Saturday, June 27, 2015

Waiting for the chime

It's been 33 years since I used a manual typewriter, with its elegantly curved return lever and the chime that signaled when I was within five characters of the right-hand margin. I loved that chime, which seemed to congratulate me on having written yet another line, and even more I loved the hefty swing that brought the carriage back to the left-hand margin. Today, I simply rattle off words until it seems I have enough for a paragraph.

Then I touch a key oddly named "Enter." (Why not "Return"?) In almost every software, a word that doesn't fit on the present line is automagically moved to the next. With one exception! I compose mostly on WordStar, a 1990s program that presents me with gray letters on a blue background, very restful to the eye, that is far quicker than any Windows or Mac word processor, and that allows me to compose in "document" or "non-document" mode. The latter is ideal for writing web pages or e-books, but if I don't use the carriage return (sorry: Enter key) most paragraphs will run off the end of the screen. So whenever I get close to the right-hand side--that's after about 75 letters or numbers or spaces--I start a new line.

This was brought home to me this morning when I decided to add a chapter to a manuscript (sorry: document) already prepared for the web, and it seemed easier just to go to the end and start writing. So I am using the electronic equivalent of the carriage return--but I do not hear the warning chime, and I miss it.


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