Another era passes, proving again how old I am

The headline on The Atlantic site says it all: Last Typewriter Factory in the World Shuts Its Doors. Although I haven’t used a typewriter in years and their use has become outmoded, it’s still a sad day.

You see, I’m from the age where you took typing class — not “keyboarding.” I’m from the age when the IBM Selectric was top of the line technology. I’m from the age where the sound of typewriters and teletypes was the soundtrack to the life of a working journalist. In fact, I thought the newsroom at the Rapid City Journal lost some magic when we went to word processing machines in the early 1980s. I can’t imagine what a newsroom sounds like — excuse me, doesn’t sound like — today. In fact, I credit working amidst typewriters in busy newsrooms as giving me an ability many others don’t have to zone out sound when working or concentrating on something.

While computer keyboards and mice can click, those sounds can’t hold a candle to a typewriter. Granted, it was never fun to screw up a page when writing a term paper and face typing it again. But the sounds of the keys hitting the paper in the platen and manually returning the carriage when the bell announcing you were nearing the margin could reflect your emotions or how easily something was flowing while writing.

How special were they? I recall when my kids were young and a couple of them so a typewriter at a rummage sale. They were so very impressed that when you hit the key the letter immediately appeared on paper. None of this waiting for a printer to spit it out.

Yes, it’s a sad day. And no one can doubt the longlasting impact of this technology. One example from the modern age: not only did typewriters predate the cassette Walkman by decades, it outlived them.

When I was learning elementary probability, I was told that if a million monkeys sat at a million typewriters, they would eventually write all the works of Shakespeare. The Internet has shown that this is not true.

Michael Lesk, Practical Digital Libraries: Books, Bytes, and Bucks

2 comments to Another era passes, proving again how old I am

  • Tom Lawrence

    I knew an older couple in Montana 10 years ago who ran a typewriter repair shop. Always wondered how they stayed afloat.

  • Stephen Rosenthal

    My son-in-laws mother is an artist and makes jewelry from old typewriter keys.