Book Look: A Tribute to Typewriters

Posted by Cybil on November 10, 2017

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The new art book Typewriters: Iconic Machines from the Golden Age of Mechanical Writing celebrates everything from the creation of the QWERTY keyboard to the world's first portable typing machine.

Actor Tom Hanks is a huge fan of these beloved writing instruments. He's also a new author and wrote the foreword to this book.

In his introduction, Hanks says there are only 11 reasons to use a typewriter:

"1. Your penmanship is illegible. I mean, unreadable, so cocked-up and irregular that you use block printing and flowing script in the same five-letter word. The kind of handwriting that one of those legal experts would examine for a trial and say, 'Oh, he's guilty!'

2. You can't afford or are just too thickheaded to figure out a computer.

3. Your religion forbids the use of machinery invented after 1867, when John Pratt came up with the Pterotype.

4. The Communists are back in power. Their technology sort of maxed out with space rockets and typewriters, at about the same time.

5. You want the assurance that your letter/note/receipt/speech/test or quiz/school report will, most likely, be kept for a long time, perhaps forever. It's a fact: no one chucks anything typewritten into the trash after just one reading. E-mails? I delete most before I see the electronic signature.

6. You take great pleasure in the tactile experience of typing—the sound, the physical quality of touch, the report and action of type-bell-return, the carriage, and the satisfaction of pulling a completed page out of the machine, raaappp!

7. If what you are writing is lengthy, the distraction of rolling another page into the carriage allows you to collect your thoughts.

8. You are an artist, equal to Picasso, and everything you type is a one-of-a-kind work. The combination of paper quality, the age of the ribbon, the minute quirks of your machine, the occasional misuse of the space bar, and the options of the margins and tabs all add up to make anything you type as varied and unique as the thoughts in your head and the ridges of your fingerprints. Everything you type is a snowflake all its own.

9. You own a typewriter. It has been serviced and works just fine. The ribbon is fresh. You keep the machine out on a table at the correct height, not locked away in a closet still in its case. You have next to it a small stack of stationery and maybe some envelopes. The typewriter is ready and easy to use any time of the day.

10. You really want to bother the other customers at the coffee place.

11. Typewriter = Chick Magnet."

All images ©Typewriters: Iconic Machines from the Golden Age of Mechanical Writing, published by Chronicle Books, 2017.

Love a typewriter? Tell us why these vintage machines appeal to you!

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Comments Showing 1-26 of 26 (26 new)

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message 1: by Beate (new)

Beate It's how I learned how to "touch" type. On an old-fashioned typewriter with a black and red ribbon you could turn and reuse a number of times before you had to throw it out. That's how I fell in love with the art of writing.

message 2: by Novel Nymph (new)

Novel Nymph #11

I don't know about anyone else, but it would work for me. ; )

message 3: by David (new)

David I'm fairly certain I have never actually seen a typewriter in person.

message 4: by mirabilos (new)

mirabilos I used a typewriter when my stepmother forbade me from using the computer. That, or a pencil. I wrote a lot of software that way. Really makes you think about what you’re doing.

message 5: by Trisha (new)

Trisha Abaddon I have an old typewriter after my grandpa and I love using it - it reminds me dark, cozy evenings when I would sit by the table in grandpa's room - he would type his things and I would sit next to him and learn how to read. The smell, the sound... I learnt the letters from it and somewhere I have my first 'poem' created which I typed on it. I was 5-6 years old, my typewriter is a time machine for me :)

message 6: by Newell (new)

Newell Thank you, to all the commenters, adding interesting snippets of memories. I too have memories of an old typewriter during my childhood. I didn't appreciate it back then, but learned to type on a manual typewriter in school, then re-acquired a classic 1940s portable a couple of years ago. There is something special about a purely mechanical machine that is designed to record thought.

message 7: by Beata (new)

Beata Thanks for the 10 thesis by Tom Hanks! I love them and absolutely agree with them! I still have the portable typewriter I used for typing out my master thesis, and have fond memories of the process itself. Good old days!

message 8: by Yaaresse (new)

Yaaresse I learned to pound keys on an old Sears electric portable that, when in the case, looked like something a CIA agent would be handcuffed to...except that it weighed about 40 pounds. Then I had to learn all over again in junior high because no one had told me about the concept of "home keys." Our school typewriters were vintage even then: manual Underwoods that looked like dinasaurs. If you passed typing on those, you could kill people with just the muscles in our index and pinkie fingers. This is probably why I manage to wear out a computer keyboard every 10-12 months. (My last laptop, I replaced the keyboard three times in two years because the key caps had holes in them.)

When I graduated from high school, my dad bought me a IBM Selectric II I had spotted in a pawn shop. He nearly had a stroke at the cost, even used, but it was in pristine condition. It was a damn fine typewriter and had the virtue of weighing so much that no one ever asked to borrow it. Had it cleaned and serviced every year, and it served me long and well. I ended up selling it about 12 years after I got the typewriter service center owner who offered me more than it had cost new. At the time, I was happy for the cash, but I really wish I still had that beauty.

message 9: by Amelia (new)

Amelia Swift You are publishing some valuable information about type writer. My profession its writer and am currently working at online assignment assistance company anyways please keep sharing article related to writing.

message 10: by Vijayan (new)

Vijayan "asdfgf;lkjhj "

message 11: by Moronke (new)

Moronke I've my typewriter right in front of me, I just like it and it reminds of old days. Thanks for asking.

message 12: by R.R. (new)

R.R. Scott About 15 years ago, I came across a perfectly good, well-tuned 1940s Remington Rand Portable Deluxe Model 5 typewriter for only $30, with its original carrying case. Needless to say, I bought it, changed the ribbon, and for years did little with it. Once in a while, I'd roll a page into the carriage and enjoy the keys under my fingers and the "Thunk-thunk-thunk" as I hammered out some random words, waiting for the charming "ding!" of the bell to warn me I was nearing the end of the line. But in the last couple of years I've kept it out on my writing desk, and have punched out story outlines and two short stories on it - including my first published story. I've been writing by hand for years, and now I often include the typewriter in part or all of my re-drafting process before switching to my laptop for final drafts. There's something about writing both by hand and on the typewriter that forces me on - makes me get my work done. Some would say it's that romantic connection you get between you and the page and the written word when it's done the old fashioned way. Partly true. But it also helps that I can't so easily correct and rewrite as I go - I just get the job done and edit later.

message 13: by Emma (new)

Emma I learned to type on an old manual typewriter in high school. We used those manual typewriters for two years before being allowed to move on to electric typewriters.

I sometimes see old manuals in Salvation Army and such shops and consider purchasing. I just wouldn't know where to begin to ensure it's in working order--or where to get the ribbon. But I'm always wistfully thinking "one day...."

message 14: by Chris (new)

Chris Caughey I can't seem to get "touch-type." My hand keep moving a digit over and making lots of gobilty-gook! BUT I love the sound of the old typewriters under the hands of a typing master!!
I loved this from my childhood!!!

message 15: by Alice (new)

Alice Oakey I love the sound and feel of typing on a typewriter. It feels more expressive and more secretive than using a computer. I love lubricating and cleaning my red Olympia. Moving away from digital technology feels good for my soul.

message 16: by Deborah (new)

Deborah I took a typing course in high school and was simply hooked! It's not that I minded writing but after typing letters, etc. I couldn't go back to writing by hand. Typed my papers in college and it continued on to this day - and am I glad because I love computers and I can type to my heart's content!!

message 17: by Esther (new)

Esther Murphy A typewriter of one's own was a sacred rite of passage in my family. Type writing was an elective high school course. The investment by family into your own personal typewriter meant "You are going to college". I measure generations in the essential machines; my grandfather's Remington, my grandmother's Royal, my father's Underwood, my mother's Corona. My brother was humbled by the gift of the first electric typewriter in the family, a Sears Smith-Corona. My grandmother scaled up to behemoth IBM purchased when she was awarded Top Seller in her mail-order cosmetics business. I was the first to abandon carbon copy paper when I got my 'brother WP-75' word processor. Writing matters!

message 18: by Lila (new)

Lila Johnson Oh the days of typing classes, shorthand and preparations to work in an office environment. During an interview, a primary question was, "How many words a minute can you type?" Check out the movie, Populaire.

message 19: by Lila (new)

Lila Johnson Oh the days of typing classes, shorthand and preparations to work in an office environment. During an interview, a primary question was, "How many words a minute can you type?" Check out the movie, Populaire.

message 20: by Lila (new)

Lila Johnson Oh the days of typing classes, shorthand and preparations to work in an office environment. During an interview, a primary question was, "How many words a minute can you type?" Check out the movie, Populaire.

message 21: by Brettandleosmom (new)

Brettandleosmom I learned to type on an electric typewriter in high school. Oh, how I hated having to go back and use the correction squares when I made a mistake! However, that year of typing class in 10th grade has served me incredibly well. (Though I still occasionally hit the number 3 instead of 'e' much more distance between keys on a typewriter than on a keyboard!)

message 22: by Judy (new)

Judy Women often did not admit they could type because they knew if they did, they would be hired only as secretaries.

And who can forget the classic poster of Golda Meir with the caption, "But Can She Type?"

message 23: by Eule (new)

Eule Luftschloss Inherited an old typewriter from my grandmother and have to replace the ribbon. Somehow I never get round to it, but I'd like someday to write personal correspondence to letter pals with it.

message 24: by Olivia "So many books--so little time."" (last edited Nov 28, 2017 07:20PM) (new)

Olivia "So many books--so little time."" This post and comments sure brought back a lot of memories for me. I learned to type in 1977 and had to do a great deal of typing on an IBM Selectric when I was working. I also remember having been asked how many words a minute I could type.

message 25: by Jessy (new)

Jessy Loved typing on the typewriter. My Dad’s typewriter is still kept by my Mum.

message 26: by Regina (new)

Regina Woods Typewriters, Word Processors ^ GEMS

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