Jul 152008

Way back at the beginning of this blog, I quoted George Packer bitching about the IBM anachronism; the show uses the IBM Selectric introduced in 1961. Now, I have always thought it was minor, because let’s face it, “Anachronisms” is our least-used category. On the other hand, Matt Weiner is always saying what a persnickity “fetishist” he is, so it’s worth questioning.

Well, Weiner answers it on the commentary for Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. For those of you who don’t have the DVDs (and why is that, anyway?), here’s what he says.

The error is, more or less, on purpose. They could get the 1960 typewriters, but not enough of them. And they didn’t work. And they had manual carriage returns. So faking that they work, and doing the sound editing to make them sound as if they worked, was all too much. The coordination of sound editing with physical carriage returning (and he didn’t say so but I know for a fact that non-working manual returns are at high risk of flying across the frickin room).

So he was able to get enough 1961 Selectrics, and they were less than 12 months out of date, and if they didn’t work you couldn’t see they didn’t work, and life was SO. MUCH. BETTER.

Matt, I forgive you.


  15 Responses to “IBM Selectric Anachronism”

  1. Plus, with the show skipping two years ahead, they would have had to replace the 1960 typewriters with Selectrics anyway. I don't know how fast technology moved in those days (we just got flat screen monitors like a year ago in my office *cough*cheap*cough*) , but it seems like SC would be on top of that kind of thing.

  2. Offices in general didn't care about upgrading stuff like that (I was using a vintage Selectric in 1982), because typewriters were just "for girls." But because Joan is a strong person with real managerial skills (remember the traffic meeting in 5G?), she'd make sure that the secretarial equipment was up to date.

  3. She had, um, access to senior management.

  4. Even without that, Dan, Joan is someone who knows how to get things done. I just know that under Joan, follow-up phone calls get made, appointments get scheduled, and purchase orders get written. She isn't ambitious because she believes that, as a woman, her ambition should be to marry and quit, but she is a powerhouse and in today's world, she'd be a leader.

  5. "She had, um, access to senior management."

    Hehe- that's great!

    Goodness! Not to diminish the importance of set designers and all the work that goes into making the show/costumes period-relevant. Because it really is amazing what they do, and how it just sets the tone for the writing to come out beautifully.

    But honestly, who's even looking at the typewriters with all that fantastic talent (actors) standing in front of them!!! Can't see the forest for the trees (or, typewriters).

    There's an argument to be had, but at the end of story, its not about the

  6. …(continue)…bumps in the road, just about getting there. I think the message is received.

  7. I don't disagree, Deb. Comments like that aren't meant to ignore other talents. I believe the subtext of a character like Joan (also thanks to the unbelievable talents of Ms. Hendricks) is that her abilities as a manager are all but drowned out by her philosophies (she's something between a mother and a waitress).

    Imagine if she started to manage her job at S-C like an actual career, asking for raises, promotions, etc. They wouldn't know what to do with her because she's allowed them to think of her just as the wrangler of the hens in the office. The lipstick focus group was the perfect example.

    Which brings us to Peggy … the anti-Joan. Ambitious, smart, and confident like Joan but in a different way. Joan's confident about men and relationships and social matters, but keeps her nose out of the business stuff. Peggy's managed to climb the ladder without using her sexuality, which is what baffles Joan. If you're not there to find a man, then, like, why be there, right?

    My point is that Joan is no doubt great at her job, but to what end? If she lands a husband, then those management skills will be considered useless because they're not valued. And further, she's not ready to demand that they be valued. Peggy's miles ahead of her and Joan's going to resent her for it.

    See, even a thread about the damn typewriters ends up going deeper than expected.

  8. Joan's management skills would not be useless. It's 1960's suburbia for her if she gets married. That means PTA lunches, play-dates, organizing parties, she'd be one busy woman. Women were taught in that era that being a wife/mother could be a career and that it took organization. It seems bizzare today.

    That being said, I'm convicned that Peggy will be running Sterling Cooper decades after the show takes place. I can see her in 1980's suits with broad shoulders.

  9. I agree with this dansj:

    "Peggy’s miles ahead of her and Joan’s going to resent her for it."

    And its kind of ironic, looking back at a recent blog topic "Weekend Quotation" – July 13, where Deborah posted one her favorite quotes from season 1:

    "Those people in Manhattan? They are better than us. Because they want things they haven’t seen.

    —Peggy Olson, Indian Summer"

    I think Joan will resent Peggy, because Peggy wants things that Joan hasn't see. Basically Peggy wants things that Joan had never even thought of or though was a possibility. She just knows her station. I think a lot of the rise in the feminist movement was about awareness. Not just "we CAN do that!" attitude, but a "we CAN do that?" silent question in the back of some womens minds back then.

    I think there's a bit of Don in Peggy. That whole "getting ahead" attitude, and moving up fast with blind confidence. A true protégé. Similarly, we really don't know who Peggy truly is anymore than we do Don, as far as their "pasts." But i'm looking forward to turning over that rock in season 2!

  10. How old is Joan supposed to be anyway? 24-ish? I'm assuming she went to a four year college and she and her roommate have been living in the city for a couple of years since she had time to advance to office manager. Is she older than the typical marrying age of that time? I just can't see her in the suburbs with the Bettys and Francines, she'd be bored to tears. Plus, they think they're threatened by Helen? Please. Those guys would go nuts.

    I think she's a Sex and the Single Girl type- theoretically marriage is the goal, but she's in no rush. Though I guess she could marry and stay in the city for awhile like Pete and his wife.

  11. I don't think Joan resents Peggy, she just doesn't understand her. They barely speak the same language. That's why Peggy's voice was filled with discovery when she realized Joan was trying to be helpful — she was finally able to translate Joan's language.

    I can see a scenario where Joan thinks Peggy had forgotten her roots though.

  12. Even though season 2 is fast approaching, it's still so fascinating to read the character analysis. I got from the pilot episode that Joan was really trying to help Peggy, even though she went about it in a rude way.

  13. I think I found the chandeliers that are used in the Sterling-Cooper conference room:

  14. John, those are fab.

  15. Deb is right. I also thought the Selectrics were an anachronism because I never saw one until maybe 1964, and in 1965 I learned to type in high school on an old Remington manual. Selectrics were terrifically expensive, and if you've ever typed on a manual you sort of have to re-learn. If the agency had even begun to replace its typewriters the new girl would have been last in line. I can believe that Joan, and Joan alone, would have one.

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