The other day Seth asked if I could lend him the services of my station wagon to transport chairs. I agreed. A week later we headed off to Goodwill. When we arrived, we realized it should be named Goodprovidence, for we arrived on the half off everything day. We proceeded to scurry the aisles looking for deals. It’s amazing how saving a lot of money means loosing more than you were anticipating.
Goodwill keeps their furniture next to their electronics. Seth and his roommate discussed which chairs they most wanted, and I perused the assortment of key boards and old desktops. An old box of records caught my eye and I decided to take a look. I don’t quite care about records myself but a friend of mine loves them. My fingers brushing collected dust with each album I unearthed. I wiped my hands against my jeans and turned back to catch up with my friends, but a curious shape caught me first. Behind a dilapidated desktop and a stack of keyboards, there lay an older combination of both. I looked at the electronic typewriter in disbelief. How could someone leave this machine behind?
I can only speak from my limited experience, but $5.00 typewriter is a good deal. Ironically I also decided to buy a keyboard. Seth couldn’t help but point out the irony. For me the typewriter has three huge advantages over any ole keyboard.
The greatest advantage and disadvantage for using a typewriter is the lack of spell check and the irreversibility of a key stroke. Because the computer allows me to go backwards an infinite amount of times, I may carelessly go forwards. My fingers may type nonsense for hours on end, but with a few clicks of the mouse it all disappears. When you type with a typewriter you are constantly paying for the ink ribbons, so you don’t feel as inclined to write twaddle. In the first few minutes of using a typewriter, I asked a friend to spell out a word. I cannot remember the last time I asked someone to spell word in a paper. Between spell check and Google I have very little need for knowledge. Which brings me to my second point: inconvenience. This point sets me at odds with my entire generation and I know it. To be honest I care not if a project takes forever, if only it may be done well. Setting one’s own margins, aligning the paper, searching for the missing space bar button, allows me to value the typed words all the more, even if they are misspelled. I care more about my writing because I work harder to write.
Most importantly typing on a typewriter allows me distance from technology. By technology I mean of course, the internet, games, music, and photos. The typewriter is meant for a singular purpose, that is to write. It is like having a phone that merely calls people, a watch that just tells the time, or glasses that only help with vision. Our minds think in categories, a typewriter cannot be confused with an X-Box, a table discussion, or a cell phone. The typewriter helps me write, because that is all it can do. Often times weakness gives man greater potential. The greater the ordinary the greater the extraordinary
For more thoughts on how technology impacts our lives, I would highly recommend Jonah Lynch’s book The Scent of Lemons. His insights illuminate the darker side of the digital age and hold it in tension with the blessings of modern innovations.