What They Wrote With

List of machines used for professional and personal endeavors from 1972 to the present.


Royal manual typewriter, the R. Waters Memorial AP press-room machine acquired during a beer-soaked deal at the Why Not Lounge and used at Cardinal Associates in Charlotte, NC. It has the AP Property# stenciled on the side. It fell off a U-Haul and is irreparably frozen in time. Now ignobly rusting in the toolshed.

  • IBM Selectric (a runaway train with interchangeable spinning golfball and fixed platen; sleek, fast as a hit of speed; once owned one in British racing green and wish I’d kept it for its Jaguar looks).
  • IBM TSO 3270 terminal, and primitive text editor, working off an oversized HAL mainframe in TX (Fluor).
  • DEC VAX UNIX terminal, and RUNOFF text compiler (first in-office terminal, i.e. not shared; came on a wheely cart with fifty pounds of cabling spaghetti and a blinking modem; used happily at Western Geo in Houston circa 1984).
  • Apple iie with add-on’s and WordPerfect (first home computer purchase, at such an exorbitant price I financed it like a car); tank-like but with little memory, two floppy holes, and a green-lettered 40-character screen, later expanded with an 80-column card.
  • Brother Electric typewriter (backup writing machine in the 80s, suitably noisy but a workhorse. Traded it to a dental assistant for a free cleaning.
  • IBM SPF 3278 terminal, and ISIL code (on-site at an IBM contract gig; the PF keys and weird red-starry-green displays proved more confusing than ever).
  • Epson – IBM PC clone, w/WordStar (at an IBM contractor company; the PC was garbage, as was the gig).
  • Data General, CEO word processor module (off the mini, at the Travelers software company; a stodgy system but intuitive; had a comfy-clunky keyboard).
  • IBM XT, w/WordStar (a 2-hole floppy disk special, grinded gears and groaned all day; it did, however, have a nice, tank-solid keyboard; se habla DOS aquí).
  • IBM AT, w/WordPerfect on an actual LAN (faster, but all that coding in WP using f-keys was painful, and keyboards were going lightweight, like typing on plastic hollow box).
  • Macintosh SE, w/Appleworks (FlightSafety’s tool of production – as required by our main client FedEx – and a damn good one in most respects).
  • IBM Windows PCs and laptops for years and years at AT&T; some machines were okay, some awful, all of them mediocre; the company usually gave us stuff near market expiration, like secondhand executive ThinkPads via trickle-down provisioning. MS-Windows OS in endless iterations, ending in my case with Vista, oh what a dog…
  • iMac G4 – Lollipop model, aka Lampstand, 14″ on swivel stick w/hemisphere base, circa 2003, retired 2011 and stored in the backroom closet as a museum piece.
  • Macbook Pro – reliable laptop backup and mobile unit.
  • iMac desktop (have had 2) – present workhorse, an aluminum 21″ slab with a simple wired chiclet keyboard. I’ve worn out the lettering on the S key. Otherwise durable, having endured food crumbs, sneezes, irate text-pounding, and beer spills.