The New York Times ran a nice piece over the weekend by Tom Hanks about his enduring affection for the typewriter. The acclaimed 57-year-old actor and traditionalist apparently still uses one, every day. It's hard to believe that anyone still hammers away on a typewriter in this age of computers and texting. But it's comforting somehow.
When I began my writing career in the 1980s, personal computers were already available. But I was a holdout. I stubbornly stuck with my IBM Selectric. Yes, you had to plug it in to make it work, but it was a typewriter nonetheless.
|The trusty IBM Selectric|
Before I knew what a modem was, I regularly filed - that is, faxed – stories to such publications as the New York Times, Los Angles Times Syndicate, Premiere, TV Guide and Sports Illustrated. And I wrote all of these stories on that trusty IBM.
Eventually, I acquiesced. You can't out swim a tidal wave. But it wasn't easy. I'm no technophobe, but I felt a pang of sadness on that day when I purchased a computer, got an email account, and put my typewriter on the shelf. I still have that typewriter here in my office, if only for nostalgia's sake. I'll never throw it away.
I'm sure many people reading this, especially those of you who reside somewhere north of 50, share my passion for the typewriter, specifically the classic Underwood. As you may have noticed, I pay homage to the typewriter on this blog's header above. There's a bittersweet mystique surrounding the Underwood, which was the first widely successful modern typewriter.
|Jack Kerouac typing away|
Historians say Beat Generation writer Jack Kerouac, who was one of the fastest typists among writers – approaching 120 wpm – typed his classic novel On the Road on an Underwood owned by Neal and Carolyn Cassidy in three weeks while living in Cassidys’ house.
Other notables who used an Underwood include Ernest Hemingway, John F. Kennedy, Tom Wolfe, Damon Runyon, James Thurber, E.B. White, Sinclair Lewis, Raymond Chandler, Upton Sinclair, Carson McCullers, Carl Sandburg and Paddy Chayefsky.
Curiously, Hanks and his fellow boomers aren't the only ones who still use the antiquated device. The typewriter is making a comeback of sorts. Just as we are seeing the resurgence of vinyl records, there is now something called the "typosphere," a new term for bloggers who collect and use typewriters.
Writer Rita Savard points out out that regularly scheduled type-ins give these bloggers a place to trade in their laptops for "rickety black boxes."
It may only be a fad. But I think young people are beginning to understand the appeal of and indeed the deeper physical connection writers of days past had with the "machines" they used to communicate. Yes, the almost addicting physicality of using a typewriter.
Kerouac, for example, who was an exceptional athlete, loved typing. For him, it was a physical, even athletic event. You just can't say that about thumb texting.