Does anyone remember those machines we used to call typewriters? They’re those really loud boxes with daisy-wheels, clickity-click keys, and frustrating tape-ink rolls.
There’s something special about typewriters that a computer can never replace. I’m normally the last person to get nostalgic all over dead technology, but if there are two things that a computer can never (not yet..) truly replace it’s reading from a real live book in your hand and writing a story or novel on a typewriter.
Yesterday I dug an old Smith-Corona out of the attic while cleaning things up…
A typewriter has a certain allure to it that Microsoft Word or even Open Office can’t ever match. When a person sits down on a typewriter, what flows out no one can predict, and the outcome is just as surprising to the typist as it is to those around him or her. There’s something about the way it sounds, the reassuring feeling with every depression of a key, the resounding smack that follows the daisy-wheel as it makes its rounds that puts a certain magic to the touch, and let’s a person accomplish things that they didn’t know they could ever do.
Yesterday when I took out that old typewriter my youngest brother came over and had a look. Never one for the art of words, he astounded me by his keen interest in learning how to use it. I spent the better half of an hour tweaking and tuning the Smith-Corona until it worked more-or-less like it was supposed to, then loaded it with a sheet of paper and showed him how it works.
24 hours later here I am typing this online while he and the rest of my brothers are still excited over this decrepit scrap of metal (which probably will no longer be sold given their sudden interest – if it holds) with technology for centuries past. It’s interesting to see what comes of this – I have never seen them write a single essay, story, article, or other piece of literature of their own free will and under no duress, and that set me pondering.
I think I may have it figured out – sometimes you don’t need a tool, you need a friend. A book to hold close to you, a book to read in the dead of the night while curled up in bed, a book for you to pour in your soul, to leave records of memories behind in every fold, pore, and seam, and to listen to in happiness and bliss as it whispers its secrets back to you – that’s something that neither Adobe’s Acrobat Reader nor Microsoft’s eBook Reader can ever hope to copy.
A typewriter is very much the same – as the days go on, as the ideas stream out, and as the sounds of the frantic typing and pounding on the keys comes and goes, something is left behind. When you type on a typewriter you can see your favority keys wear off, the daisy-wheel wear out and fade in it’s lettering, and then you get the warm & satisfied feeling of accomplishment, basking in it’s glory as it courses through your veins. Unlike a computer, when you use a typewriter everything your write, every word that you forced through, every idea that passed from your mind into your fingertips on to the paper stays a lifetime.
When you pick up a used typewriter for the first time, you can feel the memories and the hours those before you spent at the typewriter, and they leave something special behind. It’s a legacy for you to carry and uphold, a duty for you to fulfill, and a friend ready to serve you when you need it, and console you when the ideas just won’t come, a typewriter is something a computer never will be, no matter how hard it may try, and even if it surpasses it in every other manner, a typewriter is just something different, and something that’s now gone.