I didn’t realise that I have said good-bye to a bosom pal – my typewriter. As a journalist I had used a typewriter for many years. After I moved out of Lake House I used the typewriter for my personal work since I had a secretary for my office work. The computer era had begun by the time I retired and naturally I invested in a PC and learnt how to use it for typing. My typewriter was somewhere in the house.
It is encouraging to see that there is a steady increase of computer literacy in Sri Lanka. According to a media report quoting the Department of Census & Statistics, a survey made during the first half of this year had shown that the computer literate population as a percentage of Sri Lanka’s total population stood at 26.8% - an increase of 1.7% points over 2014.
It was also reported that one out of every four households owned either a desktop or a lap top. This means that 25% of Sri Lankan households own computers. As expected, Western Province heads the list with 38.7% of computer-owned households and Uva the lowest with 10%. The urban sector accounts for 42% of such households. Impressive figures, I thought.
It also made me feel sorry for the dear old typewriter. Will it soon be a forgotten piece of office equipment? My first job being at Lake House on the editorial staff of the ‘Dinamina’, while the reporters seated next to our news desk on the left, went on thumping their typewriters, we struggled to write our news stories.
The writing had to be clear and we had to leave adequate space between sentences for the sub-editors to do any corrections and for the convenience of the typesetters. Some English reporters, particularly those who reported proceedings in Parliament were proficient in shorthand which made their job easier. Even after Sinhalese typewriters came to then market, we hardly used them.
Moving over to the ‘Observer’, my ‘typewriter career’ began.
In what was described as “something like a cross between a piano and a kitchen table” when the first-ever typewriter was invented in 1868, soon it became popular when E. Remington and Sons, then famous as a manufacturer of sewing machines, began started production of its first typewriter on March 1, 1873, in Ilion, New York.
I remember buying a portable Remington typewriter from Lake House Bookshop on easy payment terms in the early 1960s. It came in very handy since it was small in size, letters were neat and had a smart carrying bag.
As years passed by electric typewriters were on the scene and private sector companies invested in them for the secretaries to use.
When the computers came it was natural that offices went in for more efficient systems and typewriters gradually were on the way out.
Today a person is considered computer literate if he/she could use a computer on his/her own. According to the definition of ‘computer literacy’ of the Department of Census and Statistics, a five year old child who is capable of playing a computer game, is also considered as computer literate.
While the highest percentage of population using internet and e-mail facility in the country is in the Colombo District, Mullaitivu and Moneragala Districts recorded the lowest percentage of population that uses internet and e-mail respectively. Soon these are also bound to show more encouraging figures.