The other day I was struck by all of the changes I’ve lived through. When I first started writing professionally, I typed my manuscripts with a carbon paper copy underneath the top page. In an effort to send the cleanest possible manuscript to various agents and editors I queried, I would retype entire pages if there were significant changes. For little changes or boo-boos I’d use white-out, a little bottle of liquid I’d use to camouflage mistakes, allowing me to type the correction right on top. For a little longer changes, but not enough to warrant retyping an entire page, there were white adhesive strips available to cover lines, which could then be typed over. I didn’t like using that, however, unless I had the opportunity to Xerox copy the page so the white tape beneath the corrections wouldn’t show. I remember my first electric typewriter, a Selectric, and how amazed I was to be able to change fonts by changing the little round-shaped typing element that pressed the ink onto the pages.
I’d bundle my labor-intensive manuscript inside a padded envelope, or for full manuscripts inside the appropriately sized box—the kind that used to hold reams of paper sold individually—and trot off to the Post Office, where I would send the manuscript and hope it reached its destination within the week.
Then I’d wait. If someone had told me the instantaneous digital world was just ahead, I’d have laughed and thought them silly for dreaming up something from a fictitious or far-distant future.
I also used to look forward to the mail man for cards and letters. Oh, yes, the mailman often brought little pleasures to my day. Nowadays I barely notice the mail truck, since all he seems to bring is junk mail. Poor man, many times he doesn’t even bring my Amazon orders. They’re often delivered via UPS or other special delivery.
I used to think my grandmother’s generation saw the most change. That may still be true. After all, she went from riding in a horse and buggy to eventually riding in my dad’s Cadillac. She saw the development of commercial air planes, the use of refrigeration (without an ice block, that is), air conditioning, a telephone in every house, television, cinema, and man landing on the moon to name a few.
The changes in my own lifetime, while impressive and varied, don’t seem quite the leap in comparison. We went from huge computers to handheld devices, from telephones hooked to a wall to those we can take anywhere. Our cars are faster and more sleek, trains can run like bullets, and rockets can now deliver land rovers to Mars—but the space age is no longer new. I’ve seen vast improvements from the first version of each invention, but nonetheless a lot of what we enjoy today seems to be innovation of something originally dreamed up and first implemented long ago.
One thing that continues to amaze me, though, is that no matter how the inventions around us change, or the trends in culture and society evolve, inside people are pretty much the same as they were 100 years ago. I’m convinced that’s why I enjoy both reading and writing historical romances. I may not know what it really smelled or sounded like living in New York or Chicago in the 1800s, but I do know the basic desires, personal and professional strengths and doubts, the search for faith and happiness were likely very similar to those we experience today.