The dying typewriter will leave a tech-stained void

Technology will be served, but the world is losing a bit of its romance as the manufacturing of typewriters starts drawing to a close.

We're losing the typewriter as the last manufacturers are phasing it out .

This means more than just the passing of a now-obsolete machine. It's the death of another little bit of cool the world will never get back.

The elegance cannot be denied. cc Rochelle, just rochelle/Flickr

I've always felt a connection to the typewriter. As a writer, I banged out my first spectacularly melodramatic and amateurish stories back in high school on a mechanical Smith Corona that had been discarded from my father's office in favor of new electrics.

I would move up to a word processor within mere months, but I would always miss the satisfying tactile sensation of banging away at those keys amid that snare drum patter as the misaligned keys pushed through a fading ribbon to the clean sheet of rolled paper. It didn't hurt my affection for the ole qwerty beast that my hometown is Milwaukee--where, in 1866, Christopher Latham Sholes invented what would evolve into the 20th century typewriter.

When I learned that the typewriter had passed into antiquity, it struck me that its replacements--from the desktop computer and the laptop to the smartphone and the iPad--will never muster the ambiance and sense of literary history graced upon the typewriter.

You want proof? Take a second and try to picture Beat Generation poet Jack Kerouac blowing the thick purple smoke from his "J" over a bottle of bourbon and the brushed aluminum and white keys of an iMac. "On the Road" would've hit the road without its rebellious aura.

If Ian Fleming had sat down at his desk on his Goldeneye estate in Jamaica to bang out "The Spy Who Loved Me" on a Dell Netbook, James Bond would've ended up drinking Kool-Aid, stirred and not shaken.

It's literary legend that the great sci-fi author Ray Bradbury wrote "The Martian Chronicles" on a rented typewriter fastened to a desk in the basement of the UCLA Student Library at the cost of a dime per hour because he was too poor to afford his own machine. And the machines owned by Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, and Agatha Christie are treated with almost religious reverence--as extensions of the writers' beings and museum-worthy pieces of history. You're not going to see the iPad that a blogger tickles treated with the same respect.

The world's great literary works live forever on paper, and it's a tangible chain of creation that links many of them to the typewriters of their creators--from the writer's fingertips through the keys to the page rolled into their machines. Future generations will have no concept of the sense of craftsmanship fostered by using a typewriter.

It's not the end of the world. I'm sure there was some ill-tempered Elizabethan chronicler who bemoaned the extinction of the turkey feather quill and the pot of Indigo ink as movable type arrived. But the engineered purity of the typewriter--like the vinyl LP or the eternally endangered manual transmission--will be mourned silently as we text away on our virtual keyboards.

About the author

Crave freelancer John Scott Lewinski covers tech, cars, and entertainment out of Los Angeles. As a journalist, he's traveled from Daytona Beach to Cape Town, writing for more than 30 national magazines. He's also a very amateur boxer known for his surprising lack of speed and ability to absorb punishment. E-mail John.

 

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