Hint, it never worked well at all….

Long before computers, there were typewriters.

Typewriters that did not come with spell checker or backspace keys that would instantly wipe out mistakes.

What to do?  Well, a variety of really quite bad products and items were invented to deal with this problem.

White Out is perhaps the best known.  It was invented by a secretary, who also happened to be the mother of my favorite Monkee, Michael Nesmith.  It’s also known for its inhaling qualities, which can lead to anything from brain damage to a funny looking white mustache.

When visiting the Mall in Washington DC with my daughter we came across this sculpture.  I knew she would have no clue what it was.  She guessed for a long time (I pointed out the ones I had owned were much smaller).


If you are over 40, you of course know this is a typewriter eraser, with a brush to wipe away the hopefully erased mess.  If you are over 40 you know this also worked horribly and usually resulted in a hole in your paper.

I remember using erasable typewriter paper, which did erase well. In fact, it would erase on your hands, clothing and anything else it touched.  White Out, while working well as a cover up, and you could retype over your mistake, was known for sometimes just flaking off.  I have to admit I would sometimes white-out a white-out, until there was a small mountain of it on the page.  I blame myself, and not the product, for the flaking problems I encountered.


Now this invention works well, and these lovely DC employees were happy to help the tourists enjoy the Cherry Blossoms!

Today, hurrah for computers, spell check and auto save and printers.

Long may typewriter erasers, that no one I can find can say a good word about, reside as sculptures!  This makes much better art than it ever did as an eraser.

Categories: General Stuff!

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5 replies

  1. Um, Mike Nesmith was a Monkee, well, a monkey, too.

  2. The IBM Selectric we had (fancy schmancy) had a whiteout roll that, when you hit backspace, it shifted that roll in place of the ink roll and placed a (sometimes not so) perfectly placed white space character over the erroneously typed character. It was brilliant, but you could still kind of see it.

  3. I learned to type (and quite well) on a heavy, black Underwood typewriter that you had to pull the carriage return back with handle. I just recently sold it. Boy, did I get excited when a real electric typewriter became available.

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