By Tannis Kelm
Back in university, pages were something in which you changed the margins. I can’t say I ever wrote a paper that I didn’t try to find the longest quote for, to prove my point of course, anything to get what I should have started a month before done in one night. I used to live on campus and some of the most fun I had did not include alcohol; just a few chocolate bars and cans of coke, some cigarettes and a good friend in the same situation.
Yes, that’s right. My name is Tannis and I have a university degree. I majored in history. I know a lot about pages. My computer was old technology when we got it. It was around 1990 and I was in Grade 7. It had a colour screen, but it was only a short leg drag from a floppy disc drive. Windows 2.1 was the operating system, I believe.
I remember trying to log on to the Internet dial-up in a small town, back when it was still a lot of beeps and static. We never did get online with it. I maintained this computer well into university. When I say that, I mean I dropped out of university and then I went back to finish my degree and sort of hung on to it between.
I was writing my final paper on the history of the Vietnam War on this computer in 2005, though I did run out of dot matrix perforated paper to print it out. I finally realized my situation after calling a friend and him not believing we were having the conversation, laughing in disbelief as though he was having some sort of flashback dream set in the present.
Now I know anyone of a tender age is more than likely wondering what a dot matrix printer is. It had an ink cartridge more like an electric typewriter, something else you may have to research, and it made the best sound when it was on the job.
Unlike today’s printers, this one would print a line from left to right, drop down a line and zoom back to the left to reset and print the next line. You didn’t have to tell it to. The paper you bought for this machine was perforated along the edge of punched dots, dots specifically there to guide your paper along as it set out to be printed on. When it was all over about an hour later, you had 20 quality, dot matrix pages all neatly attached together.
I liked to keep the plastic guard off so I could hear the squeal of the type setter realigning better. It was glorious; a joyful noise for sure. It shook the industry standard desk, if you know what I’m saying.
Pages I write now are more about quality, not to say research isn’t important, but I don’t believe anything is so cut and dry. Instead of proving one point, I’d rather keep it vague and open to interpretation. I think it’s more useful to open a dialogue instead of trying to prove a point, a conversation is give-and-take, not “this is how it is.” Certainly there is that, but there’s no simple explanation. That’s why I write poetry.
Let that printer go. It will never break down on you even though it has the most moving parts imaginable. It was useable once, but there were still paper jams. Nothing is perfect and they’ve stopped making paper for it. You have to have that specific paper or it did not print, and in the end isn’t that what a printer should do, print?
You should have some sort of paper copy after all that work. We didn’t have any of the sharp edges of today’s pages, tearing along the dotted line was my favourite part of the whole process, but I’m glad it got better. Everything is so crisp and clean now and it can only improve.
The last essay I wrote on my dot matrix never got to print on that printer. It was saved to disc and converted to a better version of Word. It was printed and handed in on time with whiter paper and darker ink. I have no idea what my grade was, but I passed the course (and I had to read three 300 plus page books in less than one week to do all that McNamara, stick that in your war).
No, nothing much has changed, but I feel that through all these different pages I have grown and learned and analyzed, which is what we all have to do. We have to listen to the past in all its noise, find the beauty there and document it. Feel the pages separate and not just hope for the future; live the future in the present.
Tannis Kelm is a singer/songwriter who performs under the name Hors. Find her on Facebook, Twitter , Sound Cloud, Tumblr, or her Gold Chair Sessions videos on YouTube. Tune in to CKUW 95.9FM in Winnipeg Tuesday nights at 11 p.m. for her show, Listening Pleasures.