Ode to a Typewriter: Childhood Memories

My own emotional and rambling response to the news that the last typewriter manufacturer had closed its doors for good (though, apparently, this was later revealed to be untrue).

I remember our first family computer. It was a hand-me-down from our neighbors, and thus antiquated even by 1997 standards. Clunky and boxy, I’m sure the old Macintosh computer had some useful quality that, in my youth, I was unable to grasp. Instead, I fondly recall the floppy disks that accompanied our inheritance of this radical feat of modern technology. My brother and I would spend hours playing a highly pixellated, 4-bit Godzilla-rip-off computer game. I don’t remember the actual point of the game, nor am I even sure there was one, but we were entranced nonetheless.

And yet, despite having grown up inundated with computers and advancing technology, I was lucky enough to have a dorky father who went through a phase in his life where he decided to collect typewriters. In my desire to have my own obsolete piece of technology in my room, I one day ventured into the attic to find the coolest looking typewriter (it was blue). I then proceeded to literally drag the machine down the stairs, having been initially unaware that such an outdated mechanism wouldn’t have first been perfected into lighter model, at least not one that my father owned.

After calling the attention of every single person in the house thanks to the thump, thump, thump downstairs, I finally made it back to my room with my prize in tow. I think I spent the rest of the day, sitting at my little fisher-price table, typing away. I don’t remember what I wrote, though since I was only 6 or 7, I assume it was mostly nonsense. I do, however, remember feeling as if I had discovered some great treasure–I wondered why we needed the silly computer when we had this really cool machine that, when you pressed the keys, made fun noises (I still love the sound of typewriters). Granted, I couldn’t play Godzilla on it, but it still kept me amused for hours.

I fondly remember my experimentation with that typewriter. Eventually the ancient ribbon of ink ceased to work and, unsure of how to proceed, I abandoned my brief career as a child stenographer. The typewriter remained in my room for a couple of months after that, untouched and abandoned for newer, more technologically advanced toys. Perhaps this was around the time I got my first boombox, a purple number, just as clunky by today’s standards as that old Apple computer. I don’t know when my mom finally removed the typewriter from my room. I don’t know if I even noticed. Eventually we bought a new computer, and then another one, and then another one. Quickly, each machine became outdated and we moved on to the next big thing, though technically speaking they got small in size. Meanwhile, the typewriters continued to sit in the attic.

One day, about 6 or 7 years ago, my family had a tag sale. It was a miserable day– rainy and gross. We ended up having to move all of our knickknacks inside the garage. Few people showed up, and even fewer people bought anything. It was perhaps halfway through our unsuccessful sale that my mom, who was eager to get rid of just about anything and everything to anyone willing to pay a dime, decided to bring a couple of the old typewriters out of the attic. Dusted free of cobwebs, she placed them on the garage floor and almost immediately we had an interested customer.

That day I saw my clunky blue typewriter sold away. I don’t think I was overly emotional about it at the time. I was more concerned that my old barbies were going to a happy home. I don’t even remember what the man paid for the typewriter, or why he wanted it. While I’ve certainly thought about the my typewriting phase since then, as I have all my childhood memories, it was only today that a great wave of nostalgia seemed to hit.

The news was initially reported that the last manufacturer of typewriters had closed its doors. Updates since have confirmed that there are still minor international companies that produce typewriters, but the initial shock was enough to get me thinking. I guess it makes sense– why would we need typewriters? No matter the advancements made on those antiquated machines, they remain obsolete. With our tablets and iPods, laptops and blackberries– what possible need is there for a typewriter? In many ways, I’m surprised the industry hadn’t been shut down long ago, but I’m relieved it wasn’t.

Someday I hope to own a typewriter again. Sure, it will probably sit right next to my MacBook Pro on a desk cluttered with modern mechanisms of hyperconnectivity, but it will be there nonetheless. I think I’ll use it for writing letters, or just for fun. Just to listen to the clatter of the keys and the ringing of the machine as it hits the end of a row. I won’t be particular about the model of typewriter, I’m not in the antique business. I do, however, hope it will be blue.