What My Grandmother’s Charm Bracelet Taught Me About the Evolution of Writing Through the Years


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My grandmother went to a two-year secretarial school, the Virginia Intermont in Bristol, Virginia when she was in early 20s. I think that’s when she probably got this charm for her charm bracelet. I didn’t know what it was at first. Can you guess?


At first I thought it was a pizza cutter (with a basting brush attached?) but I eventually learned from my aunt that it’s a typewriter eraser, used to erase individual letters if you happened to make a mistake while typing. There was a special paper used that could withstand the abrasive texture of the eraser so a hole wouldn’t develop.

I’ve starting collecting typewriters because of their nostalgic quality. I brought home an electric typewriter recently and my daughter punched the keys a million miles an hour and declared, “This is the best invention since the computer!” I had to explain to her that actually it was the other way around. I’m a huge techie but I do love the vintage nature of writing. I know that Sylvia Plath typed on a Hermes 2000, Hemingway on a Corona 3 among others, and Steinbeck was partial to a Hermes Baby. I recently added a 1950’s Hermes Rocket. She’s so cute and miniature … designed for travel:


I love the vintage feel of a typewriter I also really love experimenting with fonts and typography on the computer. Here are a few of my favorite free typewriter fonts:


1942 report
american typewriter (Mac font)
mom’s typewriter
kingthings typewriter
my underwood
underwood champion
sears tower
veteran typewriter


We’ve evolved a long way as writers … from cave drawings, to pen and paper, to my first Apple II in the 1980s, and now to iPads and printing straight from our mobile phones. Even my own writing has evolved quite a bit over the last few years. I’m much more reliant on spellcheck now but on the other hand I can write, cut and paste, print and repeat the whole process fifty times over. I’m much more efficient with technology … but I won’t forget where we came from. I’m even going to a type-in this weekend at the local library here in Palm Desert.

Take a look through where we started … and how writing has changed over the centuries. Do you miss any of it? Could you go back to typing on a typewriter or handwriting everything?

  • Cave Drawings 1 of 10

    The earliest form of writing. Cave men liked to document their hunting trips and other large achievements by drawing on walls. While I love the artwork, but the downside is it's not very portable.   

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Printed Books 2 of 10

    The invention of paper and writing tools like the fountain pen and styli changed everything. It was a huge upgrade from having to use bones and animal hide. As paper production evolved, the cost writing materials went down and accessibility went up.

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Letter Writing 3 of 10

    For hundreds of years letter writing was the only form of communication over any long distance. I'm obsessed with Downton Abbey and I love when they get letters relaying news that is probably weeks old.


    I recently watched a heartfelt TED talk by Lakshmi Pratury on "The Lost Art of Letter Writing." It made me want to write a letter. Click here to view.

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Typewriter 4 of 10

    The typewriter was invented in the late 1800s. It was great for people with illegible handwriting. It underwent many different forms and QWERTY was adopted as the keyboard standard at some point. Did you know that many of our writing practices today come from the typewriter like the double space at the end of a sentence and USING ALL CAPS FOR EMPHASIS?

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Computer 5 of 10

    Remember the original Macintosh or the Apple II series? I remember saving everything to floppy dish and then feeling so "techie" with the new smaller hard disks. On the older Apple it was green text on a black background so the newer Macintosh felt space age with it's virtual "desktop" and trashcan. Most printers at the time were dot matrix. I'd print out my papers for high school and tear off the perforated edges that ran it through the printer feed. 

    Photo by via Wikimedia.

  • Laptop 6 of 10

    These days laptops are just as advanced as desktop computers. I backup my writing into the cloud, something that would have seemed inconceivable ten years ago. Have you seen the movie The Words? The author lost his entire book when his wife left it on a train. Good news: it was found years later by another writer. Bad news: the "another" writer passed it off as his own. I still print important items out ... just in case.

    Photo via Wikimedia

  • Texting 7 of 10

    With texting we've evolved into writing with our thumbs and in acronyms. There are even competitions for texting. If you are a skilled "texter" you can compete on speed, skill, and dexterity. Unfortunately I don't text a lot so I can't really speak to any acronyms except "lol" ... and for the longest time I thought it meant "lots of love" and people were just really, really friendly. My texting pet peeve is when people write "k" instead of "ok" ... like that one omission of a letter was really a time saver?

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • iPad 8 of 10

    With the iPad's introduction we can write and store hundreds or thousands of emails, letters, books with a tiny device. You don't even have to physically type them ... there are dictation apps that can translate your voice directly into text that can be edited, emailed and printed. 

    Photo via Wikimedia.

  • Nostalgia 9 of 10

    But I have a confession — as far as we've come with writing — I still gravitate to my handwritten journals each day. I have a huge crush on the original marbled black-and-white composition books. I love the heavy cover and the stitching through the center fold. The more beat up mine get, the bigger the crush. But ... I look to technology to help me preserve them just in case: using mobile printing. See how I make quick copies on the following slide...

  • Mobile Print 10 of 10

    Now there's the ability to print straight from any mobile device to a mobile printer like the HP Envy. So with my handwritten journals I can make copies of pages to print and store in case a journal is ever lost. I use the app Turbo Scan and it takes three photos for an instantly crisp image. Ten seconds later it's on the printer. The best of both worlds.