12 Sep Return of the Carriage Return
The advance of technology brings added convenience and productivity, but it often leaves one with a certain hollow feeling and a wistful nostalgia for the way things used to be. Many music lovers are still conflicted about what was lost when digital recordings supplanted their cherished LP records. Solid state electronics were supposed to make vacuum tubes obsolete, but high-end amplifiers often rely on those “outdated” tubes to produce the warm tones that no microprocessor has succeeded in duplicating.
Since the 1980s, the powerful word-processing capabilities of personal computers have rendered typewriters completely obsolete. Or so it would seem.
There is a movement afoot in the industrialized world where people are challenging this premise. They maintain that the typewriter is still the superior tool for composing letters, essays or creative writing. And it’s not a bunch of technophobic geezers, either. Many proponents of the typewriter’s virtues are from a generation that grew up on computers.
Take Ken Coghlan III, for example. This 24-year-old construction worker divides his leisure time between pounding out fiction on a manual Olympia and scouring the countryside for worthy specimens to add to his collection. He became interested in typewriters partly out of a desire to emulate his favorite author, science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, and partly because hand writing on a legal pad had become too painful.
“I just knew there was no way I could express myself properly using a computer,” Coghlan said. “It all felt too sterile; meaningless in a way. The USB connection between my computer keyboard and the computer could never replace the connection of ink to paper.”
Coghlan does use a computer to publish his fiction and essays on a blog that can be found at www.swingingtypebars.com. True to his principles, Coghlan types his posts on one of his many manual machines and uses a scan of the typewritten page so the post may be viewed in its all its handcrafted glory. He never fails to reference which machine was used for each particular post.
Typewriter lovers get a chance to explain their attachment in the recently released documentary film The Typewriter (In the 21st Century). There is also a popular website, http://www.typosphere.blogspot.com where modern day typewriter fanciers go to find out more about their passion.