Type-in? No thanks

tamrawilson Uncategorized

Recently I read an article about a new trend for hipsters: the type-in.

As the story goes, typewriter enthusiasts are holding gatherings in bars and restaurants to type to their heart’s content.

In 2017, twenty years after most typewriters were swapped for word processors, old-school typewriting is making a comeback.

This summer actor Tom Hanks and musician John Mayer are releasing a typewriter documentary.

Who knew that typewriters were that cool?

Not me.

I place this phenomenon in the same category as people who have decided that vinyl LPs are cool. Nostalgia is one thing, but there’s a point where I don’t get it. Type-Ins are that point.

The only type-in I ever attended were more than 40 years ago. We called them typing classes in high school and Reporting I in college.

My Personal Typing class was offered on manual Smith Coronas in the typing lab of our high school. No fancy electric models for us newbies.

I learned the keyboard configuration which makes no sense at all when you get down to it. The “QWERTY” keyboard, developed for the worlds’ first typewriters back in 1868, were developed by Christopher Scholes, using advice from telegraph operators to translate Morse Code, which shows how one thing leads to the next.

Regardless of its origin, the QWERTY system served me well. I went on to enter the Missouri J School one year ahead of the Woodward & Bernstein tsunami, when All the President’s Men sent droves of students to J-School to become hot-shot reporters.

I took Reporting I using a manual typewriter on a table in what had been the living room and dining room of a crumbling bungalow near campus.  The place was packed with students because it was a required course. We clattered away, completing assignments then literally cutting and pasting sheets of paper together to create stories in one continuous feed.

At the time I thought it was rather antiquated for a renowned journalism school as the University of Missouri to use such old-fashioned equipment, but we got the job done. That was back in the day when fledgling reporters were encouraged to report just the facts, not to editorialize and entertain. Quaint, I know.

As a cub reporter, I used a manual typewriter at my hometown daily newspaper, and I didn’t like it. I never quite had enough strength in my little fingers to hit the “a” and quote marks and comma keys hard enough.  Typing was slow and my brain worked fast. At the end of each line I had to swing the arm to reposition the platen, the roll that held the sheet of paper. Hopefully I wouldn’t  run out of paper before I ran out of ideas.

The news that people are actually haunting thrift stores in search of these old machines is a bit masochistic in my view. I know young people like to try old-school things, maybe type away while fancying themselves as Hemingway or Kerouac or Faulkner.

Actually a few famous authors still compose at typewriters: David McCullough, Joyce Carol Oates, Danielle Steele and Amy Tan to name a few. But they’re the diehard exception.

To me, the idea of hard-pressed keystrokes and eraser wheels with the little whisker brushes seems as much fun as wrestling undeveloped film and toxic chemicals in a darkroom.

I’m grateful for digital equipment, to be frank.

I know I sound like my mother. She couldn’t understand why anyone would want to use a sewing machine when ready-made was available. She couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to use a pressure canner. What one generation throws out, the next one finds enchanting.

Maybe Type-Ins are a positive response to the over-electrified life we lead. The end of the Type-In article noted that it’s more special to send someone a typewritten note on a piece of paper than to send an email that can be quickly deleted.

I get that. So why not take things a step further and handwrite a note and hand-address an envelope?

Oh yeah. Young people don’t know cursive, and if their handwriting is anything like mine, they can’t read it anyhow.