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A Retro Innovation is Born: A Manual Typewriter and the Nostalgia of Thinking Before Writing

April 17, 2013

typewriter close-up useTalk about retro and talk more about innovation. I was flipping through the pages of the Sky Mall catalogue on my latest flight from Atlanta, and had to do a double take when I saw an ad, in the midst of all those new technological creations and inventions, for a manual typewriter. Yes, you read that right: a manual typewriter. The advertisement suggests extinction, or at the very least an unknown quantity to people under the age of 40. But apparently the manual typewriter isn’t entirely extinct, nor is it as cheap as it was when I bought my first one ($42) from Kmart in 1978.

Typewriter page useAlong with obsolescence, the ad also calls to mind a different era when, in the world of writing and creating content, you had to actually think before you wrote. No spell-check to do it for you, unless you count the oversized Webster’s and Roget’s that lay beside you and your manual word-creator. Only 44 keys that like the ad states: required a firm, purposeful stroke.” In other words, you had to hit them like you were pummeling each word into line (hence the phrase – pounding out a story), forcing the lettered creation to comport itself with the well thought-out construction and word choice that you raised it to be. Because it was a fact, you’ couldn’t hit the delete button if you made an error or just didn’t like the way something sounded.

But was that so bad? Granted, no one wants to go back to the days of manual creating, but a lot of it was a foundation for practices that we no longer utilize in today’s digitally spinning world. In fact, I think we would all do well to slow down a bit and think before we create. Remember: the first laptop was a pencil and a notepad – one end of the pencil was the keyboard and the other was the delete button.

And no, I didn’t pull out my manual typewriter to write this…but I did ponder every change spell-check suggested. And vetoed a couple of them. That’s the power of the human element of this thing we call creativity.

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One comment

  1. Good to remember the good ole days. Writing was so different.



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