Ah, the typewriter. It’s one of those things which is having a moment thanks to social media and the jury is out as to whether or not it’s just a bit of silliness. The big draw is that you can buy them relatively cheaply and you’ll often find them at garage sales or in charity shops. Of course, if you want one in tip-top condition and excellent working order there are a few companies specialising in the repair and sale of these stalwart machines. For these you’re talking some serious money because you’re paying a fair price for the love and time that has gone into the refurbishment on top of the cost of the machine itself.
My typewriter is middle-of-the-road when it comes to working order: it functions sufficiently for my purposes, but it could be better. The adjustment between single line spacing, one and a half line, and double line spacing is a bit haphazard. It seems to be more like half-line, single line, and one and a half line to my eye. And I’ve noticed today the number 7 key is inclined to stick a bit. However, I can type what I need to type and so it’s a winner.
Need to type? I think that should be “want to type”, because typing is wholly unnecessary in this day and age. We all have personal computers at home and it’s far easier to use them isn’t it? Well, yes and no. I think for a page full of text a computer and printer is an excellent option. You can edit as you go along and turn out a perfect product, and if you do it a hundred times you’ll have a hundred perfect products. If you produce that page of text on the typewriter? Well, one hundred imperfect products can be guaranteed. So we can definitely say that the computer wins. Or can we?
Here’s a potted history of one single little chore; you may have experienced the same progression yourself. In the 1970s you had your typewriter and you typed your letters and you probably typed the envelopes. You would happily feed the envelope into your typewriter and you’d hammer out the address, then roll it out again. The same with forms. If you had to type the data into a form it was relatively straightforward to position the text where you needed it. Then your office got computers and printers, but you probably still kept a legacy typewriter because it was immediately apparent that using the computer to print an envelope was a time-consuming palaver and the amount of wasted stationery was almost criminal. And don’t even think about using a computer to fill in that form….. At some point (around 2006) your manager insisted that you had to get rid of the typewriter and you knuckled down and forced yourself to become at least partially adept at printing your envelope. You learned the correct way to insert it in the printer on your desk, but if they changed the printer you’d be lost because no two printers did it the same way. You probably took to printing labels instead, thus using two pieces of stationery instead of one. This was much easier than printing on the envelope, but it took twice as long because pound to a penny you always printed the addresses first time on the back of the label sheet. Quite often you’d just hand-write the envelopes because it was so much quicker and easier, if entirely less professional. All of the difficulties you’d experienced when you had a printer on your desk were just magnified when your company took them away and replaced them with central printing machines which combined the functions of scanner, printer and photocopier. One per department. And now you had to announce your intention to print labels five minutes before you wanted to print them so that everyone else could hold off their print job until you’d done yours. So you’d get your first sheet of labels and it would have someone else’s letter on it. Then you’d do your sheet where the addresses were printed on the back. Then you’d finally get your labels. Yeah – handwriting’s not going to disappear anytime soon!
Now, suddenly, we’re beginning to see one of the benefits of the humble typewriter. It can put the text you want where you want it efficiently and effectively and that makes it a time-saver in a few, very specific circumstances. Like this:
The reason I got my typewriter onto my desk in the first place was to try out typing my weekly quote onto my Filofax page and I was pleased with how it turned out. I’m going to carry on doing that. But that’s not all, because it got me thinking about the Filofax A5 academic diary pages for July 2020 to July 2021 which I bought reduced in price earlier this year. At the time I had the idea that I’d re-date them for 2022 and I toyed with a few ways I might achieve this: printing stickers using my computer; buying pre-printed stickers; buying washi tape printed with the dates.
Of course, the simple answer is to type the numbers onto little white sticky dots – which I had to hand anyway – and blot out the wrong year, typing in the correct year instead. Okay, it isn’t the prettiest solution in the known universe, but it has a charm, it was incredibly cheap, and it’s relatively quick.
The typewriter is likely to remain the least used of my machines, because my heart belongs to pens and inks and I prefer handwriting over typing for journals and letters. But for me the typewriter will always have a place as something more than simply a display object.
I’m going to close this post with a thought about Filofax products, because I’m beginning to notice that they are moving towards the highly fashionable trend of slapping dot-grids on everything that moves. A month or so ago they released some inserts which were formatted for goal-setting, health and wellness, and meal planning. Each of these featured dot-grids over part of the page. Well, I wasn’t particularly interested in them so I let it pass. Today, however, the company released a set of diary inserts for 2022 in a very pleasing minimalist design, with the days and months in block capitals so none of this anti-capital nonsense, but the blank space where I always write my quote was covered in dot-grid! It’s not critical because I’m sorted for next year’s inserts, but I’m keeping my eye on their releases and if everything is going to be designed with dot-grid it will be a strong indicator that I need to look elsewhere for my longer-term planning needs.