By LIAT COLLINSPublished: SEPTEMBER 24, 2009 15:53Advertisement
A visit to Jerusalem's Beit Agron provides a trip down memory lane. The building houses the popular Time Elevator (Ma'alit Hazman) tourist attraction in which Haim Topol takes visitors through 3,000 years of Jerusalem history in about 30 minutes. It's a literally moving experience: The seats move as you race through time. But not for this alone is Beit Agron memorable. The home of the Jerusalem Journalists' Association, it has a display of old typewriters in the foyer. These have curiosity value to a generation which cannot imagine a time without computers (mahshevim) and nostalgic value to those of us who remember the days when cut-and-paste required scissors and Sellotape.
Typewriters have to be heard rather than seen to be truly appreciated. Looking at the old devices, I found myself missing the clicking sound of people at work and above all that distinctive "ting" as the carriage reached the end of the line.
I started wondering what else today's kids are missing. Certainly with the disappearance of the typewriter - which fell from grace but didn't crash (kores) - related items also became history. Carbon paper (known in almost-Hebrew as niyar copy) might as well be carbon dated it seems so ancient: When was the last time you got your hands dirty slipping a blue/black sheet between two white ones? It lives on mainly in the "cc" line on e-mails.
Also lost are the strips of whiteout paper, and even Tippex has lost some of its kick. Perhaps we were less frustrated on those rare occasions that typewriters broke down because we worked under the influence of Tippex fumes.
The average office has lost more than its sound and smell. Here's a rhetorical question: Where have all the answering machines gone? First known as a mazkira elektronit - an electronic secretary - the answering machine gradually became known as meshivon (from the root of "answer") as the concept of PC in the politically correct sense reached Israel. This was roughly the same time as computers changed forever the jobs of secretaries. Now people have a ta koli (voice mail box) on more telephones than we could have imagined back in the days where a home phone was so rare it was specially noted in rental ads. Secretaries are also an endangered species, by the way, replaced by the posher-sounding personal assistant (ozer/ozeret ishi/t) in world in which bosses (now called CEOs) no longer need to dictate letters and documents.
The telephone (Eliezer Ben-Yehuda wanted them to be known as sah rahok but the word never took) has also come along way since the days when it meant a stationary device with a dial and frequently crossed lines. Now the mobile (nayad) is so prevalent that the original brand name Pelephone (Wonderphone) no longer has us in awe.
Some things seems to be disappearing before a name could even be decided upon. I worked in the spokesman's office of the Postal Authority in the earliest days of faxes in Israel and remember the discussions on whether they should be called faximilia or faximileh: In the end, the public decided to simply fax it. (And now even the fax is on its way out in the global computerized village.)
Today's kids have missed "reel" movies (sirtei slilim) and may wonder even about videos. The Walkman has marched off into the setting sun just as surely as you'd have to scratch a distant memory to find the vinyl record. The tape recorder (confusingly known just as "tape") has stopped chewing cassettes and bitten the dust. The cassette - kaletet - is doing a disappearing act along with the video and who knows whether the DVD won't be zapped by the Blu Ray.
You can barely buy filem (film) for cameras (thus consigning those useful little round plastic boxes to the nonbiodegradable dump of history). In the digital age, never have children been photographed so often with so little to show for it: The photo album (albom tmunot) through which you could physically flick is a distant memory to some.
On the positive side, I'm not sure today's children can understand the premise behind the Hebrew children's classic: Shmulik Kipod (Shmulik the Hedgehog), which starts, Gadi hala (Gadi was sick). Thanks to vaccinations (hisunim) and better health care most children don't need to take days and days off school without their friends being allowed to visit them.
So as long as future generations don't ask: "What's a journalist [itona'i]?" rather than "What's a typewriter [mechonat ktiva]?" I shouldn't complain.
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