Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Typewriters are still romantic : Jonathan Glancey

Typewriters may have stopped rolling off the production line, but their mechanical chatter and precision components lend them an enduring enchantment.

"It was a dark and stormy night." The image of Snoopy sitting on top of his kennel rattling out the opening of his latest bestseller on a typewriter is as familiar as it is cherished. It is also a delightful send-up of the archetypal would-be author at work.
Endearing, yes, but dated. Today, we learn that possibly the world's very last typewriter factory – in Mumbai – has closed. Although its typewriting business has been just one small portion of the Godrej & Boyce manufacturing empire, founded in 1897 by the lawyer and inventor Ardeshir Godrej, a spokesman has told the global media that "currently the company has just 500 machines left". Hurry while stocks last, as the imposing Prima model dating from the 1950s, now selling for about £160, is sure to become a sought-after classic of pre-digital design.
Or is it? There are now millions of people worldwide tapping away on keyboards who have never sat in front of a typewriter, much less written with one. The machine that gave us the modern open-plan office, with its rows of clerks and typists, can seem as outmoded as Polaroid and Instamatic cameras, Super 8 film, Kodachrome, hand looms and horse-drawn ploughs. And yet, although it is true that desktop and laptop computers and any number of handheld devices have effectively replaced the typewriter in everyday use, there are many people who prefer these miniature desktop printing presses.
Typewriters still hold a certain romance: something to do with the Mad Men charm of whisky bottles, green eyeshades, low office lighting, the mechanical chatter of keyboards, the ting of bells and the saw-like rasp and slap of carriages as they are whipped back hastily for the next line of copy to be churned out. And, alongside the image of Charles Schulz's Snoopy, there are haunting scenes from so many films in which the typewriter has played a powerful role. Think of Schindler's List, the list itself being typed up. Or Jack Nicholson sitting alone in an out-of-season mountain resort hotel typing that one line over and over – "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" – before he goes stark staring mad and takes an axe to his family in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining.

Jonathan Glancey in The Guardian. More Here

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