The end of an era – typewriters are no more

This makes me a bit sad. I’ve always had an affinity for typewriters, since I wrote my first ever stories on my mum’s old Remington when I was about seven years old. I’ve used a typewriter as my website logo for a while now. They’ve always fascinated me as these things that can make your words permanent, that help you get a story out and share it around.

Of course, I would never trade a PC for a typewriter now. Seriously, copy and paste, edit, search and everything else makes a word processer superior to a typewriter in every way. That’s progress. But it is sad to hear from this article in The Guardian that typewriter production is going to cease. Apparently, Godrej and Boyce, a Mumbai-based typewriter company, have just 500 left in stock. Once these have been “sold, or disposed of”, they will switch to making refrigerators instead. People still need cold milk, even though we’ve moved on from ribbons and return carriages. The saddest thing about that is the comment “sold, or disposed of”, as it seems even of those 500 left, lack of demand means some won’t find homes.

Another interesting fact, according to The Guardian, is that Mark Twain became the first author to submit a typed manuscript with Life on the Mississippi in 1883. I wonder who will be (or even already has been) the last?

I searched out a few other interesting typewriter facts, cos I’m a nerd like that. Did you know that:

TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard. (If you know of a longer one, please let me know in the comments.)

The longest common English word that can be typed using only the left hand is STEWARDESSES.

The longest English word that can be typed with the right hand only is JOHNNY-JUMP-UP (a type of flower).

The qwerty layout was designed for manual typewriters initially by Christopher Sholes all the way back in 1872. He purposely selected a physical layout that was difficult to type, so that typing speeds would be reduced. This was needed to reduce the jamming of “hammers” used to create individual letters on manual typewriters.

Jack Kerouac, a fast typist at 100 words per minute, typed On the Road on a roll of paper so he wouldn’t be interrupted by having to change the paper. Within two weeks of starting to write On the Road, Kerouac had one single-spaced paragraph, 120 feet long. (From wikipedia.)

William S. Burroughs wrote in some of his novels—and possibly believed—that “a machine he called the ‘Soft Typewriter’ was writing our lives, and our books, into existence,” according to a book review in The New Yorker. (From wikipedia.)

In a homage to the great machine that revolutionised our ability to share our words, The Guardian has put together a photo montage of great writers at their typewriters. Here’s Hunter S Thompson working at his ranch circa 1976 near Aspen Colorado:

(Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

See the full set of images at The Guardian website here.

Farewell, typewriter – you’ll always be my little website icon.


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3 thoughts on “The end of an era – typewriters are no more

  1. Awww, that makes me sad. I’m a horrible typist, really, but I love the idea of the keys clacking, of Hemmingway bringing his typewriter into a cafe and clicking away while he drinks, etc. I wouldn’t mind one of G&D’s last typewriters, and one of my long time thrift store hunts is for a suitcase typewriter.

    And now they’re gone. *sniff*

  2. Well, some chatter on Twitter is giving me faith that there’s a niche group out there that will keep typewriters alive. Apparently China is still mass-producing ribbons and parts, so there’s some life in the old beasts yet. You’ll probably just have to get the actual typewriter secondhand, that’s all.

  3. Ohhh typewriters are awesome. I’ve dreamed for *years* of getting myself one. Preferably a pre-loved one in good working order… so there’s hope for me yet!

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