Monday, 25 October 2010

Why typewriters beat computers

Why typewriters beat computers

Now this is more the kind of thing! A splendid article from the BBC that highlights the benefits (yes, there are such things!) of a typewriter over a personal computer. And they haven't even touched upon the finer aesthetic qualities of the typewriter compared to the black/beige box that is the PC. "Clunky" and "dirty" indeed! Why, just look at the picture above - how beautiful is that?

As you may have worked out by now, I am somewhat passionate about typewriters, just as I am about most early- to mid-20th Century machinery. I have one myself, an Imperial 66 that I'm ashamed to say is rather battered and has seen better days, as you can see (left). It still works though! If anyone knows the name of a good restorer, however...

I can quite understand why some people prefer typewriters over more modern devices (I would love to use my own more often) and the users featured in the article make quite pertinent yet funny points regarding the shortcomings of newer technology. However it is surprising (but understandable) to see that typewriters still retain some popularity among students. Nevertheless the writer of this piece has, at least in my case, hit the nail fairly firmly on the head in his description of aspiring typists and aficionados of the machine(!). The chap mentioned in the article, Richard Polt, is well-known and highly-regarded in typewriting circles and ironically the Internet has allowed groups and collectors to flourish all over the world. Adventures In Typewriterdom, Fresh Ribbon, Retro Tech Geneva and Strikethru are just a few examples of the blogs I have stumbled across in my travels.

It is a sad inevitability that typewriter sales are declining, probably to a point where they will soon cease to be made new, but so long as there are those out there with a passion for these machines their future is assured. Of course there is another avenue - one that has been explored by the Steampunk movement in particular - and that is the merging of typewriters with computers. This has been done to varying levels of ingenuity and success, from programs such as Virtual Typewriter, through the wonderfully detailed ElectriClerk (above), to the chap who has managed to convert old typers to work with iPads, Macbooks and the like (below).

Finally, one more little thought-of advantage typewriters have over computers is that they make a delightful noise. Which allows me to finish this post with a fantastic typewriter history lesson in sound. Close your eyes and get ready to be taken through... The History of the Typewriter:


  1. Well, I'm still using a film camera - husband and I own both medium format and 35mm - and film is still being made. Typewriters may hang on as a niche technology.

  2. True. And when all the computers and digital whatnots fall over as the result of a massive solar flare or something, we'll still be able to take pictures and send messages to each other! ;-)

  3. I just bought a typewriter like the one at the top. Man, is that one BEAUTIFUL! Mine is dirty and worn. Do you know what year this was made in? I notice that not all Underwoods have the five number keys at the top. Fun post.


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