Somehow I recorded the proceedings, swiftly realising that my report didn’t matter because all concerned were steaming as much as the haggis.

The coming of computers left me cold. And not just me but also the Kremlin. They are reverting to typewriters as a foolproof means of avoiding electronic snooping. In short, the Russkis are hacked off with the hackers and are going back to good old-fashioned paper.

After the scandals with the spread of state secrets, the Kremlin have ordered a shed-load of Triumph Adler uprights and, presumably, a few tons of carbon paper. I am so pleased that paper is making a comeback. I always reckoned it would have a future. Another virtue of typewriters is their ability to soak up punishment like Joe Palooka, the well-known horizontal heavyweight.

If the keys got a bit sticky with the debris from pork pies and other lunchtime comestibles, all you had to do was turn ‘em upside down, often a two-man job, and shake the machine violently. It didn’t matter much if you dropped ‘em.

I worked on a midlands daily once where the editorial typewriters were chained to the desks so more of them wouldn’t be smuggled out and flogged. The nicked ones must have been snapped up by various industrial museums.

Anyway, up-end a large vodka and toast the typewriter. It’s the communicator of the future. If you don’t believe just ask the Kremlin...