With one click of the mouse, I became a collector. I bought a second typewriter.
I bought my first typewriter in October 2011. Goodwill opened a store in the area, which my partner and I promptly checked out. It turned out to be a well-planned visit as I found a Smith-Corona Classic 12 in fine condition sitting on the shelves, waiting to be snagged by the first analog-enthusiast to cross its path. I didn’t know it yet, but I was one such enthusiast.
Over the months that followed, I would learn how to properly clean it, fix some of the keys that were stuck, and that, while the office supply store does not carry the ribbons I needed, e-commerce would make finding such things possible. Every step of the way, I was excited. I was engaging with a technology that had supposedly become outdated and loving it.
Not least of all, I was enjoying the use of the machine. The purposeful pressure placed on each key, the arm slapping the roller and the paper superstitiously interceding so a character may appear. Over and over. I’d type nonsense and streams of consciousness and letters to my partner a room away. Just to be typing. I would type the same thing over and over again; craft a letter in many drafts. Just to make use of the machine.
Even as I enjoyed this endeavor, I found myself wondering why it was so enjoyable. Was I really doing anything other than what I did on a daily basis at my job, i.e. rendering language into writing via a machine? What was so enjoyable about doing this on a typewriter?
Well, I do enjoy typing, generally. I am good at it: fast, proficient, etc. But that wasn’t enough to explain the joy I was experiencing with my Classic 12. I don’t have a definitive answer on that point, although I have my suspicions. It has to do with the very meaning of what it is to “use” such a thing; of what use can be made of a so-called “old” and “outdated” technology. Certainly, typewriters are not widely used productively, if they are used that way at all. Maybe in some dusty corner of industry, but otherwise I cannot imagine anyone is typing up reports on a typewriter, even an electric one. And data-entry? What would it even mean on a typewriter? That is technology we could not even think before the computer. So it seems evident that the typewriter is outmoded.
So my delight in using it is influenced by the fact that it is so utterly removed from that realm: work. It is an activity entirely divorced from that mindless slog. And, unlike work, it is an act of choice and not necessity. It has a scope that is always self-determined. It partakes in wonder; the child-like delight of play. Play not as the opposite of work, but work that is fulfilling: of me and the end-product, but not a business’s bottom line.
Buying a typewriter is a purchase against the grain: it is almost always used, it is a product whose supply is dwindling rather than being created in excess, it engages one in an activity at odds with the über-productive “Puritan” work ethic of corporate America. In short, it’s wonderful. I am glad to now have a couplet, and so a little more of myself, too.