Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Black Is Beautiful

T Is For Typestar

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON

When I bought it in London 22 years ago, it was pretty hi-tech. Canon had just updated their Typestar range and the Canon Typestar 5 was as hi-tech as you could get. I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning as I walked into Debenham's in London to buy it.

If you were in line behind me, I do apologise for the delay. It was as if I was buying a Rolls-Royce. But hey, to a journalist, the Typestar was pretty much the Rolls-Royce of gadgets anyway.

Did I want gold, the salesperson asked. I recoiled. Nope. Too flashy. Not me. So not me. Did I want black? Yep, that would do me just fine. Classy and understated was what I was after. And d'you know what? After I'd paid for it, I probably spent an hour in the electronics area of Debenham's, working my way through every function on that beautiful typewriter.

In reality, it wasn't black. It was sort of a slate grey. But so classy. And it was so slick and easy to use. It had a battery pack, or you could run it off mains power. Weren't happy with either of those options? Well, pardner, you could run it on four batteries as well. I walked out of there with a grin that was broader than the Rio Grande.

Over the next two and a half years, I took it on more international assignments to cover cricket and tennis events than I can remember. It was with me on every flight I took. As soon as the seat belt sign went off, I would get it out and start work. Back then, it was a complete novelty and so it always drew curious glances and the inevitable question: ``What is that?’’

It was the ultimate accoutrement for sportswriters.

It was about the size of a laptop and not much heavier, so I was able to work silently and efficiently on the many domestic and international flights I took during my time as a sportswriter. My colleagues would be sitting there sifting laboriously through hand-written notes, while I watched my reports unfold on the beautiful white thermal paper that scrolled so smoothly and whisper-efficiently through its slender casing.

Back in the days when computers were a luxury rather than a necessity, the Typestar was a sleek beast. You would let your fingers glide over the quiet keyboard, read what you’d written on the display screen and – if you didn’t need to edit or correct it – hit the print button.

At a time when a Walkman was seriously cool, the Typestar was the ultimate in cred.

About a month after I bought it, India pulled off an upset Davis Cup win against Sweden, who had Mats Wilander, Wimbledon semi-finalist Anders Jarryd and a young Stefan Edberg in their ranks. On the flight home, I used the Typestar to write my report and a lengthy feature article. By the time I landed, it was all done. Clean print. Easy typeface. No corrections. No worries at all.

I’ve never thrown the Typestar out. It sits in my study, a few feet away from where I write this post.

Gun-metal grey. And it’s still so cool. Even for an antique.


dot said...

What an interesting "T" post and it seems to have served you well.

Pope Terry said...

She looks a wonderful piece of machinery.

Nadine said...

It does look like a slick piece of machinery. I would have kept it also.

Thank you for stopping by today and your words of encouragement.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Dot,

I don't think I'll ever get rid of it. Might turn into an heirloom one day!

Keep smiling


david mcmahon said...

G'day Your Eminence,

And who knows better about celestial qualities than yourself!!

Keep smiling


david mcmahon said...

Hi Nadine,

Interesting too, that with all the advances in design technology that it still looks slick, 22 years down the track!

Keep smiling


mrsnesbitt said...

Oh David, you have reminded me of my story for the Weekend Wandering!

Strangely enough, Jon has an old laptop which he uses in the workshop. It is one of the view which can "talk" to his cncmachines.

Hyderabad Daily Photo said...

Indeed it still looks slick even now. I did not know such a machine existed. I had only seen electric typewriters. I would have also hung on to it. I am impressed you remember so many details from that long ago (who played etc).

CG said...

What a lovely tribute to your beloved "gadget". I'm so glad you kept it!

imac said...

Very interesting and what a great Post David.

thought comes to mind (2 Antiques side by side.) lol. Pardon the Pun.

Mike said...

Very posh indeed David. The question is though; does it still work?

Ackworth Born said...

This looks sleek - my first electric tripewriter [sic] was an expensive white elephant.

kml said...

Very original T!

it's the little things... said...

You have brought up some serious memories of old, forgotten novels typed on the Typestar. Thanks for the trip!

dickiebo said...

We have a very ancient Olivetti manual typewriter cluttering up our house. Barbara ('er indoors) will never part with it. Tell you summat! If she 'goes' before me, then she really can keep it! Long term!
PS. Thanks for popping in, and - I'm just a commoner!

Tiffany Norris said...

LOVE my electric typewriter! In fact, that was my favorite Christmas present years ago! It wasn't a Typestar, but I'm still fond of it.
Thanks for the tribute.

Neva said...

I love your posts! This is such a good one...and now it is just an antique that kids would not have a clue what to do with it!
Great "T".

Misty Dawn said...

I still have an electronic typewriter/word processor too. It comes in handy for filling out those 'paper forms' for my virtual assistant clients.

Luke said...


I wonder what we'll be writing on 22 years from now?

It's a nice reminder of how quickly things change.

Anonymous said...

Very lovely! Reminds me of the first Selectric I used, I won't tell you when, but it was in Toronto, back in the day! It also was in a class of its own and subsequent 'updates' were no comparison, memory or not. Of course these were not the laptop size by any means, as we well know. But it does bring back memories - I had just arrived in North America, en route from London, and this was the most glamorous machine yet! Recently I was desperate for a typewriter at work and found one stashed away in a janitor's closet - saved my life again!

Kerri said...

Wonderful "T" post. I could really "feel" how much this Typestar meant to you!

Casdok said...

They dont make tham like they used to!
I sound like my mother! I must be getting old!!

Jim Baker said...

hey i'm brand new to the whole ABC Wednesday thing and trying to make the rounds and introducing myself.

isn't it crazy how TECHNOLOGY theres another T word ages so quickly and things become obsolete in no time?

you can check out my T post here.

jim baker

CHEWY said...

I had one of those Typestars. Pre-laptop, pre-PC. I typed my resume and some poems on it. It was cool. Sold mine at a yard sale about 8 years ago. Sold it cheap too.

B.T.Bear (esq.) said...

Mummy haz wun like this, but not a cannon. Carnt member the mayke. Epsom? She got it in the erly 90s. How much did yu pay for yors? Hers waz £122!

Rachel said...

How neat!
Allow me a moment of snark:
An antique for an antique.
Okay, sorry.. couldn't resist.
That's wonderful that you've kept it. I got a typewriter from my Grandfather years ago and thought I was the bees knees. It still is, even thought it weighs a ton. :-)
Thanks for sharing your wonderful world with us.

photowannabe said...

Terrific T post. I always learn things I had no knowledge of before. that machine would always be in my possession too.

Vic Grace said...

I would have had to have one of those.

Peter M said...

Great tool and well used, is it worth anything

Nicole said...

Memories... I learnt on one of those typewriters. I hated the whole experience but am so grateful for knowing how to type.

Kate Isis said...

I miss typewriters.
Great ABC shot David and a great story to go with it.
I think computers with their instant erase have destroyed for all time the factors I'd need to become a typist.

Chet said...


I came across your post when I googled for Canon Typestar. The reason for the google was to find a picture as comparison to the portable word processor that I am now using, the AlphaSmart Neo (that is it in my avatar). The comparison is that the Neo, with its keyboard and screen, looks like an updated version of the Canon Typestar.

Have you heard of the AlphaSmart Neo? Similar concept as the Canon Typestar, but no print-out. Instead, text is stored in memory and then "sent" to a computer.

Do you use any portable word processor these days? I don't mean a laptop, but something meant only for typing and without Internet distractions. If you aren't, you may want to consider the AlphaSmart Neo. More information on the AlphaSmart Product Information page, as well as the Flickr AlphaSmart group.