I type, therefore I am

This morning’s Observer column.

For writers of my (baby-boomer) generation and older, typewriters were the bane of our lives. On the one hand, you couldn’t work without one. On the other, they were a pain to use. Every time you made a mistake, or had second thoughts about a word or a phrase, you had to cross it out and laboriously type the revision. There was no such thing as cut and paste and no backspace-and-erase facility. So the result was often a page that became so awful to look at that in the end one tore it out in a rage, screwed it into a ball and typed the whole ruddy thing again. Cutting and pasting was done with scissors and word-counting by going over the typescript with a pencil, whispering numbers as you went.

Most people who use keyboards today have no inkling of this. Word-processing software has always been part of their lives. As a result, the writing process has subtly changed. As Marshall McLuhan said: we shape our tools and afterwards they shape us. Composing on screen has become more like sculpting…