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A TRIBUTE TO TYPEWRITERS

Posted by Tim Bryce on April 26, 2012

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

(Click for AUDIO VERSION)
To use this segment in a Radio broadcast or Podcast, click HERE.

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.

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 30 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 © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.


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WHY JAPAN DROPPED THEIR CORPORATE TAX RATE – Why are the tax rates of other countries going down, but not the United States?

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3 Responses to “A TRIBUTE TO TYPEWRITERS”

  1. I have a post I need to write about typwriters too — my boys pulled out my old one from the attic. How novel to them! they were fascinated by how it actually works; don’t get to see the inside of a computer! And yes, I miss mine too. Did all my early stories on the typewriter. And I have to say to type an address on an envelope is much easier than on a computer. I’m always printing it out the wrong damn size or something…great post.

    Like

  2. Tim Bryce said

    A K.E. of Sacramento, California wrote…

    “Still have my old typewriter, but wonder if I can ever find another ribbon.”

    TIM’S REPLY: Here is where I go for ribbons: http://www.myinkpro.com/

    A P.M. of Marksville, Louisiana wrote…

    “I loved my typewriter.”

    A J.P. of Toronto, Ontario wrote…

    “I, too, remember my Grade 9 typing and penmanship class! I manually typed all my high school and university essays, including Graduate School papers, on manual typrewiters. Oh, what I would have given for word processing technology then, could I even have imagined it!”

    An M.S. of Illinois wrote…

    “They did have a distict smell to them. I had forgotten about that. Thanks for the link to the museum too. He’s got some oldies for sure.”

    An S.S. of Idaho wrote…

    “Wow, that brings back memories. I hated typing at the time, who knew we would later spend so much time keyboarding. Thanks for the great article.”

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “I had an electric Olivetti with changeable font wheels and on board correction tape! It was a big step up from my IBM Selectric which sounded like an automatic weapon when I typed really fast. I also learned on a manual. For term papers, I’d white out the mistake, then type the correct letter over it. For a professional look, I’d make a photocopy to submit. My daughter and her friends were recently talking about the old Apple computers they learned on in grade school, playing matching games and Oregon Trail. It was high tech for its time, but for them, it’s the good old days.” 🙂

    An L.M. of San Bernardino, California wrote…

    “That’s a great treatise on the subject. I started typing in the early ’50s and had to use a lot of pressure on those keys.”

    A D.C. of Kansas wrote…

    “Computers have helped in so many ways … but with a typewriter, the user needs to know how to spell. I miss that. A side benefit … strong fingers.”

    An L.M. of Chicago, Illinois wrote…

    “Does anybody still remember Ernie Pyle? It’s hard to find someone who ever used a manual typewriter. I still have my IBM Selectric with an Elite and a Courier element. Indispensible for those forms that the government insists you fill out.”

    A K.S. of Oklahoma

    “It is funny. We just found my wife’s father’s old typewriter. It is in perfect condition & I also love the tickety tack of the typing.”

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “Excellent, Tim. It seems like such a simple, logical concept, but apparently not everyone can accept it.”

    Like

  3. Tim Bryce said

    An L.V. of Palm Harbor, Florida wrote…

    “I could not help reading your articles on the typewriter. You sent me back to those days when I myself used the typewriter to learn to type. I learn typing at a private commercial school. There were forty typewriters and sixty students. We used to race with speed when we had to type speed tests. Oh how we enjoyed it and all of us learn to type quickly and accurately. There is so much I learn in typing. For example the layout of letters, memos, minutes of meetings, legal documents. You also had to give two spaces after a full stop, exclamation mark and question mark. There was so much to learn and your layout was well centered both pages and addressing envelopes. I think persons should use the typewriter to type and then learn to use the computer. They will better understand what typing and layout of documents are all about. I certainly give tribute to the typewriter.”

    Like

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