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There’s Something About A Typewriter

There’s Something About A Typewriter

I want one. 

I just wish they didn’t cost $299.

In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal I read about a new must-have computer gadget: The Qwerkywriter S. Although, in a rare example of WSJ sloppiness, the writer also spelled it "Querkywriter." Stop laying off copy editors.

It's a wireless computer keyboard that mimics a vintage manual typewriter. The feel of the keys and the clattering sound.

Classic typewriter accoutrements are cleverly repurposed for computer use: The scroll knobs, which on a typewriter adjust the paper’s position, control volume (right) and double as a mouse scroll (left), reports the WSJ. The return lever operates as an alternative “enter” key. A slot where paper might traditionally go works as a tablet stand.

I really want one. 

It may not mean much to millennials, but to Baby Boomers who sat through deafening high school typing classes or worked in offices during the 1970s and even the ‘80s, the sound of a typewriter signals that actual work is being done.

Conversely, the muted clicks of a computer keyboard signals, well, nothing. It’s a wimpy noise. An entire newsroom full of computers is a half decibel above silent. A newsroom full of typewriters, on the other hand, forced everyone to shout to be heard.

I have a weakness for typewriters and have two manuals at home.

My Quiet De Luxe. Original case. Original sign.

My Quiet De Luxe. Original case. Original sign.

My favorite is a pink portable 1955 Royal Quiet De Luxe, which I bought at a yard sale in 1984 for 15 bucks. (It’s not that quiet, by the way.) It came with a custom carrying case. This particular color and model - lightweight, with finger-friendly keys - was marketed to women in the 1950s. The company sold a lot of them.

They were the princess phones of the typewriter world.

Don't laugh. I found one on eBay last night for $500.


And, no, I’m not selling mine to buy the Qwerkywriter. I still use my stylish pink Royal when I want to send a personal letter and I'm worried that the person on the receiving end won’t be able to read my penmanship. 

I got it out a couple of years ago so my son could fill out a job application. He marveled at the machine, this child of the computer age.

“Awesome,” he whispered, as I showed him how to strike the keys with authority to get more ink on the page.

“That’s how you do boldface,” I told him. “Hit those keys!"

As a matter of fact, I wrote my Hurricane Gloria stories for the Virginian-Pilot on that Royal in September of 1985. The newspaper put me up in the old Cavalier Hotel for a night, figuring that even if the city took a direct hit from this monster storm, the grand old lady would still be standing. 

I figured that a manual typewriter would be perfect when the electricity went out.

The hotel was rocking that night. And not from the wind. Seemed like the entire North End had decided to evacuate, took one look at the hotel on their way out of town and decided to stay. It was a raucous hurricane party. And we never lost power.

Still, I typed my stories on a desk by an east-facing window with the storm raging outside and the party raging in the hallway. My hair was wet from reporting in the storm and my face was raw from blowing sand. There's a snapshot of me somewhere, bedraggled and hunched over the pink typewriter in that old hotel.

It's hard to overstate the satisfaction that comes with writing by typewriter. The mental discipline involved in not being able to cut and paste. The ability to pound the keys when feeling inspired. To gently rock your fingers on the keys without typing while waiting for the muse.

Look, computers are amazing. I can’t imagine doing most of my writing on my Royal. I need all of those cool features on my iMac. I like being able to move text around on the page and delete chunks of awful prose with a keystroke.

Still, a classic typewriter keyboard is a thing of beauty.

Now we can have a computerized one. For 300 bucks. Twenty times what I paid for my Quiet De Luxe.

I want one.

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