Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Wordy Wednesday

The other side of my college life.


This photo was taken in my freshman dorm room, probably in late 85. The overexposed patch of whiteness I am holding is my very first college paper.

Proof that I did study!

At least during the first semester of my freshman year.

That paper was several pages long. It was typed on this typewriter/early model word processor thing my dad bought me when I asked for an electric typewriter.

(Back in the day they had these things called typewriters. The keyboard made the letters appear on PAPER instead of a screen. It had 0MBs of RAM, but an endless battery life. Then they made them electric, which typed a little faster & you didn’t have to reset the paper roll yourself at the end of a line. It did it for you. Word processors, that could save your typing & even let you edit it ON SCREEN, were just coming out. I would own one in 1991)

What I had looked like the keyboard half of a laptop. With a very narrow, one line wide, screen that ran half the length of the keyboard up at the top. You typed on it and the sentences marched by on the screen. But you could only see what was on the screen. You could add tabs & things but there was no carriage return like on a typewriter, just this tiny one line high screen. So you couldn’t edit easily and you had to pretty much write the whole paper out longhand first because you couldn’t see more than about 60 characters of what you had just written at a time and could not write free form & then go back and fix it later.

But everyone thought it was the greatest gadget ever.

I eventually typed it all up & printed it out,edited it, went back through it 60 characters at a time, corrected it, printed it, repeat. Took me about 4 tries to get right. (this would be a foreshadowing).

It was a paper on Margaret of Anjou, queen of England’s Henry VI and a major player in the Wars of the Roses. I would, over the course of 7 years and 2 degrees, rewrite and reform this paper 4 times. Even now, 20+ years later there is nothing I don’t know about Margaret of Anjou (excluding any source material that has come to light since 1992)

Had I realized that this paper would be the foundation for 4 more papers, each one more thoroughly researched & more heavily footnoted, I would have chosen a subject with more source material. I would have chosen Mary Tudor or Mary Queen of Scots. Possibly even Jane Gray.

Why didn’t I switch material for later papers?

The second time I wrote this paper was sophomore year and I was taking 2 English lit classes plus a journalism class. I did endless writing that semester & it seemed an easy out to just update the old one, make the changes the professor said detracted and change the slant to match the class theme. I still had all the footnote cards. It was a one night job.

The third time was my senior year taking a grad level course. We had a list of topics to choose from for an in depth project we had to present at various points during the semester. I was taking Intense French level 3 & 4. (4 hour class, 5 days a week as opposed to a 50 minute class 3 days a week). I was making my second attempt at passing algebra. There was another history class too. Margaret of Anjou was one of the topics. It felt like fate.

The fourth time I was in grad school. And pretty much it never occurred to me there was any other topic I could write about but Margaret of Anjou, especially for a women’s history class paper. That paper was the worst. I turned in it 3 times before getting final approval. The teacher kept wanting me to expand on various topics & there just wasn’t any info to expand with.

This was before the internet. We had cards in a card catalog that we had to thumb through to find the location of books that might give us information, while being in the actual library. Or we had to request the library get it from some other library for you.

Honestly? I barely remember how I used to get information.

Now I can just google her and cut and paste.

I envy people writing papers these days. Its all there! At your fingertips. The information! The sources! You can see everything you type on the screen! You can move large blocks of text around & add graphics! You have spell check!! You don’t have to make carbon copies or paint White Out over your errors and then retype the correction. There was only one size & style font – Times New Roman.

One problem I had with every paper that wasn’t a biography was ending it. Biographies have a natural end – so & so died in insert year at insert place. They are buried at insert place and here is a fact about that. The end.

In case you haven’t noticed I suck at ending wordy posts.

The end.


SciFi Dad said...

I did high school papers on an electric typewriter with that "erasable" paper (it was somewhat translucent, sort of like onion paper) so I could correct typos.

Creative Junkie said...

OMG - I remember typing out my college papers on an electric typewriter that my parents got me for college! This was back in 1985. I remember thinking White Out was the best invention EVER.

And I remember spending hours and hours and hours in the library for research. And card catologues! We had one computer lab ... one small room full of computers and some of them were bigger than me! There was always a wait for a computer so I usually returned to my typewriter.

I can't even imagine college now - do they even have libraries anymore?

RockyCat said...

Oh, boy, remember the despair when you'd look up a book in the card catalog, go to find it in the stacks, and .... *gasp*.... someone else had checked it out?

Ah, the good old days.

LizzieMade said...

Oh Stacey, this is a Fab post! I love the cute photo of you in your Freshman year - such a sweetie... cute hair! You certainly worked hard at college - you obviously deserve your 2 degrees!
Your description of a typewriter is so funny! I remember helping my BF type up his Thesis for his Masters Degree. We had to hire an electric typewriter from a local stationers. It was a "golf-ball" typewriter, which meant all the text characters were on a "golf-ball", that was fixed onto the centre of the machine. You could take it off and swap it for a different one - Yay! alternative fonts, scientific fonts!! He did Aerodynamics and we neeeeeded those scientific fonts. I could type - he couldn't - and his friend George came down from Nottingham and spent a weekend typing for him. He bought George a great curry and several beers by way of payment! While we were typing, BF spent his time on his diagrams and drawings. All done by hand, with technical drawing pens, rulers and measuring tools, scientific and lettering stencils. Took him days and days. Then it all had to go to the printer, to be copied and bound. He had to submit 5 copies, so he bought 6 - one to keep for himself. A huge amount of work, just to present the thesis that had taken him months to plan and construct!
When I went back to college some years later, we had computers - yay! I just typed it all in, did my diagrams on drawing software, used cut & paste to fix it all together... EASY! I reckon students today don't know how lucky they are - hee, hee!

Maria Ontiveros said...

I remember typing my law school honors paper using carbon paper! Did they not even have xerox machines back then?
Thanks for the memory.

Darcy said...

Eegads - I remember all those notecards and sitting at a card catalog flipping through titles trying to find something that worked. The smell of those things is still engrained in my memory. (man, what I wouldn't give for one now as a piece of furniture!). I remember dropping Freshman English over a paper .... about The Metamorphosis - the worst book ever written. The professor wouldn't allow me to change the book (it was a draw out of hat kind of assignment - bad omen immediately), and so I dropped it. What could you possibly write about a man turning into a bug more than "this book sucked." LOL Thanks for the trip back down college paper lane!

humel said...

Ah yes, I remember you saying that this was your historical period of interest! :-) I love typewriters - can't believe they're considered vintage these days...

Lindsay said...

I often say to my husband, who is 8 years older than me, how did you research without the internet and how did you plan get togethers with friends without evite and cell phones? Not sure he 100% appreciates the questions....

Love your blog and joined your followers. I found you through the Moms Blogger Club.

Comfy Mom said...

They look like they are more filled with computers and tables for your laptops than with books these days