Throwback gadget: DYMO embosser

In the 1970s, making labels didn’t involve the household PC and a printer, because they didn’t exist, instead it was either handwritten notes cellotaped on to an item or you embossed labels on to special adhesive tape with a DYMO machine. My Dad used to use their metal tape embossing machine to label pipes and valves working at his job in the shipyard. In comparison our plastic DYMO embossing machine seemed like a toy, and it often felt like one.
Dymo embosser
Our hand-squeezed DYMO printer felt fragile, yet you would have to be surprisingly robust with it in order to get the letters printed. It often retyped over letters if you tried to make a label quickly and my Mum used to have a fit if I wasted a roll of the tape because of the expense.

The labels once made did last. They also made their way into popular culture inspiring magazine graphic design, fanzines and record covers. You can still buy the embosser, or at least a sanitised version of it with soft ergonomic handles in more subdued coloured plastics, but DYMO really wants to sell you a tricked out electronic printer that doesn’t have the same artistic feel or sense of accomplishment in making the label. My childhood memory of my palms aching as I squeezed hard to stamp the letters wouldn’t have happened with the modern machines.