An icon of 1960s pop-art design, the Olivetti Valentine typewriter was designed by Italian architect Ettore Sottsass and British designer Perry Ellis for the Italian company, Olivetti.
Sottsass covered the typewriter in red “so as not to remind anyone of monotonous working hours.” Its iconic red color was a precursor to the iMac, a machine that also differentiated itself from other computer products by offering a panoply of vibrant colors.
The late great music icon David Bowie was known to have one of the Olivetti Valentine typewriters in his own private collection.
The typewriter debuted on 14 February 1969, hence the name ‘Valentine’ and also existed in a neutral gray color as seen below.
The Keaton Music typewriter was a typewriter specifically for music. Designed by Robert Keaton in San Francisco, California in 1933, it contained two keyboards, one moveable the other stationary, and 14 keys that plotted musical symbols onto blank paper into the carriage underneath.
The second iteration of the keyboard debuted in 1955 and sold for $225 or $2,000 in today’s value, roughly the amount it costs for a brand new Macbook Pro. Now an antique, there are no more than 24 Keaton Music typewriters left in the world.
For the nostalgic typewriter enthusiasts comes the Querkywriter keyboard that recreates the look and feel of the click-clack experience onto modern computing. If you’re a fan of Tom Hanks Hanx writer fan, then you’ll certainly want to take it a step further and use the closest to the real thing.
As they say, the life of a computer is 3-5 years. The life of a typewriter is a century. You can also find the Qwerkywriter on my Amazon list: Tools for creators.
“Keep ’em typing!” says Kenneth Alexander, a typewriter repairer with over forty years of experience. He works for California Typewriter in San Francisco, one of the last surviving typewriter repair shop in the United States.
California Typewriter is also the name of a new documentary out from American Buffalo Pictures, which highlights “the portrait of artists, writers, and collectors who remain steadfastly loyal to the typewriter as a tool and muse, featuring Tom Hanks, John Mayer, David McCullough, Sam Shepard, and others.”
The life of a computer is 3-5 years. The life of a typewriter is a century. The typewriter once made writing faster and louder. Today, the typewriter’s nostalgic noise may be the only reason people want to use them again. Says typewriter surgeon Paul Schweitzer who still fixes 20 of them a week from his Flatiron office:
“If you want to concentrate, if you want to write in your own mind, write with a typewriter. You see the words hit the paper. There’s no distractions.”
Tom Hanks grew so nostalgic of the typewriting in the digital age he recreated it as an app, eponymously named the Hanx writer. “I wanted to have the sensation of an old manual typewriter – I wanted the sound of typing if nothing else…cause I find it’s like music that spurs along the creative urge. Bang bang clack-clack-clack puckapuckapuckapucka… I wanted the ‘report’ of each letter, each line.”
Part of the typewriter’s appeal is its rejection of the multi-tasking and impulsiveness behavior of ‘Generation Thumbs‘ on iPhone and iPads. The beauty of slowing down and Internet-less device is avoiding distractions enhancing your mind’s focus, developing a concentration that many readers experience with the Kindle. Note, however, you can replicate the pace of a typewriter on your phone if you type with one hand.
Don’t expect the typewriter to enjoy the same comeback success story as vinyl– typewriter enthusiasts are a small niche. But do expect the typewriter to be live on in new formats, whether it’s an app or a distraction-free writing tool like the Hemingwrite “with a continuous wi-fi connection to your Evernote account.”
Computer keyboards make a mousy tappy tap tappy tap like ones you hear in a Starbucks — work may be getting done but it sounds cozy and small, like knitting needles creating a pair of socks. Everything you type on a typewriter sounds grand, the words forming in mini-explosions of SHOOK SHOOK SHOOK. A thank-you note resonates with the same heft as a literary masterpiece.
I’ve never used a typewriter but I bet it’s easy to recreate that sound in the computer keys like Coffitivity does for recreating coffee shop noise in your home. An advanced product, same effect, at home. That sounds good to me.