Monday, November 28, 2016

Consider the Typewriter (Am I kidding? No, I am not kidding)

Perhaps, dear reader, you have heard of Freedom, the app that blocks the Internet so you can focus on your writing (or whatever offline task). It is not cheap; prices have gone up more than a smidge (ayyyy!) since I purchased it some years ago for a mere USD 10. Nope, I don't use it. End of review.

Of course, a more economical alternative for those who work at home would be to simply switch off the wi-fi signal. 

But never mind, there you are, glued to your computer, same screen, same keyboard, same desk, same chair, and whether you're using the Freedom app or you've turned off the wi-fi signal, either can be reversed (that is, the Freedom app turned off, or the wi-fi switched back on) in a matter of the slight inconvenience of a moment. Staying off-line when you're working on a computer is akin to trying to diet with an open box of chocolates within reach! As they say, Don't think about the pink elephant. Or, elephant-shaped chocolates with a cherry in the middle! Or, for a more au courant Internetesque analogy, Don't think about cats! And certainly not cats wearing hats!



Yet another strategy for diminishing the pull of the Internet, at least for some writers some of the time, would be to get up from the computer, aka the distraction machine, and hie thee over to ye olde typewriter.

My typewriter went to Goodwill years ago. But now, with a book to complete, I am seriously considering going back to using a typewriter. I am old enough to remember typing up my papers for school and college, that satisfying clackety-clack and the little ding at the end of the right margin... The calm. The focus.

Speaking of analogerie, I am also, as those of you who follow this blog well know, massively, as in an-entire-parade-ground-filled-with-dancing-pink-elephants-and-cats-in-hats-all- under-a-rain-of-chocolates, massively, relieved to have deactivated my Facebook account. That was back in August of 2015. Yes indeed, having eliminated that particular bungee-pull to the Internet, I have gotten a lot more writing done, and I am answering my email in a more consistently timely manner. 

So, typewriters. I spent an afternoon of the Thanksgiving weekend doing some Internet research. Herewith:

Five Reasons to Still Use a Typewriter 
By Gerry Holt, BBC News Magazine

The Hidden World of the Typewriter
By James Joiner, The Atlantic

The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for the 21st Century
By Richard Polt
A superb reference written by a professor of philosophy.
His blog is The Typewriter Revolution


Why nonelectric? It might be nice to type in the tipi! But also, it seems that some of the best workhorse typewriters are nonelectrics made back in the mid-20th century. The only nonelectric typewriters currently being manufactured are from China and although cheap, they're crap, so if a nonelectric typewriter is what you want, think vintage. 

For a rundown on vintage brands and models, both nonelectric and electric, Polt's The Typewriter Revolution is an excellent resource. On his website Polt also maintains a list of typewriter repair shops.

You could start combing through the cheapie listings on EBay and Goodwill, and if you have the time and can stand the skanky vibes, peruse the stalls in your local flea market. You might even grab a typewriter for free-- perhaps the one gathering cobwebs in your parents' garage... 

But it seems to me that, if you want to start typing ASAP on a good vintage machine, the best strategy would be to shell out the clams to a dealer who specializes in refurbishing or "reconditioning" quality typewriters, and who offers his or her customers a guarantee. I should think you would also want to confirm that it will be possible to source ribbons. 
My 1961 Hermes 3000 Pica
from Typewriter Techs

A few US dealers who look like promising possibilities:

Olivers By Bee
Oliver Typewriters Manufactured from 1890-1930s
An Etsy shop for antique typewriters.

Los Altos Business Machines Online Shop
Based in Los Altos CA.

Mahogany Rhino
Another Etsy shop.

Typewriter Techs
Based in Riverside IL.


Typewriter Decal Shop
Another Etsy shop.

Typewriter Pads for Sale 
(via Polt's The Typewriter Revolution blog)


The Typewriter
ETCetera online
Home of the Early Typewriter Collectors' Association

The Typewriter: A Graphic History of the Beloved Machine
By Janine Vangool
> Check out the trailer for the book-- an outstanding book trailer, by the way.

The Virtual Typewriter Museum