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On Typewriters

For my recent birthday, my lovely wife got me a No. 6 Underwood typewriter. It’s in almost working condition and needs some restoration work, which I have no experience with. I looked up the serial number last night, and it was made sometime in 1935. That’s really quite extraordinary, and it gave me pause.

I wonder what I own that could possibly be in good enough shape to require ‘some restoration’ in 76 years. Probably nothing. The electronic revolution means that anything of interest will have its transistors rot well before then, which is unfortunate. We just bought some nice deck furniture. I’ll be really excited it that lasts us half of the lifetime of the typewriter. Really excited.

So I’m going to restore it and pick up a kit from USB Typewriter. It makes a typewriter into a USB keyboard, so I can use it with my computer. I think it’ll be a neat project, and one day I can see myself clacking away on the same kind of typewriter used by some of the greatest writers of the 20th century, but using a modern word processor. I have no intention of using it as an actual typewriter.

Last night, I lay in bed remembering the typewriter experience. No delete button, no auto correct, and messy ribbon. This typewriter doesn’t even have a carriage return— one must return the carriage by hand. That feels like ‘fire is new’ era technology.

Still, just the presence of the beast, and it is a beast, evokes writing in a way the modern computer doesn’t. There is a feeling, an aura, around the solid piece of metal that we have lost.

Thankfully, 1930s era mechanics are simple enough for me to understand, so I think I should be ok in my restoration efforts. If anything particularly interesting happens I’ll throw updates here. I might shoot some before and after pictures as well.

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