This old photograph of mine from 52 years ago is not particularly inspiring. Unlike others on the same strip of negatives, it does not illustrate changes in landscape or architecture. It does, however, unleash a floodgate of personal memories, and it also illustrates a degree of technological change. The technology in question sits centre-stage on my desk in my room at Keele University back in 1970; and it, of course, is my typewriter. This was back in the days when the University had one computer in the whole establishment and you were allowed to access it for half an hour during your four year stay to carry out calculations that would now be easy-peasy for a children’s watch. Back then, being able to type up your essays gave you a bit of an advantage – the content may be mediocre (and, I must confess, it often was) but the presentation was commendable. The other thing to note is that the typewriter was placed on top of a thick towel in order to cut down on the noise – we tend to forget just how noisy old typewriters were, especially when they were used at the dead of night to meet approaching deadlines.
For want of something better to do – as always, a glorious place to find yourself – I decided to manually colour the old black and white photograph in order to try and remember the actual colours of the objects in question. The typewriter was easy, it was a light metallic blue, a shade I will never forget. The radiator behind my desk was institutional yellow and the thick wooden curtains were either brown or blue (I have given them a unrecognisable mix of the two). For some reason I can remember that pad of file paper – the more remarkable as I can’t manage to remember what I am supposed to be doing tomorrow – and I have a feeling it might have been red. What on earth DEA stood for, I have no idea. And the glasses were, of course, black – except for the bits where glossy sticky tape would hold them together.
Old memories tend to fade to monochrome, but with a little effort they too can be colourised.