Which key is yours?

Underwood No. 5 keys

I can’t help it. I’m a sucker for old typewriters. I’ve been meaning to make some swell typewriter key jewelry, something I had forgotten about until I opened a rarely-used desk drawer today and found a batch of key caps I had been saving up.

I love the vintage typography that labels each key and the quirky vocabulary of time gone by: shift, shift key, shift lock, floating shift, back space, back spacer, margin release, ribbon key, single tab, tabular key, tab set, single tab key, tab. An up arrow. A down arrow.

And, as I should be tidying up my grades, but instead am wiling away the hours on Etsy, it got me thinking. What if people in our profession wore typewriter keys? Surely, there are a few back space folks, those who wish the clock could be turned back to the days of print. And there are the ribbon keys, who make decor their top priority. And the shift lock folks who are just sitting it out until they retire, who are not to be confused by the shift folks, who are happy to change their practice. Oh, those floating shift folks, wafting by in their chiffon and reciting poetry on demand — where did they go? The single tab key librarians, who hold onto print periodicals because some day, some day soon, a kid is gonna need Newsweek circa 1985.

What does the up key do? And down? Probably they’re literally the super- and sub-script functions, but surely you can cook up something more clever than that.

What key are you? And why?

Let us know below …

Image: Underwood No. 5 keys by avhell, on Flickr
Used thanks to a CC BY-SA 2.0 license

5 Responses to “Which key is yours?”

  1. Pat says:

    I received a gift from one of my daughters, purchased on Etsy, using these keys to create a bracelet that spelled – BOOKWORM! I love it! What key am I? I’ve always liked the lower case L on manual typewriters because it was also the numeral 1 – that’s me, multifunctional! Even in this photo you can see there is no numeral 1. :-)

  2. Kristin Fontichiaro says:

    Whoa – never noticed that the numbers started with 2! Well played, Pat!

  3. Patsy Richardson says:

    What key am I? Not sure! I think I’d like to the be question mark key. And you have to shift to get that one. I’m not always though…Thought of you when I saw this:


  4. Kristin Fontichiaro says:

    Ooh, that is pretty fabulous, Patsy!

  5. Pat says:

    I learned to type on a manual so knew about the multifunctional L/1 since those good old days! We still own an old manual that had been in my father-in-law’s office. It’s charming.

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