You only thought typewriters were obsolete!


Typewriters are making a comeback. I know, it sounds ludicrous, but according to an article in the New York Times, it’s true. Among the comments on my last post was one by journalist Caitlin Kelly that took me to her Broadside blog. There she discussed the NYT article and reminisced about her early typewriting experiences. She said, “As someone old enough to have begun her journalism career working on a typewriter, I remember well the joys and frustrations – fingers covered in Wite-out! No delete key! Physical cutting and pasting! – that went along with it.”

Her words sent my memory cells careening!

Dusty and almost forgotten, abandoned in the darkness of my office closet, a plastic case hides the forerunner to a succession of many Mac computers – an electric Smith Corona SL470. My husband has often suggested it’s taking up unnecessary space and should be scrapped, or at least donated to a church garage sale, but I can’t quite convince myself to part with it.

It’s not antique by any means, and isn’t even my first typewriter. My first was a sleek Olivetti portable, given to me one Christmas by my parents.  My dad asked me to help choose it, ostensibly as a gift for my mom, who typed up his business invoices on an ancient Underwood. What a surprise to discover the Olivetti under the tree Christmas morning with my name attached to it!

Mom, on the other hand, continued to plunk on the Underwood until receiving a hand-me-down Royal years later from my in-laws.  It was a great improvement. The Royal’s keys were wonderfully smooth, and no longer etched circles into my mom’s fingertips.

Generations of writers have recorded their stories using typewriters, and some would say creativity flowed much easier than with today’s computers. The ideas poured out, keeping pace with sixty-words-per-minute keystrokes. I’m not sure sitting at a typewriter, hands poised over the keys while staring at a blank sheet of paper, is really much different than sitting at my computers staring at the blinking cursor on a blank screen.

The memories don’t provoke many creative ideas, but perhaps the convenience of a delete key and a save option compensate for the lack of any tactile inspiration.

I know I don’t miss the Wite-out, or erasing multiple copies sandwiched between sheets of carbon paper. I don’t miss wasted paper balled up and tossed into a garbage can. Or faint lines of type when I needed to change the ribbon but didn’t have a replacement on hand.

Then again, there really was something unique about the tappity-tap and ding… something satisfying about flinging that carriage back to start a fresh line.

Ah, the nostalgia! I think I’ll go plug in the Smith Corona and give it run, just for old time’s sake. It doesn’t have a carriage per se, but it still makes a good thunk when I hit the return key.

What’s been your best writing tool – pen and paper, typewriter, word processor, computer? Any antiques in your closet?