Typewriters Are The Next Annoying Retro Fad

Illustration for article titled Typewriters Are The Next Annoying Retro Fad

After home canning, chicken husbandry, and fixed-gear bicycles, what old practice is next in line to be revived and embraced by hip young urbanites? Answer: typing on typewriters.


Jessica Bruder's Times piece on the subject opens at the Brooklyn Flea Market, and sometimes resembles a parody of a Times trend piece. For instance:

"I'm in love with all of them," said Louis Smith, 28, a lanky drummer from Williamsburg. Five minutes later, he had bought a dark blue 1968 Smith Corona Galaxie II for $150. "It's about permanence, not being able to hit delete," he explained. "You have to have some conviction in your thoughts. And that's my whole philosophy of typewriters."

Yes, lanky drummers from Williamsburg with inexplicable disposable income are now "fetishizing old Underwoods, Smith Coronas and Remingtons, recognizing them as well designed, functional and beautiful machines, swapping them and showing them off to friends." And I'm a little weirded out. Listen, I've used a typewriter. My parents had one when I was growing up, which I mostly used to make "documents" for my detective agency. And when I went to creative writing graduate school, a typewriter actually came with my apartment. I thought it was funny that "furnished apartment" in Iowa City meant "also has a typewriter," and I set it up on my desk next to a flask in a sort of shrine to Raymond Chandler. But I think it got used a total of once, at a party — I awoke the next morning to find that someone had typed the phrase "vampire partytime" over and over again.

Here's the thing about typewriters: while Bruder says they're "good at only one thing: putting words on paper," they're actually not all that good at it. Smith can talk all he wants about "permanence," but it's a pain in the ass not to be able to delete something, and having a big stack of pages instead of a scrollable, searchable document is no picnic either. The main virtue of the typewriter, in the age of computers, is aesthetic: they're charming, beautiful, and unusual. Except that now that all the Williamsburg drummers want one, they won't be unusual anymore.

Of course, complaining about all the hipsters ruining a cool thing is the only thing more annoying than actually ruining that thing. And some people must authentically like the way typewriting feels. I probably shouldn't criticize them — I still do a lot of my creative writing longhand, in a notebook, a method that also lacks a delete key. But at least with a notebook, it's easy to doodle.

Click, Clack, Ding! Sigh ... [NYT]

Image via Ben Taylor/Shutterstock.com



I briefly worked as a secretary, and one day my boss looked at a form that I needed to fill out and said "oh, you'll need the typewriter for that company's form." He wheeled it out next to my desk, walked back into his office, and closed the door. I was 23 (I'm 26 now). I had honestly never even touched a typewriter before that day. He was not the most understanding of bosses, so I spent the next half hour trying to figure the darn thing out, with valiant assists from my older co-workers (who hadn't touched a typewriter in probably 20 years, and therefore weren't all that much help). The previous secretary of that company was a woman in her late 50s, so she'd never needed assistance. I eventually got the darn thing filled out, but I worry about the longevity of that other company that STILL REQUIRES THEIR FORMS TO BE FILLED OUT BY TYPEWRITERS. IN THE 21ST CENTURY.

Also, anyone who has a "philosophy of typewriters" is obnoxious, and probably smells bad.