(Nathaniel Grann/For The Washington Post)

Rolando Díaz
44, Alexandria, clinical psychologist

My grandfather, Luis Muñoz, was the smartest person I knew. With two doctoral degrees from the University of Havana and a full career in Cuba, he had to start all over after fleeing communism once my aunt was released from a political prison.

He arrived in New York on Easter 1961 without a coat. His first job was as an overnight file clerk at Merrill Lynch. Soon after coming to America, he bought an Olivetti Underwood Spanish-language typewriter. It had an acute accent, an umlaut and an Ñ key. My grandfather typed his exams, letters, even the captions for his scrapbooks.

His frequent typing was one of the sounds of my childhood. I loved hearing the “clack” of the keys as he typed, the “ding” of the bell, and the sound of the carriage returning to start a new line. Sometimes, I’d pretend to type as fast as he did, only to have the keys invariably get stuck together.

He eventually became chairman of the geology department at C.W. Post College, Long Island University’s campus in Nassau County. In his late 70s, he had me teach him WordPerfect, but he transcribed his notes about the PC on his Olivetti. As he got older, the typewriter was one of the few possessions he kept with him.

When he passed away, my mom gave me his typewriter, which sits on our living room bookcase. My kids are fascinated by the Olivetti. They sometimes pretend to type on it, but the sound is not the same.

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