Problematics | Carbon copies in the age of typewriters - Hindustan Times

Problematics | Carbon copies in the age of typewriters

Oct 02, 2023 05:21 PM IST

The mystery of the typewriter is gone with the rise of smartphones and computers. However, carbon paper still has some use, such as in college projects.

Until about a generation and a half ago, there used to be an aura of mystery about the typewriter. You could only wonder at the speed with which a skilled typist would hammer away at the keys, precisely finding every letter even though these appeared to be in a random arrangement. The wonder continued when the mechanical typewriter made way for the electronic version, which remained the domain of trained typists only.

Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock) PREMIUM
Welcome to Problematics! (Shutterstock)

Today, the mystery is gone. The typewriter layout is implanted in our memory, thanks to our constant use of the keypads of our smartphones and computers. Unlike the keyboard/keypad layout, however, there’s one aspect of the typewriter that has not passed on from generation of typing to another: the carbon paper.

Although the carbon paper has no use in smartphones and computers, it has not gone totally extinct. A college student, for example, may use a carbon paper while writing a project if they need to submit one copy and keep another with themselves. The following puzzle, therefore, assumes that you already know how a carbon paper works; if you have never used one, the Internet is a free repository of knowledge.

#Puzzle 58.1

The only time I have seen this puzzle published was in Mukul Sharma’s Mindsport, his column in The Illustrated Weekly of India, now long out of print. Dear MS did not specify whether he had thought it up himself or had picked it up from another source. I have modified the MS version only slightly.

Place a sheet of carbon paper between two white sheets, as any typist from the Golden Age would do. Fold this assembly in half, with the bottom half going behind the top half. Now place the assembly into a mechanical typewriter, so that any letter you type would land on the front half. Hold down the capital key and hammer just one key: Y, so that you get its uppercase version.

How many times would Y appear across the two sheets, where would it appear on which sheet, and how would each Y be oriented?

#Puzzle 58.2

#Puzzle 58.2
#Puzzle 58.2

This one should be simple for anyone who is good with numbers. Take 10 cards, A-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10, of whichever suit or suits. Arrange them in the layout shown, so that the pip values (A = 1) of the cards in each row and each column adds up to 18.

Note: Do remember to send illustrations with both your solutions. There have been readers who, in the past, have not sent illustrations after I had asked for them, and it is sometimes taxing to visualise what you mean by reading your text alone. So, treat the illustrations as a must, please.

Mailbox: Last week’s solutions

#Puzzle 57.1

Hi Kabir,

If we visualise the climber’s ascent and descent as being on the SAME DAY, as if two different persons were walking, one ascending and his clone descending, they would definitely meet at some point on the route despite their random speeds and resting times etc. This proves that there is a point on the route where the climber was present at the same time on both days.

—Ranjan Ghosh, Noida

#Puzzle 57.2

#Puzzle 57.2
#Puzzle 57.2

If the length, breadth and height of the box are L, B and H, then the length of ribbon required (excluding the knot) is 2L + 4B + 6H = 12 feet.

Now the product of three numbers whose total is constant is maximum when these numbers are equal. Therefore, the volume 2L x 4B x 6H will be maximum when 2L = 4B = 6H. This gives L= 2 ft, B= 1 ft, H = 2/3 ft, and a maximum volume of 4/3 cubic ft.

— Kanwarjit Singh, Chief Commissioner of Income Tax (retd), Delhi

Solved both puzzles: Ranjan Ghosh (Noida), Kanwarjit Singh (Delhi), Amit Khanna (Fremont, California), Group Capt RK Shrivastava (retd; Delhi), Harshit Arora (IIT Delhi), Rajesh Bansal (Noida), Anil Khanna (Ghaziabad), Prof Anshul Kumar (Delhi), Rajender Parsad Agarwal (Delhi), Rajeev Chauhan

Solved #Puzzle 57.1: Raj Laxmi (Delhi), Ajay Ashok (Mumbai), Dr Sunita Gupta (Delhi), Nagarajan Subramanian (Gurgaon), Sunita & Naresh Dhillon (Gurgaon), Sabornee Jana (Mumbai), Shri Ram Aggarwal (Delhi), Vineet Kumar Dargan (Delhi), Bhuvi Jain (Delhi), Amardeep Singh (Meerut)

Solved #Puzzle 57.2: SC Vasudeva, HP Choudhury, Joydeep Mahato, Maithili Sharan (Delhi)

Problematics will be back next week. Please send in your replies by Friday noon

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    Puzzles Editor Kabir Firaque is the author of the weekly column Problematics. A journalist for three decades, he also writes about science and mathematics.

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