&* andsplat, a blog by Ben W. Fey

a blog by Ben W. Fey

Typewriters in 2022

Olympia B12 typewriter on drafting table
My 1970s Olympia B12 typewriter

I rediscovered typewriters at the end of 2021 and have not looked back. It has been great to write more and to spend less time on a computer or phone. Below are some thoughts about my recent typewriter journey that I typed on my Olympia B12 typewriter.

I understand that a scan of a typed page might be hard to read on smaller devices or if you are using a screen reader. Because of this, you can either click on each image to view a larger version or you can read the typed content below in plaintext.

Scan of typed article, page 1
Page 1
Scan of typed article, page 2
Page 2
Scan of typed article, page 3
Page 3
Scan of typed article, page 4
Page 4
Scan of typed article, page 5
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Scan of typed article, page 6
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Using typewriters in 2022

A brief history of my history with typewriters

I had limited experience with typewriters before the end of 2021. I don’t remember the make or model of the typewriter I had when I was a kid. I was gifted a broken IBM Selectric around 2010-12 (I can’t remember the exact date), but was unable to fix it at the time and got rid of it. I wish I would have kept it as I might be able to have it fixed now. Several years ago I bought a cheap Smith Corona SL460 electric typewriter and have used it a few times over the years, but typewriters never really became a part of my routine. Things changed at the end of 2021 when I watched a documentary.

Watching a documentary leads to more research and purchases

On 22 December I decided to watch the documentary California Typewriter (2016). I was excited to learn more about typewriter history and see how people are using typewriters today. Instead of being inspired to use the electronic typewriter that I already owned, I was inspired to try and find a mechanical typewriter.

The day after watching the documentary I called my local typewriter shop to see what portable mechanical typewriters they had for sale. I went to the shop and spent over an hour talking with the repairman and tried the two machines that he had for sale. I decided to purchase the Olympia B12 because it was a bit newer (1970s) and hoped it would be in better shape than the 1940s Royal Arrow that he had in the shop.

What to do without my new typewriter

The day after getting my new-to-me typewriter we were traveling for Christmas vacation. I briefly debated bringing my new-to-me typewriter with me, but graciously decided to spare my family the clicking and clacking of the typewriter keys as I learned how to type on a mechanical typewriter.

Missing my typewriter I remembered that Tom Hanks had written a book called Uncommon Type, which is a collection of short stories that all have one thing in common: there is a typewriter in each story, even if it only plays a small role. I checked my library’s eBook catalog and they had a copy so I downloaded it and started to read.

Just a quick recap of my typewriter timeline:

  • Day 1: watch a typewriter documentary
  • Day 2: buy another typewriter
  • Day 3: start reading typewriter fiction

Even though I had some experience with typewriters, this new or renewed interest was strong!

In the new year I borrowed the book Typewriter Revolution: A Typist’s Companion for the 21st Century by Richard Polt from the library. I found the book to be a great balance of history, buying recommendations, guidance on how to maintain and repair typewriters, and inspiration on how to use a typewriter today.

The beginning of a typewriter collection

After using the Olympia B12 for a while, I decided that I would like to add an Olivetti Lettera 32 to what was becoming a small collection. The Olympia B12 has been a fine typewriter to use, but there are some aspects that are not the best (the carriage return seems a bit “heavy” and the keys have a distant, soft feel). I eventually found and purchased an Olivetti Lettera 32, but the machine was never quite right. I tried to make some adjustments myself and a very kind person also tried to fix it, but it sadly had too many issues, especially after shipping which seemed to cause more issues. I will have to try and find another Lettera 32 or some other kind of machine. The search continues!

But, why type on a typewriter?

FOCUS. It is so freeing to type on this machine and not be distracted with notifications, spelling corrections, and the internet.

I also enjoy and find helpful the lack of judgement from myself and the computer when I type on a typewriter. On a computer I have the desire to edit too early in the process of writing. The computer also takes you out of the creative flow with grammer and spelling suggestions and corrections. There is a time to edit, but that should not be too early in the writing process. Writing without judgement allows you to try things and see what does and doesn’t work.

I am not alone in these feelings about using a typewriter and you will find these discussed and more in the documentary California Typewriter that I mentioned earlier. If you have any interest in typewriters, I recommend you watch it. I watched it on Kanopy, a streaming video platform for public libraries.

Practice

With my renewed interest in typewriters, I want to get better at typing on a typewriter (and writing in general). The only way to get better at something is practice. I am currently doing a 100-day challenge where I write at least 15 minutes per day. There are days where I do not make the time to write and when that happens, I just push my deadline back by a day. I do this because I want to write for all 100 days, it will just take me a bit longer than 100 days to finish the 100-day challenge. I can see an improvement in my typing technique over the almost 60 days that I have typed so far. I also miss typing on the days that I skip. I am going to take that as a positive sign that a typing habit is forming.

Do you type on a typewriter? What do you like most about typing? Do you have a favorite typewriter (if so, what and why)?

April 2022

Olympia B12, pica


Comments

Scott

Fascinating journey with ups and downs along the way. Interested in seeing where you go next — and encouraging to me to maybe find my own rhythm with a typewriter.

Diane

Gosh, I so miss having a manual typewriter. I still regret selling the beautiful old but refurbished manual typewriter my mom gifted me. I’d like it back simply for sentimental reasons but I actually always enjoyed typing. I use Kanopy through my library and will look up that film. Thank you.

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