The Typewriter

If you’re getting on in years, or just happened to grow up somewhere that was technologically stunted, you may well remember the perks and pleasures of that most sophisticated of analog machinery: the typewriter.

It’s interesting to think: at one point, the typewriter was new technology. Speed and efficiency was increased many times over. People were excited. More work could be done in less time.

Actually the typewriter represented new technology many times over the course of its functional lifetime. What originated from humble beginnings in the 1800s morphed into the deluxe, ergonomic and efficient electronic typewriter of the 1980s. In between were many variations: manual gave way to electric, which gave way to electronic. On board error correction was introduced. With each new development our efficiency and ease of use grew.

But apart from the important progress that this machine gave us at certain moment, there is something oddly rewarding about using a typewriter: a connection with our senses that is lacking in the word processors and personal computers we use at the moment. Consider the sound of the typebar striking the paper, the weight of the keys beneath our fingers, the dinging of the bell and subsequent slap of the carriage as it returns to the left for the next row of text. We don’t just use a manual typewriter: we enter its realm. We have the physical act of rolling in the paper, adjusting the settings, watching as the print comes to life before our very eyes.

Typewriters will never match the efficiency of our modern day computers, but in one sense, this is the pity about the rapidly disappearing analog world: we become more efficient than ever, but in the process we lose our sense of touch, and feel. We output more but bond less with what we produce. That’s ok in one sense, because who wants to go back to manual error correction and liquid paper? But be careful not to become a part of the machinery itself. We are well served to remember the goal of all our ever-advancing technology: to allow us more time to connect to the world and enable us to do the things we love.