The Purple Age Part Two

Last week I shared some of my thoughts on the ditto machine.  Here is the second part .  I will finish it next week.

The middle layer of the ditto master sandwich was a thin brown sheet of tissuelike paper.  Directions on the package of masters clearly stated that this sheet must be removed before making the master.  How many teachers, myself included, forgot and made the ditto only to discover to our chagrin the brown paper was still sandwiched between the other two?  How many teachers then tried to run this flimsy paper through the ditto machine hoping to not have to remake a new ditto?

          Then there is the last layer, the sheet containing the purple gunk, for lack of a more technical term.  This is the stuff that would appear on the back of sheet number one and would produce the copies needed for a class.  This is also what would invariably get under the fingernails and take up what seemed like permanent residence.  It was not a wise choice to wear white or any light colored clothing on ditto making day.

          Making a ditto master was always an experience.  As I mentioned earlier, just the right tipped implement and the correct amount of pressure had to be applied to ensure perfect copies.  As an alternative to writing out a master, one could always use the ever popular typewriter.  This was really useful if your handwriting happened to be like mine, illegible.  There was the manual typewriter as well as the newfangled electric typewriter. 

          Of course, these machines also had their drawbacks.  Any letter that had a circle as part of its make up (a, b, d, e, g, o, p, q, and sometimes c) had to be clean or else it would appear as a purple blob on the finished copies.  It would be like someone with nothing better to do sat and filled in all of the letters containing circles.  It did make for some interesting looking papers.

          It was also important that just the right amount of pressure be applied to the keys when striking them.  Too little, and the letter would literally fade out of the word or else partial letters would appear. Too much pressure meant that there would be a hole in the master where the letter should have been.  Students would then have to play Wheel of Fortune to try and guess what the missing letter should be.

          How often has someone, ok, me, typed or written on a master only to make a mistake? What can be done?  Erasers were of no use for they would only leave a big purple smudge.  A person couldn’t go back and hit the delete key and then fix the mistake.  Fortunately, there was a quick fix – white correction tape.

          This miracle came on a roll.  It was about 1/8 of an inch wide.  It was adhesive on one side and could be written on the other side.  All that had to be done was place the tape over the mistake and then rewrite or retype over it.

          But wait, things are now always as simple as they appear.  Once the purple layer was used, the same spot could not be reused.  A clean patch of purple had to be found, the master placed over this spot, and then the correction made.  If using a typewriter, it was a bit more complicated.  After finding the perfect unused patch of purple, the master top had to be realigned in the typewriter so that when the correct key was struck the letter would appear in the proper place in the word, not floating above the rest of the letters or dropping out of the word.  


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2 responses to “The Purple Age Part Two

  1. lgrainger125

    I still vividly remember the smell! You brought me back to my college job of testing freshmen on using all the media machines including the ditto machine. After an afternoon of working on that machine I felt a bit woozy. Glad to have said good-bye to that machine. Thanks for the memory.

  2. Your stories make me smile…maybe because I am old enough to remember!

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