One place still selling typewriters is online retailer Amazon.com
How old am I? Old enough to remember using a typewriter. Although computers had been invented by the time I was a child, they were not always as common as they are now, nor were they inexpensive.
“WHAT’S A LETTER?”
This question was recently asked by a character on a TV show my kids were watching. The answer: “A slow and expensive way to send an E-mail.” It is a good bet that the majority of today’s teenagers have never received a letter typed on a typewriter. It is even more likely that they have never typed one themselves. These machines, once commonplace, are disappearing from the world scene at a fast pace. They seem destined to be relics that interest collectors of antiques, or perhaps museum curators.
SHOULD SCHOOLS STILL TEACH CURSIVE?
In the past couple of weeks, I asked myself if schools should still teach cursive handwriting. Our modern world seems better served by keyboarding skills. One classroom I visited in the past year saw students being taught just enough cursive to write their name. Students were not being asked to do much more than that. Some schools don’t even teach this much anymore. This got me to thinking about lost forms of communicating, as cursive and typewriting are going out of style.
$2 BILL FOR A TIP
One man I used to know, worked out an arrangement with his bank to pick up two dollar bills on a semi-regular basis. They are no longer made, and are seldom seen in circulation. The reason he did this, was so he could leave the bills as a tip when dining out. He told me that he wanted to make a memorable impression on the server, and get good service the next time he went into an establishment. This kind of oddity probably did serve to make him stand out among a sea of customers. Struck by this, I wonder if typing correspondence to select individuals may make the communications more memorable.
THE RUSSIANS MAKE A POINT
Government snoops hacking into every phone and computer they like, recording every keystroke, randomly turning on cameras and/or microphones to eavesdrop on an unsuspecting populace, is enough to make any old school KGB agent jealous. President Obama made this a reality. I am not complaining mind you, because it is impossible to disagree with Obama and NOT be racist.
Kremlin (Photo credit: josef.stuefer)
However, the Russians don’t care if they are called racists, homophobes, etc., when they state they don’t like having bugs planted on them by hostile government spy actions. One way to keep hackers from easily obtaining sensitive communications is to go old school with paper, pen, or possibly typewriters. Maybe that is why the Kremlin is now stocking up on the obsolete machines: Kremlin returns to typewriters to avoid computer leaks (The Telegraph)
TYPEWRITERS LIVE ON IN GOVERNMENT USE
According to Swintec, a company that still manufactures typewriters, the government is the number one buyer of the obsolete machines. (Shocking, I know.) They have cornered a niche market by making typewriters with a clear case for use in prisons. The machines make it difficult to hide contraband, which corrections officials prefer. In addition, many states do not allow prisoners access to things like Email or computers, but still need to provide access to typewriters so prisoners can type up statements for court use.
See Typewriters Alive and Well in American Prisons Despite Reports of Their Demise (Prison Legal News)
Another government required use is for death certificates used by funeral homes, and for police officers filling out a form for a warrant. In both cases, it depends on the jurisdictions involved, and how they handle forms. However, many local governments still have an old school process that requires typewriters. The Wall Street Journal reports Death Keeps Typewriters Alive, Clacking
GETTING A TYPEWRITER
When searching for typewriters on some commercial websites, I was pleasantly surprised to see new models being sold. Whether they are still being produced, or are just old inventory is unclear. However, it is possible to obtain a brand new typewriter for under $100.
I found a Brother GX-6750 on Craigslist, and purchased it for a thrifty price. Its former owner even gave me a box of extra correction tapes, daisy wheels, and ribbon. The 81 year-old man I purchased it from now uses a computer for everything in his home office, and was happy take a few bucks from me in order to free up some desk space.
Now that I have a functional typewriter, I am wondering where to obtain some nice stationary for a modest price. Local stores tend to sell plain copy and printer paper, and not much else. I suppose I can special order some.
PRIMITIVE SECURITY STILL WORKS
By the way, when was the last time you sent or received a letter with a wax seal? My security needs are minimal; my interest is more nostalgic. However, teaching some hands-on history to my children should prove fun. They are already enjoying the click clack of the “new” typewriter.