You Kids These Days. Harumph.

Chapter 1- 1st Draft-Charlotte's Web

Chapter 1- 1st Draft-Charlotte’s Web

As a college student in late 1970s, on an evening’s walk down the dorm hall, the sound of distant horses at a gallop was common. It was the sound of students and their typewriters -tap tap tap tappity tap tap ah shit tap tap tappity crap taptaptap –at work on papers.

The ah shit and crap? That was the sound of mistakes. Whilst the creative process which takes place inside the mind has not changed one bit, the physical process which allows others to share in one’s work has changed dramatically. You kids today. You have it so easy.

One would spend hours in the library. One would riffle through a card catalog in search of source material. Once one found useful books, their locations must needs be recorded. One would store this data, handwritten, on small scraps of paper. One would then traipse through 6 stories of library in search of books, real hard-bound books, which weighed 6 pounds each. Once found, one would leaf through the aforesaid real books, page by page, and transfer useful information, data, and quotes onto 3 x 5 index cards. On a master list, one would copy down the pertinent citation information; author(s), publisher, date of publication, page numbers – all to be collated at the end of the process into an end notes page.

Armed with a stack of note cards fourteen inches tall, one sat at a long wooden table with a pen or pencil and a legal pad and began to make sense of one’s thesis. This handwritten first draft resembled more a live-action map of a Jack Russell terrier as he chased a squirrel across the quad than the thoughtful prose of a successful pre-law student or soon-to-be novelist. Once down on yellow paper, the first draft could be moved back to one’s dorm for further revision and typing.

Whether the project was a term paper, an essay, or a theme, the typing process started with one’s choice of paper.

One might opt for cheap printer-style paper, and one would know full well that an adequate supply of Wite-out(1) would soon become inadequate. If one was truly well-off, one might own a Smith-Corona Coronet(2) Super 12 Coronomatic portable electric with a correction tape cartridge.

Alternatively, one might opt for expensive onion skin paper. Luxurious and crackly to the touch, onion skin paper had a deeply cockled pattern which made, when matched with a high quality art gum eraser(3), for ease in erasure. One needed to erase any mistakes before removing the paper from the typewriter’s roller platen. Failing that, it was impossible to properly re-align the machine with the still typed words; a sure sign of the term paper rookie.

Whichever choice one made, one was forced to type several versions of the paper. The first typed draft would be scrutinized, covered with arrows and x-ed out sections and carets to indicate changes, and a second typed draft prepared. With the completion of draft number two, the process of scrutiny would be repeated.

The final draft would be typed; ponderously, thoughtfully, and hopefully, sans error, on the aforementioned Smith-Corona Coronomatic machine with an eraser tape cartridge. If one did not own one, one was always available for rental from a roommate or friend of a friend for an appropriate amount of adult beverage. If one was particularly flush, one might hire a typist with an Fortune 500 CEO-worthy IBM Selectric(4) machine at fifty cents a page to prepare a perfect copy.

Regardless of method, the process was tedious.

You kids today, you’ve got it easy. You open the laptop. You check your Twitter feed. You click on the WORD icon. You skim through Reddit and Tumblr. You click CREATE and a blank page awaits. You launch your Spotify app and don your Beats by Dre® headphones.  You check your Twitter @mentions again and start tapping away to whatever your Spotify playlist has going. You  CTRL-C & CTRL-V a few wayward sentences into a new spot. You CTRL-Z some stuff that sucks. You open a few tabs that you previously bookmarked as needed for information on your paper. You write a few more paragraphs. Your Skype®  window pops open and you tell your Mom and Dad that you are busy being a student and now is not a good time. You can’t remember the site where you read about the plight of Cuban Mariel boat people in 1980. Hello Google!

You hit end notes in the dropdown. Citations in place. Bam.

You hit spellcheck.  Typos and misspellings are fixed. Boom.

You hit your proofing and grammar tab. You’ll be apples!

You give it one more quick re-read. Save to the flashdrive, just to be sure, and send it off via Blackboard, et voilà, who wants to go to the bar?

You kids today, wherever you go to college, I hope the snow is thigh-deep and the walk is uphill both ways. You kids today. Harumph.

<I kid. I am wildly jealous.>


  1. You might be interested to know that Wite-out, first known as Liquid Paper, was invented by Betty Nesmith Graham in 1956. She was a part-time window sign painter and full-time executive secretary. She sold the company to Gillette for $48 million in 1979. Ms. Graham might be better known as the mother of former Monkee, record producer, and video director Michael Nesmith.
  2. {Click Here} to see a real Smith-Corona
  3. Little shreds of gum eraser, properly shaped and colored with a bit of pencil lead, made for excellent imitation boogers. A friend told me this.
  4. {Click Here} to see a cool IBM Selectric website



The Beginning
About David Stanley

Teacher & science guy, writer, musician, coach, skier and bike racer, I am interested… in everything; your story, food & spirits and music and everything in the natural world, spirit & sport. My son is 22 and still needs his Dad. I am 56 and so do I.
I blog on life and death, cancer and sports, kids and education at

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