Poor Man’s Laptop

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This photo — taken by Kitty Palm-Houser during my first canoe trip to Marietta — was used as a column header for Hoot, a humor tabloid I once published.

My first laptop computer consisted of a 1950s-vintage Royal portable typewriter, a Rubbermaid Action Packer storage tub, and legs made out of PVC pipe.

I carted it more than 150 miles down river from Brinkhaven to Marietta, Ohio. From  campsites along the river, I wrote my weekly columns for the Columbus Guardian. I had prearranged with businesses along the way to use their fax machines to send the columns to the paper. One of the businesses, a golf course in Beverly, Ohio, had never used their fax machine to send out faxes. They only used it for golfers to reserve tee times.

This was in the early ’90s, when laptop computers were relatively new technology — and had the battery life expectancy of a geriatric fruit fly. They also were impractical because transmitting text would have been impossible. Especially from southeastern Ohio. Although things have improved, three years ago you still couldn’t get a Verizon signal on the Little Muskingum River.

Of course, my poor man’s laptop had apps. There was Word Imperfect — i.e. typewriter paper and Wite Out. I also had a standalone dictionary app — a paperback version of the American Heritage Dictionary. Unfortunately, no matter how many times I put my clustered fingertips on the page and spread them out, I couldn’t make the type larger. It was on this trip that I discovered I no longer had 20-20 vision.

Sadly, the manuscripts no longer exist. But I still have the ol’ Royal portable. With cellphones costing $900, I just might press it back into service.

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