Creativity

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Before proceeding to the important topic of old typewriters, we have an important message that was held up in the traffic last week:

"The traffic cone," Stuart Cockerill informs us, "was long thought to be indigenous to this country, despite its conspicuous absence from the fossil record. It was believed to be a subterranean mammal related to the mole, thriving in an urban environment where its burrows often erupted nocturnally along the roadside when the creatures came up to graze.

"As we now know, traffic cones are Rubber Scud missiles launched by belligerent nations at their foes for long-range crowd-control and economic terrorism. Future palaeo-anthropologists will undoubtedly discern them as fertility symbols; but palaeo-anthropologists have always had dirty minds."

We trust this clears up any confusion. On to typewriters. Oddly, nobody pointed out that "typewriter" can be written on the top row of letters of a typewriter, whereas you need two rows for "computer" and all three for "word processor". But many readers brought up the topic of monkeys typing the works of Shakespeare. As Des Waller reminds us, however: "The last attempt to test this out ended in dismal failure. One monkey typed out the complete works of Barbara Cartland while another could only muster 'To be or not to be, that is the gruntlezlbkq'."

John and Fiona Earle use the roller bar for pastry, and their recipe is completed by Jonathan Graham, who applies the keys to the resulting sheet of pasta to make alphabet soup.

"Old typewriters have distinctive characters," says Maurice Hulks, "and some are more sensitive than others." He then launches into an appeal for the Royal Imperial Rest Home, run by the Psychiatric Association for Surplus Typewriters in Trauma (Pastit), when old machines relax in the typing pool and buy drinks in the Space Bar. He also points out how useful they can be for covering up Tippex marks on paper or, with reels of toy pistol caps, as machine guns for UN peace-makers.

John Donnelly, complete with illustration, advocates the game of Carriage Snooker. The typewriter is mounted on a restored occasional table, which is carefully positioned before activating the carriage release.

"Rub the roller with female gnat pheromones," advises Len Clarke, "and keen gardeners should be able to reach a speed of up to 50 gnats a minute." It helps to have an obliging blue tit to clean up the roller, he advises. A similar, but more versatile idea occurred to Tom Gaunt. His bug-killer works by pressing "f" for fly, "w" for wasp and "?" for an unknown insect. He would like to know if anyone can tell him where he might be able to ell a typewriter with the lower ca e letter " " mi ing.

"One use of an old typewriter," writes J Graham, having now finished his alphabet soup, "would be to write a letter to the electricity board apologising for not paying their bill. While waiting for the electricity to be reconnected, the carriage return would make an excellent temporary doorbell."

"In days gone by," A Jeremy Shapiro reminisces, "people used to use the typewriter as a kind of remote control. Pieces of string were tied to the keys and these strings would activate all sorts of things when the right letter was pressed. For instance, T to turn the tap on, P to turn the water off, or maybe boil the kettle. It was abandoned when users kept forgetting what each key did and got thoroughly annoyed by all the bits of string." More ideas:

See-saw play area for insects (FG Robinson). In Luddite fashion, chuck them through the screens of word processors (R J Pickles). Put them on the tops of high mountains to give confusing messages to little green qwerties from outer space (Mollie Caird). Trade in for the computer to save a marriage (Mrs Julie Dickson). Electric models to scare pigeons from roofs (Maureen Green). Sending sonic messages to lonely death watch beetles (Jill Phythian). Branding butterflies (Martin Brown). Branding leprechauns' cattle (J & F Earle). Prizes to Stuart Cockerill, Jonathan Graham and A Jeremy Shapiro.

Next week, we shall tell Lloyd's names what to do with pounds 2.8bn. In the meantime, we are distressed at the problems the canned beer industry is having with its widgets and wonder what ideas our readers have for unusual uses to which a widget might be put. We have three triple packs from the Chambers Compact Reference series: Great Inventions Through History, Great Modern Inventions, and Great Scientific Discoveries for the most appropriate suggestions. Entries to: Creativity, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, to arrive not later than 14 June.

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