Sunday, June 1, 2008

Traditional Technology for the Tyrannosaur

The manual typewriter is an antiquated looking piece of equipment. It is heavy, messy, noisy, and hard on the fingers. There was a time in the 1990's when those who clung to typewriters were regarded as stone age personnel, and failure to learn the use of the more sophisticated computer usually delayed promotion to a higher position. Today, it is assumed that any applicant for any position knows how to use a computer, or at least its most basic function, typing.

Surprisingly, there are still Tyrannosaurs in our midst who would opt for the typewriter. Some would even choose to buy one even if they could very well afford a laptop. Brother, a Japanese company known more for manufacturing printers, fax machines, and sewing machines sold about 12,000 electronic typewriters to the UK last year, their biggest market. But sales are dropping at about 10% annually. Even developing countries who use typewriters in remote areas where electricity is unstable are showing a decline in sales. They have probably learned how to repair the units or have received second hand units from the mother office. There is widespread belief that for some time yet, second hand typewriters can be purchased in a used car lot for the price of a replacement ribbon.

Most of those who prefer this equipment are older people, although some students pick it out for their typing needs in school. The novelist Frederick Forsyth still prefers a typewriter. When asked why thousands of people still use the unit in a recent interview, he said "They find a computer distracting, unreliable, or just plain terrifying; and they have an affection for the tangible. I like to see black words on white paper rolling up my gaze. I have never had an accident where I pressed a button and sent 7 chapters into cyber space, never to be seen again. And, have you ever tried to hack into my typewriter? It's very secure".

There are other writers who have the same view. Some even have websites where they pose with their much loved antiquity. But typewriters also have a history of emancipation for women. Typing classes mushroomed in the 1900s allowing women to find paid jobs outside the home. They were accused of taking jobs from men, depressing wages, and tempting the boss,
much like those entering the US from the Mexican border. But it was revolutionary even in its limited scope.The typewriter cannot surf the internet, but it is focused on its function especially for those who require only that task, typing.

The good thing
s about a typewriter is that you don't need batteries, no need to recharge, no need for electricity, and it prints as you encode. With the current trend in the price of oil and energy, its diminishing supply and dwindling reserves; together with the fact that no viable alternative source of sustainable and adequate energy has yet been found, the future's electricity supply may be threatened with instability, and the internet as it is enjoyed today may be cumbersome, unreliable, and costly. Google is investing heavily in energy development because its very survival is dependent on this. Cell phones and the internet are taken for granted and are undergoing continuous upgrading and development, but trends that affect their very nature are being depleted faster and are now in short supply.

Look back into that lowly typewriter and see that it still works. The future may be how it is desired to be imagined but is actually heading back towards a primitive way of doing things. A way when people wrote and kept letters using eloquent language that expressed thoughts and feelings in a decent and educated manner, unlike todays short cuts that are mere sound bytes or convoluted combinations of numbers and letters to simulate the sound of a phrase . This is resorted to because of the short attention span that reflect the dumbing of the mind. A primitive time when people communicated face-to-face without moving their focus from the person to the cell phone or laptop. A time when kids went outside to play and grew healthier, search for their friends and found them, bonded closely with physical oneness rather than digital responses.

These are mere possibilities, but the trend at the moment doesn't look too well for a continuation of the digital future. The world might just return to the old ways, where even if temporary, may last several years. And everyone will be tyrannosaurs again, fighting to share time with an Underwood or a Remington. Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrrghhhh!


Reference: BBC News Magazine,
Neil Hallows, Why Typewriters beat Computers


Brenda said...

I like the typewriter for nostalgic reasons: I can still hear my minister father typing his sermons late into the night. But as a writer who spends most of my time in re-writes, I cannot imagine going back to the days of manual erasure!

Zhu said...

Interesting history!

Not a big fan of the typewriter, which I really can master... Love computers!

What I miss is the ink smell though!

jc said...

There is a big company in the Philippines where carbon paper manufacturers and typewriter firms still sell a lot of units! :D

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Brenda,


It's hard to imagine going back to the old ways after adapting to the current modes, but this is something we may have to think about seriously soon because of diminishing energy supplies.

The age of instant communication may be severely affected by unstable power sources that could greatly impact on how we want to do things today.

Global warming is another consideration. Or, should we just enjoy things now as much as we can and worry about tomorrow as it comes? :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Zhu,

I'm not a big typewriter fan either, and I was among the first to get a word processor in the 1980's, a Radioshack. At the time before microsoft was in the horizon, we were using wordstar, and looking back now, it seems so primitive.

I used typewriters in college and for some time when I started working.I only use one when forced to, like when were in some remote area where electricity is not available beyond 4 hours per day and there are no satellite nor cell site installations to make laptops viable.

I like the smell of liquid paper though. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi JC,

I am not aware of such a company that buys carbon paper and typewriters. If it's the PNP or a government agency, I would understand. Is this a private company? :-) --Durano, done!

The Fitness Diva said...

It took a very long time for me to throw my little IBM typewriter away. It was too cool and neat, couched inside its own little brown briefcase with a thick, plastic handle. It way heavy as heck to try to carry around (which I never did), but I loved it. In fact, I can't be so sure that I've actually thrown it could still be with me, packed away in one of my boxes of junk. I was always too attached to it to let it go, even after my first pc!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Fitness Diva,

We might have something in common. I believe I still have a portable Smith Corona typewriter which I obtained in 1979 on my first trip to the US.

I have always kept it clean and ready to use. I wrapped it up a long time ago and I even remember allowing my eldest kid then to use it when she was in 6th grade. I just don't have it in me to discard an old friend even if I'm no great fan of typewriters. :-) --Durano, done!

jc said...

Hi Durano!

It's a company that sells beer and mineral water among other things! :D

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi JC,

Oh I see. Thanks for the info. I didn't realize they can be so antiquated, or is it that they are just thrifty? LOL! :-) --Durano, done!

ZenDenizen said...

I learned to type on a clunky, cumbersome manual Brother typewriter when I was 6 or 7. My father was typing resumes and saw me sitting around doing nothing and decided to ask, "can you type?!" and my eyes lit up. "No but I can try!" So I stood on a chair and used the weight of my whole body (all 45 lbs or whatever I weighed) to pound away on the keyboard. I haven't looked back since :)

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Zen,

That was an early lesson on encoding with a hard keyboard. Six or seven years old is a very young age to learn how to type, which I'm sure helped a great deal as you went higher into your studies.

Also, it's a skill that's with you for the rest of your life.

Thanks for dropping by. :-) --Durano, done!