I link here to Laurie from Foolery a lot, not ’cause I’m stealing her ideas (I swear), but because I dig how she writes, and the stuff she writes about often strikes a familiar chord with me.
Case in point: She shared this story about a friend who, once upon a time, got her long hair all wrapped up in a mimeograph machine.
MIMEOGRAPH MACHINE? Yes, you heard me. And you know what’s coming, don’t you? One of my favorite recurring themes?
…wait for it…
WOOOPWOOOPWOOOP, DATED REFERENCE ALERT!
Children, grab a juice box, a carpet square, and gather ’round the rocking chair. Today I will tell you about something called the mimeograph machine. It looked like this
and it was what teachers used as recently as the late 1980s hundreds of years ago to duplicate worksheets and handouts for students. They would make a master copy by typing onto a purple-waxy “master,” and by typing I mean that they rolled it into their typewriter and prayed as they struck each key that it was the right one, because if you messed up, there was no fixing it.
Then, you would peel the master apart and attach the “reverse” side of it to the round drum of the mimeo machine, turn it on, and THWAP THWAP THWAP the drum would fly around and around and, through some magic involving duplicator fluid, the words would transfer onto the paper. The pages would be cool and ever so slightly damp when they came out the other side, with purple ink. They had a very distinct smell.
I myself learned to use a duplicating machine as part of a work-study job in an academic department in college. I got really good at it. It was kinda fun.
Unfortunately, kids, the mimeograph machine’s days were numbered as photocopiers became more reliable and less expensive. Eventually, the mimeograph went the way of the punched card reader. (In fact, there was one of those in a seldom-used hallway in another academic building at my college. And this was the late 1980s!)
Nowadays, we duplicate and print documents with “photocopiers,” and in offices, they are usually “networked,” which means you can send documents straight from your computer to the copier! I remember dreaming about this in 1990, and now it’s mostly taken for granted. We’ve come a long way, baby, with duplicating technology.
This concludes today’s Dated Reference Primer. Thanks for listening, kids. Come back next time, when we will discuss other technological relics that have been invented and made obsolete all within my lifetime: the “floppy disk” and the “thermal fax machine.”