The typewriter is not dead

Sometimes reporters get a little impatient when a juicy topic pops up, and they forget to check the facts. Today the big news was that Godrej and Boyce—the world’s last typewriter manufacturer—has stopped producing typewriters. Here’s the problem. They’re not the last typewriter manufacturer.

As the Minyanville Daily Feed reported, Swintec is a company with typewriter factories across the world, and they’re still going strong. So rumors of the typewriter’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Still, it seems like a good time to take a moment to give an homage to the tool that brought writing into a new era. It was the first tool that redefined “writing” — it wasn’t just about using a pen or pencil anymore. It was a quantum leap for authors, reporters, and secretaries.

This little tidbit from Wikipedia describes the typewriter’s place in the industrial revolution succinctly:

By the mid-19th century, the increasing pace of business communication had created a need for mechanization of the writing process. Stenographers and telegraphers could take down information at rates up to 130 words per minute, whereas a writer with a pen was limited to a maximum of 30 words per minute

Mark Twain was supposedly the first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to his publisher, setting a trend that lead to the typewriter becoming an indispensable tool for writers around the world. The typewriters of history’s literary greats are often treated like prized artifacts, as seen in this collection of famous author typewriters

The typewriter was a revolutionary piece of technology that has been largely replaced by another paradigm-shifting tool: the personal computer. But with typewriters came typing, which is still the means by which we communicate through the digital tools that have come to replace the typewriter itself. The QWERTY keyboard, whose “slow typists down” origin is still a matter of debate, still sticks with us today, without any signs of leaving.

There will most certainly come a day when typewriters are as obsolete as an abacus, but for now you can still find them in use in developing countries and elsewhere (Swintec actually does good business selling typewriters to prisons). But hopefully today’s premature obituary will remind us to appreciate the machine’s role in our evolution. The next time you pass a typewriter, take a moment to admire its mechanics, its simplicity, and its history.

Advertisements

Know them before you love them

Relationships. We all know how challenging the love game can be. The initial honeymoon period is all ice cream and candy, but all too often it gives way to fights and hurt feelings. Time and time again I see people falling victim to the same, avoidable mistake of getting involved with someone too quickly. If you want to avoid this fate, follow this simple rule:

Know them before you love them

The rule above is deceptively simple. You would think it would be obvious, but far too many of us become Prisoners of the Moment, and abandon logic and common sense for the tantalizing allure of love and consistent casual sex. Then months, weeks, or even days later we realize that this cute person with the smile that makes us melt and the charming personality isn’t who we thought they were.

Well, no shit.

In general, people are rarely who we think they are the first time we meet them. This applies to everyone — from the new coworker you meet on your first day on the job, to the neighbor across the hall, to the hot guy/girl you met at that party one time when you were a little drunk and brave enough to talk to them. People rarely give you 100% of their personality and history all at once. You have to learn who they are in a variety of different situations, over time, slowly.

Yes, slowly.

Here’s the mistake people make: they decide they like someone for whatever reason, then after an all too brief courting period they believe the best way to get to know this person better is to get in a relationship with them. They invite these virtual strangers into their lives, hearts, and bedrooms as a work in progress — confident that they’ll just love this person more as they get to know them better. It’s the exact opposite of what they should do, and a short time later it all ends in shouts and/or tears. It may take a week. It may take a year. But more often than not it does happen, and when it does, it’s messy. Wouldn’t you prefer to avoid all that in the first place?

Think of it this way. Let’s say you meet someone new at a party. They seem cool, stable, sane. Likable. After a couple weeks of hanging out, your new acquaintance asks if they can borrow your most valued possession. Just for a little while. What do you say?

If you’re not an idiot, you say “Hell No!”. Why? Because you don’t really know this person. Which means you can’t trust them. Trust is to be earned, not given, and a couple of weeks is not nearly enough time to earn enough trust to warrant risking your most valuable possessions. You wouldn’t let a mere acquaintance borrow your car, or your jewelry, or your social security number (hell, most guys probably wouldn’t even let ’em borrow their Xbox). But somehow it’s okay to give them access to your friends, your home, and your heart?

Material possessions can be easily replaced. A bad relationship can hurt you physically, emotionally, and financially for years.

So the next time you meet someone new who gives you those butterflies in your stomach, remember that they’re still a stranger. Find out more about them. Learn their hopes, fears, vices, and virtues. Work on this before you make the emotional commitment to them. Know them before you love them.

I know what you’re thinking — “I can’t know everything before I start dating somebody!”. And that’s true. You’ll never be 100% sure about anyone. The love game always has risks, and even if you’re extra careful, people can always fool you. But that’s just another reason to take it slow. The more time you give it, the more opportunities you’ll have to see this person’s true nature. If they’re hiding behind lies and deception, give it enough time and you’ll start to see cracks in their story. If they have ulterior motives, your insistence that you take things slowly will piss them off and they’ll lose interest. And that’s not a bad thing. The person who is right for you will respect your patience, and if they’re smart they will also be taking things slowly to get to know you. If you go into each new relationship with your brain guiding your heart, you’ll greatly increase your chances of finding the right one, and waste less time on the wrong ones.

Matt Stover on Reddit

A couple of months ago, best-selling author Matthew Stover proclaimed his presence on the link-sharing geekfest known as Reddit, and graciously answered questions thrown at him from the unwashed masses. This had a great impact on me for several reasons.

Firstly, I’m an avid Redditor, and I love when semi-famous people I know of show up and proclaim their geekitude as well. It’s a great way to connect with your fanbase, and it’s not a bad promotional move either. If you’re a writer with any sort of name recognition or publishing success I’d recommend you consider this as a marketing option.

Secondly, I’m a huge fan of Matt Stover. I became familiar with his work through his Star Wars Novels. He wrote the novelization of the Revenge of the Sith movie, but he’s most known for writing a book called Traitor, which was a pivotal installment in the New Jedi Order series. I don’t want to sound too melodramatic, but this book changed my life. It was more than a sci-fi story — it was filled with complex, mature philosophy and raw emotion. The plot focuses on Han and Leia’s son Jacen, a young Jedi trying to find his place in the universe as he struggles with reconciling his Uncle Luke’s teachings with a violent and cruel alien enemy known as the Yuuzhan Vong. Jacen eventually becomes an (initially) unwilling student of Vergere, an avian alien companion of the Yuuzhan Vong who was once a member of the Old Jedi Order back before Palpatine took over. She takes Jacen on a far different spiritual journey than his Jedi teachings ever did — one that deals in many moral gray areas — and she does so through remarkably cruel tutelage. Throughout the book, you’re never quite sure what her motives are, but there’s a definite method to her madness.

Traitor inspired me to write a story about a young man in our world, struggling to understand existence via the instruction of a madman bent on escaping life as a mere mortal, or immortal. Matt Stover’s work inspired me to write The Remortal.

So, I was obviously tickled pink when I saw him pop up on Reddit and field questions about his life, his profession, and whatever else came up. What struck me most was how honest Stover was about how “bestseller” status doesn’t necessarily equate to an easy living as a writer. He’s a 2-time New York Times Bestseller who has written for the world’s most well-known sci-fi franchise. You’d think he’d be set, right? But so fast. As Stover wrote:

The things most conducive to writing is to be able to pay rent and buy food.

I have always had a day job. Writing has never provided sufficient income for me to retire from the job market. I’m applying for day jobs right now. I have tended bar, waited tables, worked as a fry-cook, a vacuum-clear salesman, an exterminator and I’m not even warmed up. If you have a job you can offer, post a note on my blog.

That’s life in SFF, buckaroo.

Now, Stover’s situation is a little different since most of the profits from his work go straight to LucasArts, but with other authors like Kevin J. Anderson and Tim Zahn enjoying much more “successful” careers, largely (though arguably) because of their work in the Star Wars expanded universe, this is still kind of sobering.

But Stover’s Reddit posts go beyond the topic and money and delve into life lessons, writing, and timeless advice. I particularly liked this tidbit on writer’s block

There is no such thing as Writer’s Block. There is such a thing as depression, and most writers suffer from it. Then everything you write looks like shit, so you can’t move forward. There is also exhaustion, which a lot of depressed people suffer from because the disease fucks with your sleep pattern.

Breaking it is easy. You just remind yourself that your work doesn’t suck, that it looks like shit only to you, and then you tell yourself “I don’t need a [nap, drink, gunshot to the head, whatever]. All I need is a good idea.”

Because that’s the truth.

Read Matt Stover’s IAmA posts here on Reddit.

The Remortal: Now on Amazon Kindle

I wrote a novel! Well, I’ve written a few novels, but this is the first one I’ve decided to release into the wild. The Remortal is a labor of love, and I’m hoping you all enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The book is available on all Kindle platforms — so that means if you have an iPhone, iPad, Android device, PC, Mac, or Kindle you can hit the Amazon store and check out the most amazing story you’ll read this year!!! (okay, maybe I’m hyping that a bit too much). The Remortal ebook is available for only $2.99 on Amazon. You can also check out a free sample.

Cover and plot synopsis below:

Telly is a homeless teenager struggling to survive on the streets of
Los Angeles, but he has just met a man that can make all of his dreams
come true. His rich new benefactor only asks for one thing in
return—something no one else has been able to do for two and a half
centuries.

He wants Telly to kill him.

The man with the death wish is named Van, and he offers Telly an
escape from the constant fear, hunger, and shame that have haunted him
during his homelessness. Telly thought he had Van all figured out,
until a chance encounter with a gun-wielding thug shows that bullets
don’t do Van the slightest bit of harm.

Van is much more than he seems; he’s an immortal seeking escape from a
world he now despises. He desires a higher plane of existence, but in
order to get there he must train someone to complete the grim ritual
that will free him from the confines of his immortal body. If Telly
can fulfill Van’s request, he will inherit Van’s wealth, strength, and
eternal youth. But he soon discovers that Van is a harsh teacher with
a questionable sense of morality, and there are other immortals who
believe Van’s plans for ascension could lead to something they’ve been
dreading for centuries: the birth of a wrathful god.

The Remortal: by Ramsey Isler

Entrepreneurs: Keep Asking

For the last few years I’ve done a lot of consultation work with more startups than I even care to keep track of. More recently, I’ve been working in business development and product management roles and helping company founders and CEOs move their business to the next level via technology and good strategy. As you probably know, most startups fail. Companies go under for many reasons, but one thing I’ve seen consistently in those that do fail is this: they stop questioning what they’re doing.

Now, the traditional American business advice you’ll hear from many says, “Have a go get ’em attitude! Never look back! Pick a path and don’t stray from it! Confidence is the number one thing!” That’s all bullshit. If you want to succeed, especially in the fast-moving tech business, you have to constantly question what you’re doing and where you fit in your market. You have to ask the right questions, so you can find the right answers that will lead your company forward. If you’re not questioning what you’re doing, you’re not thinking about what you’re doing.

Years ago, I read a Forbes article targeted to company leaders called, The 10 Questions You Should Never Stop Asking. One of the key questions the author points out is:

Why does anyone need what we’re selling? All too often we fall into the trap that people want something because we like it. This is the road to perdition.

Far too often, company leaders fall into that trap and fail to create true value in what they’re offering. You have to be your toughest critic, and ask the tough, objective questions that expose weakness and lead to real solutions.

Anti-theft Hard Drive!

Toshiba has announced a new hard drive that will protect its data automatically. If someone tries to gank your drive and plug it into their computer, the drive can go all Mission: Impossible and encrypt, or delete its data.

Toshiba says the drive accomplishes all this with:

unique security features which may be used to “wipe” protected data from the disk or deny access to protected data if access credentials are invalid, for example, if the disk drive were to be removed from the host platform.

Sounds like a great way to keep those “home videos” safe and sound.

Learn more about the MKxx61GSYG Series Hard Disk Drive on Toshiba’s site

Michael Jackson on Kinect

Today marks the official release of Michael Jackson: The Experience for XBOX 360 Kinect. The game has been fairly popular on the Wii for a while now, but the motion capture system of the Kinect promised to make the gameplay even more entertaining.

Sadly, the early reviews indicate the game may not be as awesome as I was hoping.

I’ve always been a big fan of MJ’s art. Where would we be without his influence? Contemporary artists like Justin Timberlake, Usher, and Chris Brown made their careers by emulating him. I was hoping that the Kinect version, with its brilliant motion capture system, could bring a true MJ emulation experience to living rooms across the country, especially with the successful Dance Central (a game that I regularly kick ass at) as a template. Months ago, I expressed my excitement about the game to a friend. The conversation went something like this:

Me: Michael Jackson dance game coming to the Kinect! Hee Hee! Shomone!

Friend: Yeah…but look at who the publisher is. It’s Ubisoft. They’re gonna screw it up.

The game just came out so there’s no consensus on its quality yet, but early reviews from GameInformer and customer reviews on the Amazon sales page would indicate my friend was right. Ubisoft took a brilliant opportunity to produce one of the greatest games on the Kinect platform, and came up a bit short.

At the moment, you can get the game for $10 less at Amazon. So far the reviews say that while the game is disappointing, it’s still a fun way to kill some time and shake your groove thing in the comfort of your home. And if you’re a Michael Jackson fan, there’s plenty to love, even if the gameplay might not be the best. I may or may not get the game for myself, but if I do I’ll be sure to post a thorough review.