The Demise of the (Type)Written Word

DSCI0070Before the iPad, before the netbook, before the personal desktop computer, there was a time in which simple mechanical parts and push button technology aided us in producing the written word: I give you the typewriter.

In fact, this may be the last typewriter, or at least the last manual typewriter.* In April the last typewriter factory in the world, Godrej and Boyce, closed its production line after 60 years, with 500 pieces remaining. Having sustained itself in recent years on the diminishing Indian and Arabic markets, there was no longer a sustainable business in typewriters.

I would never go to a store expecting to find a typewriter but not too long ago I did go in search of one. Most aspiring writers have at some point sought, or yearned for, the comfort and solace of typewriter keys; providing a feeling of connection to past artists in a way that my handy little netbook just doesn’t. There is something about a typewriter, something comforting in the rhythmic sounds made by the machine as you type, it feels productive, it feels permanent. Maybe that’s what I seek, to see line after line produced on paper instead of existing as a picture on my screen. Certainly that is why I never took to the electric typewriter. Some of my best work has been done with the deliberate words punched onto paper by my typewriter, also most of my unseen work. These days we’re all about speed, and if I can’t email it from a device then it’s probably never going anywhere. Still, I’m drawn back to the machine and can be found click clacking away in the kitchen. A friend’s brother came over not long after I purchased my typewriter and asked what it was, he got the biggest kick out of typing on it. Old or classic?

Fear not! If you still want a typewriter, for its steampunk value or as a much needed writing tool, you can still find them out there.

  • If you want something aesthetically pleasing you can find vintage machines online at places like Etsy and eBay. They also have a wide variety of more functional machines.
  • You can find them at yard sales or rummage sales – mine (pictured above) cost $2 from a White Elephant and works beautifully, except that it has no #1 key but who really needs that!
  • Government offices and schools tend to have them in storage ad infinitum, so it’s worth a visit to see if they’ve got one or two (for spare parts even) that they would like to unload.
  • There are companies that refurbish typewriters, so you can in essence buy a “new” one even now. Refurbexpress.com or typewriters.com will take you back to the eighties, sadly not at eighties prices.

And don’t worry about running out of ribbon, they still sell it at Staples!

*Electric typewriters are still in production.

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