The site everyone on the left loves to cite (including by reference Rather himself), Jim Forbes’ Selectric Typewriter Museum, has this to say about the CBS memos:
For those who want my opinion…the documents appear to be done in Word, and then copied repeatedly to make them “fuzzy”. They use features that were not available on office typewriters the 1970s, specifically the combination of proportional spacing with superscript font. The IBM Executive has proportional spacing, but used fixed type bars. The Selectric has changeable type elements, but fixed spacing (some models could be selected at 10 or 12 pitch, but that’s all). The Selectric Composer was not an office typewriter, but apparently did use proportional spacing. These were very expensive machines, used by printing offices, not administrative offices.
Then Forbes essentially proves with a picture that Dan Rather came on TV tonight and did his best, “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky..” imitation.
Since all the traffic has forced Jim to pretty much shut down his site until after the election I’ve mirrored the rest of his page below the jump – it’s devestating…
Another update: I did an experiment, so you all can see for yourselves what different typewritten and computer printed words look like.
The first line was written using Microsoft Word 2000, on a PC, printed on a Laserjet 4. The font is New Times Roman, size is 12 point. The second line was typed using my mid 1960s IBM Executive typewriter, which has proportional spacing, but it is in bad shape, some of the letters are not striking, as the mechanism is sticky and the rubber wheel which powers the keystrokes is worn. The last line was typed using an IBM Selectric III typewriter with the Prestige Elite type ball, set to 12 characters per inch (elite spacing).
At least my low opinion of TV news remains intact.
Update: Looks like you can cross the IBM Selectric Composer off the list of IBM products that could have produced the memos. This should hardly come as a suprise, but it’s still interesting as hell…