Twitter mourns for the undead typewriter

A story about the last typewriter manufacturer in the world announcing it has only 500 machines left made headlines recently. There is one problem: It isn't the last manufacturer.

You thought you had killed another one, techies.

With your boundless need to show how clever you are and how you can force people to change their ways of life, you were sure you had put paid to another traditional industry. But you're not as smart as all that.

Yes, Godrej & Boyce--which a news story claimed was the last known producer of typewriters in the world--declared recently that it was giving up trying to market machines that weigh more than the Taj Mahal and write slower than Thomas Pynchon.

According to India's Business Standard, the company just doesn't see a future for heavy keys and carbon ribbon.

Twitter mourned. At #typewriter, people typed out their mournful feelings on iPads, Macs, and smartphones. People tweeted stories of their fathers still doing their taxes on these old machines. They begged "please don't go."

This is what a manual typewriter looked like, kids. CC EmilyDickinsonRidesaBMX/Flickr

And yet the story from India may be at best partial and, at worst, a clever little idea to sell typewriters. Godrej & Boyce told the Business Standard that its last typewriter production plant was in Mumbai and still sold the occasional machine in India and some Arab states.

Milind Dukle, Godrej & Boyce's general manager, told the Standard: "Till 2009, we used to produce 10,000 to 12,000 machines a year. But this might be the last chance for typewriter lovers. Now, our primary market is among the defense agencies, courts and government offices."

How sweet, one thought, that governments should be the last bastion of resistance.

But, according to the National Business Review, there is still a company called Swintec that offers transparent machines that, depending on your taste level, could be seen as quite sexy. Indeed, there still seem to be manufacturers in all corners of Asia.

Swintec's Ed Michael explained to the National Business Review that there is a considerable and important market for typewriters: "We have contracts with correctional facilities in 43 states to supply clear typewriters for inmates so they can't hide contraband inside them."

But, of course. Jails. Why didn't one think of that?

It may well be that Godrej & Boyce has around only 500 cumbersome old office machines left, many with Arabic keyboards. It may well be that these will be collectors items that avid hoarders will want to put alongside their quill pen, rotary phone, IBM 701, and early Barbie Ponytail collections.

But those who mourn at Twitter still have hope that technology hasn't quite destroyed such a symbol of, well, "Mad Men."

 

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