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A TRIBUTE TO TYPEWRITERS

BRYCE ON LIFE

– In praise of the look, feel, and smell of a typed letter.

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I have been using a variety of computer word processors over the last thirty years and produced some rather fine looking documents using them, but for some reason I still miss the typewriter. Maybe it’s because you can quickly type up an impressive looking envelope or fill out a form; Yes, many organizations still use paper forms, particularly nonprofits. The look and feel of a business letter seems somehow more impressive when prepared on a typewriter, more professional and authoritative if you will.

Some people have an aversion to typewriters and generally dismiss them as dinosaurs in the office. I certainly am not of this opinion as we still have an aging IBM Wheelwriter 30, Series II in our office which we would never dream of losing. We don’t type a lot of letters with it anymore, but when we do, they still look first class. When compared to today’s computers, the keyboard is starting to show its age, but there is a crispness to the letters it produces as well as a smell, which I attribute to the printer ink and carbon paper which was used to make duplicate copies. In most companies today, you are expected to print an adhesive label to put on an envelope, which pales in comparison to an envelope with a typed address. It looks rather impressive with a touch of class, something you do not see much anymore in the corporate world.

I learned to type in Mrs. Weldman’s class during my junior year in High School. Most of us typed on manual typewriters where pressing a key forced a metallic arm to rise up and strike the paper with a letter. Only a handful of the students in my class were allowed to use the electric models which didn’t require as much umph in pressing the keys. Our teacher would often have us perform three minute tests to monitor our typing speed and accuracy. Repetitive exercises forced us to improve in both, e.g., “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.” Because a typewriter is less forgiving than a word processor in terms of correcting mistakes, you tend to develop better typing habits. I’ve carried these habits forward to this day and consider myself a rather good typist (Thanks Mrs. Weldman).

Since then, I’ve used a variety of manual and electric typewriters, everything from the classic keystroke, to print balls with different fonts, to daisy wheels which spin to the desired letter and prints the character. As good a typist as I consider myself to be, I thank God somebody created correction tape and liquid paper. Letters produced using word processors may be easier to correct and have impressive spell checkers, but they somehow seem plain to me regardless of the stock paper you use or the variety of available fonts. There’s simply a feel to a typed letter that makes it seem more important. Maybe it’s because it takes more effort to create a typed letter, and by doing so it means the typist is more thoughtful of the person who will receive it. To me, it’s just plain classy.

I also go back to a time when I found the tickety-tack sound of the typewriters to be strangely melodic. I’ll admit a room full of typists clicking away could make quite a racket, but it also seemed to suggest to me some serious business was being conducted. It was like going into the nerve center of a newsroom where important stories were being written. It was quite invigorating. Now, when you go into offices where people quietly work away in the privacy of their cubicles, you wonder if anyone is awake. Somehow I miss the hubbub of business, it felt like something was actually happening.

Surprisingly, there is a bit of a Renaissance going on with typewriters these days as it has somehow become hip to be seen as a struggling writer who lugs a portable typewriter around. I think it’s an Ernie Pyle kind of thing. Nonetheless, there is renewed interest in typewriters and devotees are showcasing their classic equipment in museums, both physically and virtually on the Internet. One of the best I’ve found is Mr. Martin’s Typewriter Museum, be sure to check it out. I’m also told that because of their rarity, a typewriter repairman can now make a decent living. Who’da thunk it.

Like music, fashion, and the media, we tend to develop a close association with the technology of our youth. My kids probably have as much trouble understanding my fascination with typewriters, as I have with their smart phones. We appreciate the technology of our era. As much as I would like to believe I am digital, in all likelihood I am more analog in nature.

One last reason why I owe my allegiance to the typewriter; it was in Mrs. Weldman’s class where I first met my wife.

First published: April 27, 2012

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 40 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:   timbryce.com

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Copyright © 2017 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

Also read Tim’s columns in the THE HUFFINGTON POST

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LAST TIME:  THE FOUR STEPS FOR AMERICAN SUBVERSION  – A warning from a former KGB agent.

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Tim is a writer and management consultant located in the Tampa Bay area of Florida.


1 comment to A TRIBUTE TO TYPEWRITERS

  • You surely saw the movie “Lifeboat” , from a story written by John Steinbeck, in which Tallulah Bankhead starred with the ill-fated John Hodiak. Tallulah takes a typewriter onto the lifeboat with her, is the target of derision from John Hodiak, and if I remember correctly just before the ending Hodiak tosses the typewriter overboard.

    There is also another tale of a purloined typewriter — my memory is fading here — of a would-be journalist in the time of Pancho Villa during the Mexican Revolution, who despite lugging a weighty typewriter over miles of marching was never able to get a story into the hands of a publisher.

    I like your image of the musicality of clicking typewriters, and the impression that something was actually being done.

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