The Return Of The Typewriter!

We love typewriters; we sell a few of them too. So naturally I noticed this news article about The Times adding the sound of typewriters back into the newsroom. But it isn’t quite what you think…

To the surprise of Times journalists, a tall speaker on a stand has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.

This is only a test, so who knows how it will fare?

Also mentioned in the article is news about the Hanx Writer App from none other than typewriter aficionado Tom Hanks. (You might know him best as a movie star; but he’s a typewriter nerd too!)

Tom Hanks has developed the Hanx Writer app, which simulates the sound of an old-fashioned typewriter and has gone to the top of the iTunes app store in the US. Hanks, it noted, can tell the difference between the sounds of an Olivetti, a Remington and a Royal typewriter model.

Viva la typewriter!

PS More on the Hanx Writer at Mashable.

hanx writer typewriter app

I Am TOM. I Like to TYPE. Hear That?

For less important doodles in text, the kind that go no farther than your desk or refrigerator door, the tactile pleasure of typing old school is incomparable to what you get from a de rigueur laptop. Computer keyboards make a mousy tappy tap tappy tap like ones you hear in a Starbucks — work may be getting done but it sounds cozy and small, like knitting needles creating a pair of socks. Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini-explosions of SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK. A thank-you note resonates with the same heft as a literary masterpiece.

The sound of typing is one reason to own a vintage manual typewriter — alas, there are only three reasons, and none of them are ease or speed. In addition to sound, there is the sheer physical pleasure of typing; it feels just as good as it sounds, the muscles in your hands control the volume and cadence of the aural assault so that the room echoes with the staccato beat of your synapses.

See on

Collecting & Preserving The Typewriter

This past summer, my youngest, age 11, discovered a typewriter at a garage sale. He, like all our children, is fascinated by typewriters and their mechanical means of doing what the younger generation does digitally. His find was a portable blue Royal Sprite from the 1970s, and he negotiated a price of $1 for it. (I’ve taught my kids well!)

Recently, he and his find were featured at Frank De Freitas’ Typewriters Around the World, a site devoted not only to showcasing typewriters but to showing off their typefaces or fonts by having folks mail in letters typewritten on the machines.

In a related note, at Boing Boing, news that a documentary on typewriters is in need of funding in order to be completed:

Christopher Lockett, a director/cinematographer in Los Angeles, began working on a documentary called The Typewriter (In The 21st Century) after visiting Boing Boing and following Cory’s link to a article about “The Last Generation Of Typewriter Repairmen.”
Christoper says:

We’re down to our final [7] days in the fundraising… and we are woefully behind out goal of $20,000. We are presently at $5,631 with 34 backers.

We’ve shot 17 interviews with typewriter repairmen, users, collectors, authors, artists, street poets, historians and enthusiasts, documented two type-in events and have shot in LA, SF and the Phoenix/Mesa, AZ area. We’ve photographed famous machines once owned by John Lennon, Jack London, John Steinbeck, John Updike, George Bernard Shaw, Ray Bradbury, Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway.

But we’re only about halfway through shooting the film. There is a lot left to shoot on the West Coast, and even more to shoot on the East Coast and abroad. Details of our plans and some of the incentives we’re offering are on the Kickstarter page:

One of the incentives we’re offering at the $5,000 donor level is to type a letter on a typewriter owned by Ernest Hemingway that he used to keep in Cuba. It’s in Los Angeles now in the Soboroff collection.

Of the $20,000 we’re hoping to raise, none of it goes toward salaries. It’s all for travel and post-production.

More details and means to donate can be found here, so, typewriter collectors and fans, take action!

Typewriter Ribbon Tins

I’ve been reading about dead technology, things like wind-up watches, letter writing and typewriters. Then I found a link to people who collect typewriter ribbon tins. This got me thinking, it’s not just the technology or industry itself which dies but all the little things that go along with it.

I had an old typewriter, or my family did anyway. I can remember the smell of the ribbon and the tinny smell of the old typewriter itself. The ribbon was wound around two spools and would gradually wind back and forth between them until someone decided the ink had become too faded and replaced it with a new ribbon. That’s where the fancy ribbon case would come in. It would hold the fresh ribbon and spool.

Flickr: Typewriter Ribbon Tin Menagerie

As products go, what could be more banal than the lowly typewriter ribbon? In an effort to stand out from the crowd, ribbon manufacturers covered their products’ tins with colorful type and graphic elements. Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and Mid-century Modern graphic design are all well represented. Some tins feature fanciful illustrations having absolutely nothing to do with typewriters, ribbons, writing, business or anything remotely connected with typing. As the industrialized culture of international business spread throughout the 1960s and 70s, soulless, bland graphics and cheap cardboard packaging took over. The tin was no more.

Collecting Typewriter Ribbon Tins – Site by Darryl C. Rehr

Uppercase Collection of Typewriter Ribbon Tins on Flickr.

1957: The Year In Typewriters

I continue to be delighted with vintage magazines, this time another article in that November 1957 issue of Good Housekeeping has me thinking how advice on buying typewriters from 1957 might be of use to the collectors of typewriters today.

According to The Latest Word On Buying Typewriters, 1957 was a (at least semi) pivotal year for typewriters:

If you’re one of the many thousands of people who haven’t bought a typewriter in years, you’re in for some surprises.

Some of the gadgets offered on modern machines include easy-do ribbon changers, concave keys for finger comfort, automatic devices that show the number of type lines or inches remaining on the page, top plates that spring open at the touch of a button (to facilitate inside cleaning jobs), settings for light and for heavy touch, half-spacing to correct letter omissions or spacing errors, knobs to adjust the carriage speed to your own typing speed, special paper supports for post cards, practically noiseless type bars, and improved push-button settings for margins and tabulator. Often you can get typewriters to match the decor of your room, in pastels ranging from turquoise-blue to pink. You can usually choose a type style and size to match your whim, too; one manufacturer lists six sizes and 25 different kinds of type faces available in his portables.

Reading of yesteryear’s tech gadgets is both amusing and charming — like this part, explaining the “development of electrics” in typewriters:

In an electric typewriter — which is plugged into a wall outlet like any home appliance — the type bars, carriage return, and operational parts are moved by electrical power rather than by “finger power.” The typist mere touches the keys lightly, and electricity does the rest, the action resulting in a uniformly typed page.

How quaint the need for explaining an electric typewriter seems to this internet addict!

Such information may be charmingly amusing, yes; but this article may also help collectors identify the age of vintage typewriters too. So feel free to click the image to read (or download) a larger scan.