The entire experience felt wonderful in a number of different ways, too.
First of all, the importance of many of the typewriters and computers in Spain back in 2016 went over my head. But at the radio station, I understood most of what was going on. The research I’ve done and the time spent embedded in the world of keyboards, were now paying off. This wasn’t just fascinating as a random freeze frame of the past – just like with at least one earlier road trip
, it was past I could read with ease.
I understood that the paper tape I saw in various places
– dots on one side, dashes on the other – was what eventually led to ASCII and Unicode. I knew that the yellow areas
on the cool 24-hour clock were there to aid with radio silence in the literal, not figurative sense
. I understood the value of a more modern, semi-automatic Morse keyer
. And I knew typewriters being used as mills was the first building block in QWERTY’s path to domination. In time, QWERTY keyboards would take over everything: creative writing, desktop publishing, calculations, games, Chinese typewriters… but the long-distance typewriter superseding the Morse key was an earliest example, happening even before typewriters turned penmanship into a rare skill.
If knowing all this context feels so great to me, I thought, perhaps people who’ll read the book might feel the same?
I am also happy with this photo because this is exactly the kind I’d love to see in my book. Not just a competent, sharp photograph of a keyboard, but a photo that is itself a story, providing depth, context, and emotion.