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.

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