Friday, September 22, 2006

They Don't Know What They're Missing

I saw a little comic strip in the newspaper today. Grandma tells kid that he is a "carbon copy" of Dad. Kid turns to Mom and whispers "Mom, what's a carbon copy?"

There are some of us who are old enough to remember "carbon copies". (Hell some of us are old enough to be carbon-dated!). Ahh, the joys of carbon paper. Remember trying to neatly fill out those forms in duplicate or triplicate, with those little, flimsy sheets of carbon paper tucked in between each page of the form?

You'd struggle to keep every sheet lined up perfectly as you pressed hard with your ballpoint pen (are those still around?) to make sure that the pen made copies all the way through. I mean you didn't have to worry so much about page 3, because that was usually the copy you got stuck with, but you had to try your best. And then of course, you'd have to figure out how to separate all the pages from the carbon paper without completely smudging up the whole works. Inevitably, you'd wind up with a nice even black coating all over your hands, and it would just wind up a big mess. All this to make efficient copies. Yay. And just try washing that stuff out of clothes...

And speaking of copies, how many folks remember mimeographs? Yeah, who didn't look forward, every day, to the teacher coming in with a stack of white paper, printed in that lovely purple ink? She'd start passing out piles to each row, and everyone would then hand them back to the kid behind them until every kid had his copy. Then, in one fluid motion, every kid would put the sheet to his or her face and sniffffff! Ahh, the paused that refreshed.

Of course, the lucky kids in the last seat in each row would wind up with all the extra mimeo's, which they'd then be required to walk to the teacher's desk. And up they'd walk, sniffing each individual sheet. Ahhhhhhh. This was, incidentally, in a more innocent time, when kids mostly just did this sniffing because the ink smelled good. It wasn't until years later that some smart ass figured out you could get high off a concentration of the mimeograph ink, and ruined it for everyone else.

But I digress.

Some schools and businesses moved ahead in the technology chain, and got themselves a Xerox machine. Xerox machines became very prevalent, so much so, that the name "Xerox" became synonymous with "copy", as in, "hey would you Xerox this page for me?"

But technology came with a price. Those of you who've ever dealt with the ever-dangerous "toner" know exactly what that price was. Yep, dirty hands and clothes! This toner sometimes came in cartridges, but more often in plain old cans. You'd have to use this toner to make the copies in the machine, so it was a necessary evil.

This toner was once studied to see if it was actually a living thing, because, no matter how careful you were, once that can was opened, that stuff would fly out of the can, and attack your nice white shirt, as though it were a predator on a feeding frenzy. You'd go into the Xerox room, but you always remembered to say farewell to your co-workers, just in case you didn't make it out alive. And God HELP you if there was ever a paper-jam inside that machine (which, by the way was a pretty frequent occurrence). Your life would never quite be the same.

There was also the theory that Xerox toner was sold by dry-cleaners, who would then charge a small fortune to clean it out of the clothes of the unfortunate victims of toner attacks. But we'll leave that for another day.

Ah, yes. The poor kids of today. They have no idea what they missed out on. Nowadays, they simply press PRINT, and somewhere across the room, some machine starts spitting out perfectly printed copies of documents they've neatly prepared with Microsoft Word, or Publisher, or something along those lines. (We'll talk about typewriter ribbons at a later date).

And most companies have a guy whose job it is to replace the ink cartridges! We were left on our own with those Xerox machines, and now some "tech guy" gets paid to do the job. There isn't even any danger involved!

I feel sorry for kids today. No mess, no fuss, no fun. They can't even imagine being confined to one room when talking on the telephone because there was a cord attached to the handset.

Damned kids. Got it too easy. And I walked 56 miles each way, uphill, BOTH WAYS, to go to school...


  1. LOL. Great post--it's nice learning about history! Just kidding--I remember (almost) all of that. My kids will never know what a "ditto sheet"

    Annie =)

  2. Anonymous7:54 PM

    Thanks Jimmy for making me feel real ancient! Speaking of stupidsheets...the carbon sheets....

    Sharlene aka Ajoleblon

  3. Anonymous9:15 PM

    I suscribed...I'll be back this weekend to read...I'll save you for Sunday.


  4. carbon paper....and mimeograph machines - i can still get light headed just thinking about those fumes!

  5. Ha! Nice entry. Brought back school boy memories.

  6. Yup...I remember it well. Love your style of bringing it all back. I can almost smell it.


  7. "Damned kids. Got it too easy. And I walked 56 miles each way, uphill, BOTH WAYS, to go to school..."

    You and me both! At least in Angel's eyes. She told me yesterday that I was old. : x Almost three years old and booting out us "old women" already. Dang kid. : )



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