Why I Love My IBM Selectric

My “new” IBM Selectric arrived last week.

Big, beautiful and sexy red, my fiancée Alan remembered I had always wanted one. Like me, he appreciates the value of retro equipment. He collects pinball machines.

My friends laugh at me, wondering why I would want the heavy industrial-weight machine.

“You can do everything you need on a computer,” my friends laughed, as if I have not been using those for a quarter century already.

The scoffers do not understand that there is no substitute for the IBM Selectric for quickly achieving certain tasks. There are times when I just want to dash out a label, envelope or quick note.

With my Selectric, there is no going through endless windows and inserting something “just right” to produce what I need. Moving a mouse or selecting control “P” doesn’t apply.  Each keystroke is instant.


Sliding the black “on” button forward,
I heard the hum of my red productive beast.


The proprietor from A to Z Typewriter Company brought her in and smiled at my delight.

He understood. The tried-and-true typing machine is in such high demand, he said, that he quit selling all matter of business machines.

There is high demand for good old-fashioned typewriters, he explained. Secretaries do not want to part with them. Schools want them for typing classes.

And there are people like me, who lack the patience to go through windows, give explicit instructions and load labels and envelopes “just right” into often quirky printers.

Sliding the black “on” button forward, I heard the hum of my red productive beast. I excitedly put a piece of paper in the typewriter, snapping the lever firmly into place. Memories of my old typing days flooded my mind. It all came back to me, like getting on a bicycle.

My fingers securely glided into the concave keys, my felt the hum of my red productivity beast. As I typed whatever came to mind, I felt the assuring punch of each keystroke.

In satisfying glee, I typed away and quickly made a typing error. I forgot how to use the backspace correct button! It did work, the gentlemen explained, but not on my computer gloss paper. I would need to purchase good, old-fashioned typewriting paper for it to work perfectly. I laughed knowing that I had typewriter paper saved for this day. But alas, it was packed away in a box somewhere.

Progress does not always mean better. Of course, the computer, with its demanding endless treadmill of upgrades and corresponding nuisances, reigns supreme for most tasks. My Selectric only asks that I keep it clean, dust-free and oiled.

And while surrounded by plastic mother board machines that offer so much more, my Selectric knows its industrial steel strength will outlast the planned obsolesce of its office neighbors. It is a reminder of days long gone when manufacturers employed Americans to pridefully make products to last. Such solidity has been dwarfed by our consumerist economy that exploits workers to make cheap products destined for the landfills that liter the beauty of rural America. We pay a lot for junk, and China laughs all the way to the bank.

I was born to write and will do so until my aged body and mind releases its last word. Like my great-grandmother’s Treadle sewing machine, my Selectric will faithfully be there for generations to come.

17 thoughts on “Why I Love My IBM Selectric

  1. Clark says:

    I agree that there’s just something about a Selectric. It’s like a Harley – If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand. I’ve found myself writing more letters to friends and loved ones just to use my Selectric.

  2. Nick says:

    I use mine with plain stationary that I emboss with my initial. I think it is great for sending personalized thank-yous. Everyone loves it and it’s a greta story. Long live my 1977 Selectric II!

    • annmariecommunicatesinsurance says:

      There are three old manual typewriters in my house. Two royals from the 30s or 40s and a portable one from the early 1970s. I find the older typewriters harder to use because you have to push pretty hard and quickly on the keys. Both of the old ones need repair and I cannot justify the hundreds of dollars it will cost to truly get them running smoothly.

      The joy of the Selectric is you can feel each key without having to type hard like on a manual typewriter. I use it all the time to type up envelopes, labels and even forms! The only people who do not laugh at my using a Selectric are secretaries. They miss those dearly, especially for a quick envelope, because it is easier than getting envelopes lined up right in a printer.

      Since I have been a writer for 30 years now, my hand is getting more tender and the spares me of having to use my writing hand anymore than I have do. Lord knows my handwriting is hardly legible at this point.

      Good luck! Annmarie

  3. Kimberly Dotseth (@blendrealestate) says:

    Dear Annmarie,

    Today I finally found the perfect Selectric II after about a year searching around San Diego. My sleuth helper, a student who works in the University of San Diego “e-junk” store, called me yesterday with the perfect one, and this one works great (many he called me about did not work). So I bought it today for $45 including the cover. Ironically, the typewriter service sticker on the top of the typewriter itself is for a repair/supplies company that still in business. So I stopped by today for supplies. Extra old school! Like you, I wanted the Selectric II mostly for notes, cards and envelopes to stay in touch with past clients (I own a real estate company). This is the machine that I learned to type on in high school. It’s as good as I remember. You and I must be very close in age if we’ve both gone back to nostalgic IBM. Today I found your blog post and had to say thank you for it ~ and hello! Kimberly

    • annmariecommunicatesinsurance says:

      Kimberely! Congratulations on being united with the Selectric of your dreams! You got a margin at $45 and I wish I could find a cover for mine. The man who sold me the machine just came over last week because I had to type up three-ply carbon copies of an IRS form. I am a sole proprietor but still have to issue 1099s once in awhile. Since my company is not large enough to justify a program that prints out the forms, I turned to my machine. Anyway, messed up the ribbon and correct tape and he came by…he still calls the machine his which I think is great. A quick fix and he was gone. But he always has a story for me. He mentioned a couple women who retired from their jobs because their Selectrics were taken away from them and the computer just did not do as good a job on labels, envelopes, etc. I mentioned the Selectric to a couple young receptionists at a doctor’s office today. They had never heard of the Selectric, but it made sense to them and they proceeded to talk about all the steps necessary just to print out one envelope!

      So thanks for letting me know and sharing the joy of the Selectric. Some old things are just irreplaceable and after IBM made the Selectric II, they never made anything better…I even prefer the Selecric to daily wheel machines. Best to you! Annmarie

  4. Taylor Harbin says:

    I enjoy manual typewriters above all, but I DO have a soft spot for certain electric machines. Just picked up an Olympia Electronic Compact 2, which has a margin style similar to the Selectric. I use them for envelopes and other quick jobs just like you!

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