Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Posts Tagged ‘mad men

Happy Birthday IBM Selectric

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You’ve probably seen some of IBM’s communications and advertising this year, on TV, print and the Web, highlighting the fact that this is IBM’s Centennial year.

The IBM Selectric Typewriter, introduced in 1961, was an instant hit and sold more than 13 million units before it was retired in 1986. It has most recently been featured in the hit TV show, "Mad Men."

That means the company is 100 years old.

That’s a long time in real years, an eternity in Internet years.

But the celebrations continue, throughout 2011.  This month, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the IBM Selectric Typewriter, which you’ve probably seen most recently featured on the secretarys’ desks in the hit AMC show, “Mad Men.”

But I remember seeing Selectrics while growing up in north Texas, where my father owned a small insurance company, where many of his associates used the IBM Selectric as their everyday workhorse.

I marveled when I would watch that small, round steel ball with the letters superimposed on it move so quickly, turning itself at lightning speed to leave the imprint of one letter after another on the sheet of paper.

Of course, a few years later, when I was in college, it was the very same IBM Selectric model that I learned how to touch type on — typing class, one of the single most valuable college classes I ever took, I used to joke.

The Flying Golf Ball

The IBM Selectric was an instant sensation when it debuted on July 31, 1961, and it remained the typewriter found on most office desks until the brand was retired 25 years later, in 1986.

The Selectric had 2,800 parts, most designed from scratch, and was a major undertaking even for IBM, which had been in the typewriting business since the 1930s and already a market leader.

With its flying golf ball head, the Selectric marked a radical change from prior typewriter design, and took IBM seven years to work out the manufacturing and design challenges before it went on sale.

The Selectric was a game changer in several ways:

  • Its unique “golf ball” head allowed typists’ fingers to fly across the keyboard at unprecedented speed. An expert typist could clock 90 words per minute versus 50 with a traditional electric typewriter.
  • The golf ball moved across the page, making it the first typewriter to eliminate carriage return and reducing its footprint on office desks.
  • Interchangeable golf balls equipped with different fonts, italics, scientific notations and other languages could easily be swapped in.
  • With magnetic tape for storing characters added in 1964, the Selectric became the first (albeit analog) word-processor device.

From Selectric To System/360

The Selectric also formed the basis for early computer terminals and paved the way for keyboards to emerge as the primary way for people to interact with computers, as opposed to pressing buttons or levers.

A modified Selectric could be plugged into IBM’s System/360 computer, enabling engineers and researchers to interact with their computers in new ways.

“The Selectric typewriter, from its design to its functionality, was an innovation leader for its time and revolutionized the way people recorded information,” said Linda Sanford, Senior Vice President, Enterprise Transformation, IBM, who was a development engineer on the Selectric. “Nearly two decades before computers were introduced, the Selectric laid the foundation for word-processing applications that boosted efficiency and productivity, and it inspired many user-friendly features in computers that we take for granted today.”

The Selectric has been highlighted as one of IBM’s top 100 milestones in the company’s century-long history. You can learn more about it here.

You can also go here to learn more about the U.S. postage stamp being released featuring the IBM Selectric.

UPDATE: My colleague Delaney wrote his own remembrance of the Selectric.  Be sure and watch the classic Selectric TV commercial he discovered on the YouTube!

Written by turbotodd

July 27, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Crossing The Rubicon

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Anybody see the last episodes of “Mad Men” and “Rubicon” last evening?

Spoiler Alert.  If you’ve got them on your DVRs, stop reading now, because I plan to comment on some of the outcomes.

First, Don Draper.  Did anybody see that coming?  Asking the new secretary to marry him on a trip to Disneyland, and using now deceased Anna’s ring? What a small world after all, especially for the lovely researcher, Dr. Faye, who’s on the losing end of this proposition, as she was assumedly in love with Draper, and he with her.

I dreaded Draper’s contacting Faye (or not) the rest of the episode.  The from-the-couch psychotherapy that could be read into that decision (marrying his assistant over the professional working woman), particularly at that point in history…well, it could fill volumes.

Meanwhile, poor Peggy Olson puts on her advertising gumshoes and lands the troubled Topaz account virtually on her own, and nary a person in Sterling Cooper notices due to Don’s newlywed nuptials.

I can’t wait to see where Matthew Wiener takes this thing next season.

As for “Rubicon,” it’s my favorite new show on TV.

It’s everything impatient and reality TV isn’t.  It makes you wait.  It’s slow to unwind.  But the looming backdrop is like a conspiracy unraveling amidst a greater web of conspiracy.

It’s impossible to dive right into this show and understand what’s going on.  From the first episode, the backstory drove the narrative, and the conspiracy, but it’s been one that’s a real pleasure to see unwind.

When the rest of TV is beating up on your intelligence with sensory overload (“Ice Road Truckers,” “Dancing with the Stars”), “Rubicon” has been more like a storyline cabernet that just needed a few weeks to breathe and open up.

And open up it has.  API analyst Will Travers uses his fine analytical abilities to connect one dot to another through most of the season, only to discover there’s a seemingly whole other portrait being painted, one that transcends that of the inside operation being planned by Truxton Spangler.

The terrorist attack in Galveston Bay was planned and masterminded by a cabal of insiders connected to Atlas MacDowell, but they’re convinced Spangler’s left too much of a trail linking the attack (purposely) to Iran, and with Will Travers having learned way too much.

Who’s ultimately pulling the strings, then, becomes the critical question. If not Spangler, if not his associates (who deliver the much feared four leaf clover, a death sentence in the show to date), then who?

That’s the key question left to the imagination, and one that will only likely be answered if “Rubicon” is picked up for another year.

My vote is most assuredly yes…then again, I’ve never been a big “Ice Road Truckers” fan.

Written by turbotodd

October 18, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Mad Men (and Women)

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I watched with eager anticipation the premiere of the fourth season of “Mad Men” last evening.

Me, along with everybody else in the advertising and marketing world, to be sure.

What strikes me about that show, however, is how much it’s not really about the world of advertising.  That includes the premiere show that aired last evening.

We’ve flashed forward a year or so since last season’s end, this time with Sterling Cooper having hung out their own shingle and having their own office space, instead of the single hotel room we saw last episode.

Don’s personal shortcomings pervaded the first episode of the new season. 

First, he blew an interview with a peg-legged reporter (“Korea,” he explains) from AdAge, failing to realize the interview wasn’t so much about his own personal vanity than it was to draw attention (and business) to the fledgling firm.

Hard to believe Draper’s character (particularly at this juncture) was either that modest or naive, but okay, I went along for the ride.

When he told the clients of bikini-wear maker Jantzen to get the hell out of his office, despite losing the potential ad placements, you could see Draper drawing a line between the clashing mores of the 50s and the 60s.  

He was going to work for forward-thinking, progressive businesses, or he was going to find another line of work.

Of course, his family life continues to be a mess…also the point…and Draper has become almost downright vindictive by now when it comes to ex-wife Betty, informing her she’s already overstayed her welcome in the house.  Her new husband, the politico, doesn’t make any brownie points with Betty when he suggests Don’s right.

At the end of the episode, you see Draper doing another interview, this time with a Wall Street Journal reporter.  This time, the show is on.  Draper’s as cocky and confident and ever, and the reporter’s soon eating out of Draper’s hands.

I’ve no doubt Sterling Cooper is about to find themselves very well positioned to take advantage of the dramatic changes taking place in the latter half of the 1960s.

I just hope Don Draper doesn’t entirely lose his soul along the way.

Written by turbotodd

July 26, 2010 at 10:52 pm

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