The time when these machines ruled the writing world.
| I have been writing for many years and I continue to hear that writers should always be writing, even if it is to put words on the page that no one will ever see. Well, I had one of those days recently. It was a beautiful morning filled with glorious Sunshine. I had the urge to type on the typewriter that sits to the right side of my desk on a smaller typing table. I usually type new ideas or the first draft of a piece on a manual typewriter. Here is one such idea that came to me on that beautiful morning.
A long time ago, much longer now than it seems, there were beautiful machines that ruled the writing world. This was the world of manual typewriters. I own quite a few of these works of the machinist art, and my love and appreciation for them have never lessened. There has never been anything that compares to the sound of a typewriter tapping out your words on the blank page.
I grew up in a time when all there was were typewriters. If you intended to write a letter you either wrote it by hand or typed it out. If you were a college student or secretary you surely had the services of a typewriter. The design, manufacturing, and selling of typewriters were a multi-million-dollar industry. And, of course, that is not to mention the millions of dollars that were spent in designing advertisement campaigns. Before the advent of personal word processors, typewriters ruled. Even after the use of computers became more widespread, typewriters were still widely used by professionals and students alike. Today there is a tremendous resurgence in the interest of typewriters. I believe that there are many who find the old machines calling them back to a much simpler time. Once they get their first machine they seem to experience history first hand and it is very exciting. Now, let me get back to my story.
I think that one of the most interesting aspects of the typewriter industry was its advertising genius. If you were searching for a gift that would delight both young and old, the advertisers had you in mind. Many of these ads can still be seen today. I have several of them framed and hanging on my office wall. During the holiday season, the advertising companies went full bore to attract gift givers. These ads were usually in vibrant color showing excited and smiling faces as they gazed upon the typewriter they had received. The typewriter was just the perfect gift. Many of the machines remained in families for generations.
Today, we fully understand the personal computer to be an essential part of our culture. Computers play a major role in running practically every aspect of our lives. If computers go down, as is the common terminology, things just don’t work. I’m sure many of us have been shopping in a store when the computers went down. At that moment, everyone in the checkout line was stranded if they intended to use a card to pay for their purchase. And, of course, everyone knows that the cars they drive have an onboard computer that controls everything the car does. If the computer doesn’t send the commands, the car doesn’t run. If you happen to be working at the office and the system goes down, whatever you were doing must wait until things are brought back online. That’s the way it is in our technologically driven world. We dearly love our computers, but that love comes at a price.
In the days of typewriters, you didn’t have any of those potential problems. Unless you had a purely mechanical problem with your machine – which didn’t happen often – you had nothing that could stop you from completing your task. Manual machines didn’t require electricity. You could take them anywhere and get the job done. Many a war correspondent sat in a foxhole pounding out stories for the papers back home. Many of those typewriters took quite a beating while continuing to get the words on paper. Amazingly, some of those typewriters, like the correspondents who counted on them, survived the war and can still be used today. Try saying that about a laptop.
Sadly, most people don’t engage in much-handwritten correspondence anymore. Everything is done with text and email. In the days of typewriters, if people didn’t write letters by hand, they typed them for a more formal appearance. I don’t know if they teach touch typing in school as they did in my day. But, in those days everybody had to take typing. Of course, long before I was even in school the typewriter was king. Some of the great novels in literature were written on typewriters. The typewriter industry took advantage of this fact by associating the names of famous writers with their brand. One writer would only type on the German made Olympia, while another used only Royal. In any case, there was money to be made by getting a famous writer to associate his or her name with your typewriter.
There are many typewriters that could be classified as some of the most beautiful pieces of mechanical art ever engineered. This is proven by the fact that many are in use more than seventy years after they were first built. Believe it or not, there are a good many small businesses that specialize in the restoration of these wonderful old machines. When these restorations are complete, these typewriters are as beautiful and work as well as they did when they first came out of the box. These typewriters can easily sell for $700.00. or more. And don’t misunderstand me. These machines are ready to get to work. They may even inspire you to write that novel you’ve dreamed of writing.
Now, I should warn you of the danger of typewriters. If you ever buy a well maintained machined and learn how to use it, you may just want another and another. Typewriters aren’t difficult to find. There are hundreds for sale on eBay. It’s a good idea to learn a little bit about typewriters before you buy the first one you see. There are many different brands of typewriters – some good and some not so good – from $100.00 to $300.00. It’s probably a good idea to stay away from those under $100.00. As always, do your research, and let the buyer beware.
Typewriters can be great fun. They possess an almost magical ability in drawing the writer to their keys. Actor, Tom Hanks, is a collector and types on his regularly. They harken to a different time when things were much less complicated and hectic. We need to remember those times and a typewriter is a simple place to start. Happy typing.