A weekend in 1939

I wonder what it would be like to simulate spending a weekend in 1939. I’m not proposing actually trying this, but there are things about it that sound appealing. My day job has been frustrating today, to say the least, because of various technical complications involving databases, deleted tables, transaction logs, restores, none of which existed in 1939–at least not in the sense that we think of them today.

Simulating the weekend would, of course, involve completely removing myself from the Internet. No checking email, Twitter, Facebook, RSS feeds, discussion groups. No jumping onto Google to look up something that strikes my curiosity. It would mean stuffing my iPhone into a desk drawer somewhere and not checking it for a solid 48 hours. In fact, I wouldn’t even be able to use my computers, since computers didn’t exist in 1939. No Kindle either.

There would be no television and no satellite radio. That’s okay. I can live without them. But, I would be able to sit in front of the fireplace and finish reading the September 1939 Astounding and start on the October 1939 Astounding. That would be pleasant. I could play with my little boy, but only with toys that didn’t involve any electronics. That would be a welcome blessing. The music and noises that some of those toys make can drive me nuts.

And what about writing? I simply can’t bear to write longhand. I know that for some people, writing longhand allows a very intimate connection with the process of writing. For me, it interrupts the creative signals that zip from my brain through my fingers. However, I do have my grandfather’s old Royal Quiet DeLuxe manual typewriter, and I could probably manufacture a few pages of decent fiction using that ancient device.

It’s a pleasant thought to have, that disconnected feeling, thumbing through the issues of Astounding and an occasional hour or so in front of a keyboard that really makes some noise. But it will have to remain a pleasant thought. It isn’t so easy to get away from it all. I’ll have to be happy with my vacation in the Golden Age and otherwise grin and bear the sometimes frustrating ubiquity of our modern technology.


  1. My bio dad was born in ’39, ironically enough. He once said that he was thrilled when Sputnik went up, because his college classmates stopped teasing him for reading “that science fiction nonsense.” It was a very different world back then.

    I was born after we landed on the moon, so I have a very different view of space travel.

  2. You should type up stories on the old Royal. I started before all this modern hoofla began, and when electric typewriters were just becoming affordable. Nothing quite like that feel of the manual, or of the electric, tapping away on the paper, of watching the trail of words crawl, walk or run across the page as fast as the Muse could direct your fingers. And if the chore of retyping edits is intimidating — think one word. Scanners. Today, they do not live in vain….

  3. Ann, I was born after the first moon landings but just before the last one. Our views of space travel are probably similar. therefore. But that’s one of the reasons I’m reading the old Astounding’s. Take a story like Asimov’s “Trends” from 7/39 and what it has to say about space travel. It wasn’t a great story but it’s message was pretty spot-on.

  4. Will, when I was younger, I did write a few stories on that old typewriter, but they are all lost now and the world is a far, far better place because of that. These days, it is almost impossible to find ribbon for the thing.


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