The Trustily Tremendous Typewriter

Ryan Heshmati

February 17, 2023

RING. Page return. RING. The typewriter generates images of the smoke-filled offices of the 1950s and 60s; it is a relic of a very different time. Whether used to draft up an important contract at an attorney's office or a letter between lovers, the machine is up for the task. Although typewriters were the business machines of the middle 20th century, their place extends far beyond the business world. 

The history of the typewriter dates back to the 16th century when Francesco Rampazetto came up with the first iteration of many, which would lead to the recognizable typewriters mass-produced in the middle of the 20th Century. The traditional manual typewriter has a QWERTY keyboard whose keys connect to individual typebars that lift upon application of pressure to the key; however, IBM innovated for change. The company released a typewriter called the "Selectric," which, electronically powered, spun a typeball to apply lettering rather than typebars, avoiding the jamming risk that came with typebars. By the end of the typewriter's domination of the market, it advanced to the use of a "daisy wheel," which included interchangeable mini plastic typebars. Further, at the outset of computer competition, many companies added computerized word processing technology to their typewriters.

While many may feel these machines belong in the past, especially considering their bulkiness and inefficiency compared to a cell phone or computer, typewriters still have many proponents. The love of the typewriter even extends to celebrities. According to Far Out Magazine, Tom Hanks is a known typewriter aficionado, admitting to owning about 250 of them. Fans often assert that modern technology cannot prompt the satisfaction of simply typing a letter and immediately seeing on the page. Playwright David Mamet, speaking about his love of the typewriter, says, "…working on a typewriter - the rhythm, the sound; it's like playing the piano…." Enthusiasts may also feel the typing instrument strikes users in a unique way that cannot be understood without having experienced it first-hand.

For most of the world, the typewriter remains a part of history, like the horse-drawn carriage and quill pen, but 

 those who give it a chance might find an instrument to play like any other. The appeal of the typewriter reaches celebrities, individuals who have enough means to never even need to personally type anything, for a reason: there are few joys as tremendous as those the typist encounters with a typewriter at their fingertips. 

Dedicated to Los Altos Typewriters & Business Machines. Many years ago, Mr. Sansone returned my Smith Corona to a condition where it could continue to deliver the typist thrill I so dearly desired. I regret that the Bay Area lost an establishment that brought such joy to the enthusiast community.