When I started teaching – well before the turn of the last century – the technology of the time used for producing multiple copies (of a school notice for instance) was “the Gestetner”. To use the Gestetner required very firm typing on a typewriter in no-ribbon mode; the letters cutting through a purpose-designed film of paper. Plan B involved writing by hand using a sharp ended crochet-hook-like gizmo called a stylus. However, as they easily tore through the sheet, you’d have to get a new one and start again. Therefore: typewriter was the preferred device.
Once carefully mounted – wrinkle-free – on the roller of the Gestetner, each crank of the handle forced ultra-smear-able printers ink through the letter-shaped cuts onto a (usually ‘foolscap’) sheet of newsprint paper: and voila - your first copy! Two cranks of the handle equalled two copies; one-hundred cranks, a hundred copies and so on.
On one occasion, time was running out and 250 copies were required. A combination of a crank-speed that wouldn’t have been out of place on an Americas Cup boat and the principal’s edict that “the inspectors are coming so all you blokes will need to wear ties!” Unfortunately, that totally useless item of clothing got caught in the roller of the madly-whirring Gestetner: all but wrenching my head off my shoulders (so not for the first time - the lack of a visible neck paid-off).
If the Gestetner wasn’t an option, the fall-back technology was the Banda machine. You wrote or typed on ordinary (often ‘quarto’) paper with a sort of carbon paper under it. The ink from the carbon transferred to the back of the page your were writing on (“Press firmly using a ball-point pen”).
You then clamped the top of that original into the roller of the Banda and once again started cranking; albeit at a stately two cranks per copy - it had to be a stately speed as, with each lap of the roller, the master-copy picked up a layer of methylated spirits which wet the ink sufficiently to transfer the print onto the next sheet coming through. Too fast = big illegible, purple smears (because both the meths and the ink were purple): useless - so you started again.
If you were an organised soul, you printed the Banda stuff for your class at least twenty-four hours in advance of needing to hand it out (even then, there could be the odd issue). If the hand-out was fresh off the press when you gave it out; you and your class immediately faced a new set of challenges. To put it mildly: fresh-off-the-press Banda notices stunk. They positively reeked of methylated spirits. This smell was more-or-less guaranteed to divide a class of kids into three, more-or-less the same sized groups:
1 Those who were totally unmoved by the smell and were, therefore, no problem;
2 Those who loved the smell - immediately burying their noses in it and failing to hear anything at all discussed in the following ten minutes – so a problem as you had to repeat yourself. More than on
And then there were these guys; my personal favourites:
Yes - it really did pay to do your printing a day before you had to take it into the classroom...
All these memories came flooding back this week when the interweb went down for a hunk of Monday morning. Everything that needed doing at the start of the day, involved the need to be able to get online (as was the case in most classrooms).
Fortunately, a Plan B eventually appeared out of the mists and so it was that this – the first part of this week’s newsletter – got done the “old fashioned way”. Typed and stored on an old-fashioned hard drive. (Apparently) “that’s like, so history!”