Text 214

It is strange to be reminded now just how noisy was the writing process for most of the 20th Century. There was no question what impact your text had on the world—you could hear it. Each letter was hammered into the paper with a thud, each line celebrated by a little bell and a prolonged crunch as the carriage spring was reloaded.

The decades rolled by and the reception of typed letters grew ever more matter-of-fact, the bell was silenced, the carriage moved electrically; until by the final years, the paper disappeared and the keyboard was a taciturn recipient of gentle digital prodding.

For a while, we were compensated by the frenzied harvest ritual of the dot-matrix print-out; a shrill robot sang out our words in letters made of visible dots on paper with perforations and sprocket-holes on its sides. This space-age artefact looked, more than anything else in that hybrid interlude when paper, ink and electricity managed our thoughts, like a document prepared for other robots to process, like the digits at the bottom of a cheque, a printed receipt for its digitisation.

But once the act of writing had passed through that cacophonous century, it became again the silent act it had always been, now a haptic rite of touching plastic and caressing glass.