15 August 2020

College freshman exam (1964)


God only knows why I ever saved this.  Now it goes into the wastebasket.  But first it gets shared on TYWKIWDBI.  I think this was printed with a mimeograph.  [hat tip to reader Smurfswacker for pointing out that this was printed on a "ditto" machine]

Feel free to comment (but... "brief and to the point.")

13 comments:

  1. Does it still smell good? The sentiment, appropriate for war time, is a bit too anti-my-liberty for me in our times.

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  2. The moment I saw this, that smell came back to me, along with the sound of the mimiograph running.

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  3. I remember the smell too, but even a small stack of them doesn't retain any odor that I can detect.

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  4. For the record, your assignment was printed on a spirit duplicator, better known as a ditto machine, rather than a mimeograph.

    Ditto printing used a “master,” a sheet of slick paper attached to another sheet coated with purple stuff. It resembled carbon paper (anyone remember carbon paper?). As you typed or drew on the master some of this purple coating transferred to the back of your sheet. The finished master was mounted on the ditto machine’s drum. As you cranked the machine a “spirit fluid,” the source of that unforgettable aroma, dampened the master and caused some of the “carbon” to transfer to passing sheets of paper. Ditto printing was almost always purple, though other colors were available.

    On a mimeograph the master was a stencil made of some weird porous cloth/paper stuff with a waxy coating. Typing on the stencil cut through the wax but not the underlying sheet. The stencil was attached to a drum filled with thick, greasy ink. As you turned the crank ink seeped through the open areas of the stencil and onto the copy paper. Mimeo had its own aroma, but it was the smell of ink rather than spirits and it didn’t make you giddy.

    Ditto equipment was cheaper and easier to use than mimeo, which is why it became the choice of school districts and fanzine publishers. However ditto masters wore out quickly. Mimeograph stencils held up for much longer print runs. Thus mimeo became the standard for business and official printing.

    And then one day along came the Xerox machine...

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  5. Isn't it funny how a glimpse of that purplish ink brings that scent back?! For me, it also brings an auditory echo of the thump, thump, thump as you turned the handle.

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  6. I suspect for many of us this is our Proustian madeleine.

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    1. "A madeleine de Proust is an expression used to describe smells, tastes, sounds or any sensations reminding you of your childhood or simply bringing back emotional memories from a long time ago."

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    2. I had one of those moments a few weeks back when reading a history of U.S. pop music. There was a paragraph on the physical sensation of holding a 45 rpm record that suddenly blasted me back to my early teens and the marvellous variety of record labels one found in the '60s.

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  7. Both types of reproduction had different names in my part of the world. The spirit duplicator was a Roneo, and the more durable stencils were Gestetners. Both types were still in use when I was teaching in the late 1980s, as although photocopy machines were available, they were much more expensive per copy.

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  8. "The Wild Flag" is a small book with the collected comments of E.B. White published, anonymously, in the New Yorker during and shortly after WW II. White was a proponent of a "World Government," mainly because he thought it would end the seemingly constant conflicts between various nations. I think his description of democracy cited above demonstrates his concept of the ideal of cooperation and sharing, in good times and bad, by citizens in a country like the USA. Consider if this ideal is still extant today...

    Regarding ditto machines and mimmeographs. Dittos were still common when I began teaching. I disliked them immensely, but they were what we had. They were a PITA, because if you made a mistake while typing (yes, on a typewriter) the original, you either neatly X'd it out or started over. And the stencil was reusable, but did not last too

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    1. Sorry, I see that the last part of my post got cut off. Should have kept it "brief and to the point," i suppose.

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  9. During my fanzine days I learned you could correct typos on ditto masters by scraping off the purple stuff and retyping on an unused area of the backing sheet. It often left a smudge, though. To correct mimeograph stencils you brushed on a blue fluid that filled in the holes, then retyped. Such a lot of work.

    I discovered that someone on eBay is selling completely refurbished, high-end spirit duplicators, complete with stencils, fluid, and spare parts, for $800. The seller doesn't say why a anyone these days would lay out that kind of dough for a ditto machine.

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  10. I recall the very special pride of being selected as a small child to operate the ditto machine in elementary school. Truly, this volatile-organic scented madeleine has loosed a landslide of memory the scree of which will bear some exploration.

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