By RICHARD CHIN, Minneapolis Star Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – For a century, the typewriter has been king.
It was the essential tool of any aspiring novelist, intrepid journalist, serious secretary and ambitious student. During his reign, everything worth the paper it was printed on – a historic speech, the great American novel, screenplays, contracts, letters, treaties, declarations of love and war – was probably written on a typewriter.
Its “clackety-clackety-clackety-clackety-clackety, ding! was an essential part of the 20th century soundscape. Once obsolete by word processing and then the personal computer, the syncopated chatter of a typewriter has become as rare as the purring of a rotary telephone.
But a small group of Minnesota typewriter enthusiasts are preserving the legacy of the once revolutionary typewriter, restoring them, collecting them and even writing them down, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. And their number is increasing.
There’s super collector Alan Seaver, who owns over 350 typewriters, possibly the largest collection of typewriters in the state.
Entire rooms of his Zumbrota home are dedicated to the display of typewriters that date back to the late 19th century and include rare pieces like a Smith-Corona with a solid sterling silver body, a typewriter with a clear plastic body for use by inmates and a typewriter made in Nazi Germany that can print SS badges. He owns the first typewriters made by Remington, the forerunner of the gun company, and Triumph typewriters, produced by the motorcycle manufacturer.
Minneapolis typewriter fan Charlie Maguire practices what he calls “extreme typing,” which involves carrying around a vintage portable typewriter to chase the stream of consciousness thoughts while standing in one. trout stream, atop a cliff or bridge or in an outdoor sculpture.
Clarence White wrote poetry on his typewriter for passers-by with whom he interacts at art venues like Northern Spark and the Soap Factory. He also gives typewriter poetry workshops.
“The typewriter is really a percussion instrument and poetry is music,” said White, a resident of St. Paul who is also associate director of the East Side Freedom Library.
No wonder the Wikipedia entry for the typewriter notes that “The 21st century has seen a resurgence of interest in typewriters among certain subcultures, including makers, steampunks, hipsters, and poets. Street.”
“They are the youngest. They love to hit it, ”said Mark Soderbeck, longtime owner of Vale Typewriter Co. in Richfield.
Soderbeck has been repairing typewriters for 46 years. He said that when personal computers became affordable in the 1980s, business fell by 80%. The number of typewriter repair shops in the Twin Cities has dropped from almost 30 to two. (Spectrum Business Systems in St. Paul is the other store besides Vale.) But in recent years, demand for old typewriters – especially non-electric manual typewriters – has increased, according to Soderbeck.
“By Christmas, I won’t have a manual typewriter in my store anymore,” he said.
Renewed interest in typewriters helps Katie Fetterly pay for her education. A few years ago, the 36-year-old St. Catherine’s University student saw a beautiful 1938 Corona Standard typewriter on Craigslist for sale for $ 20.
This set her off on the path of collecting typewriters and becoming an antique typewriter broker, finding and selling desirable typewriters that other collectors are looking for.
“I am connected to every person in the typosphere,” said Fetterly. “I know where to look and how to look. “
For his own collection, Fetterly stalked machines in Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, and Wyoming in search of different versions of the 1955 Royal Quiet Deluxe in yellow, green, baby blue, and pink.
“It’s like collecting cars without having a garage,” Fetterly said.
Soderbeck compares today’s interest in manual typewriters to the resurgence of vinyl records and other analog things.
Typewriter fans are rebelling against digital to embrace real, physical text messages, a tactile experience stamped on a decades-old mechanical device preserved on 20-pound cotton paper.
“I think everyone needs digital technology space,” said Richard Polt, professor of philosophy at Xavier University, author of “The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist’s Companion for the 21st Century” and creator of the site Web The Classic Typewriter Page.
Some typewriter fans say they like to use old manual machines because it forces them to write more slowly and deliberately compared to writing on a computer.
“You don’t think about word selection, punctuation, and sentence construction as much as you do when you use a typewriter,” said David Born, retired University of Minnesota professor, writer and user long-standing typewriter.
It’s a bit ironic because typewriters were originally invented and became popular because they allowed people to write faster. And typewriter enthusiasts always rely on digital tools to express their admiration for their typewriters, whether it’s a blog site or an Instagram account.
In some ways, the typewriter is still with us. The QWERTY keyboard layout we use on our laptops and even our cell phones is a legacy of the system that has become standard on typewriters. The shift key, caps lock, and backspace were originally typewriter mechanisms.
It’s hard to deny that typewriters have an aesthetic that you’ll rarely see in a personal computer. Over the years, typewriters have sold in a rainbow of colors: gloss black, Italian race car red, princess telephone pink, metallic green, pop art yellow and even imitation wood grain.
Depending on when they were made, typewriters can have an art deco design or sport the harsh lines of a 1970s muscle car.
“Computers are really boring,” Polt said. “The typewriter, a good one, is an art object in itself. “
Even the names that typewriter makers also gave to their machines conveyed a sense of glamor or personality: the Hermes Baby, the Royal Swinger, the Smith-Corona Enterprise II, the Sears Cutlass, the Blue Bird, the Torpedo. , Everest.
A 1936 machine in Seaver’s collection is called the Imperial Good Companion, illustrating how many people have formed a sentimental attachment to their typewriters in a way that it’s hard to imagine anyone feeling about from their laptop.
Prices have gone up for some desirable vintage machines. Part of this may be due to what collectors call the “Tom Hanks effect”. The actor is a serious collector, which has inspired other people to take an interest in old machines.
“He loves typewriters and people love Tom Hanks,” Seaver said.
But there were millions of typewriters made between the end of the 19th century and the end of the 20th century. There are still many and many examples of centuries-old machines that still work.
“It’s a pretty sustainable technology,” Polt said.
“How many people have a computer, even 10 years old, that still works well?” Born said.
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