It’s National Typewriter Day!

I even put typewriter ads on my wall.

June 23rd is the day to celebrate a thwacking, banging, dinging Steampunky masterpiece of engineering!

This analog computer for old people has contributed to the completion of many Great American Novels. It has made legible the wishes of many people with unreadable handwriting. And, most significantly, it has played a role in many of my fond childhood memories.

I’ve always loved typewriters.

Always.

I own two, a 1938 Royal Magic Margin and a 1928 Underwood, both so aggressively heavy I could become a bodybuilder by bench pressing them.

But bodybuilding is not my cup of tea.

The Underwood originally belonged to my Uncle Jay who had it sitting on a shelf for as long as I can remember. I’d always stare at the thing whenever I visited his house. And, like everyone in the presence of a typewriter, I would absolutely need to press the keys. (They always jammed. Once upon a time someone had dropped it. Dropping an antique Underwood should be a crime, I think.)

That Underwood always stood out among Uncle Jay’s many possessions. Not only because I liked it so much, but also because it was so out of character. Uncle Jay was not a writer or a collector of antiques. Quite the opposite, really. He was a gadget guy. If something new hit the market that was state-of-the-art and/or techy, he would be the first in line to buy it. I believe Uncle Jay was the only person in the world to own a 3-D television—a technological marvel that was as awesome as it was useless.

Uncle Jay sensed I liked his Underwood by the subtle hints I would sometimes drop—like the way I would endlessly shout, “I really like your Underwood! I wish I had an Underwood! I always wanted an Underwood!” So when he and Auntie Susan decided to downsize and move to Florida (the legally mandated nesting place for New Jersey old people) he gave it to me.

A little bent, a little broken, but a beauty nonetheless.

I was ecstatic.

Because the keys are damaged, my Underwood is “for display purposes only,” which is regrettable. But old Underwoods are such beautiful machines that I almost don’t mind its lack of functionality. I like looking at it. I like the idea that I own one. And I especially like the idea that I have the option to get the thing refurbished. Which I will. Soon.

My Royal is a different animal entirely. It’s built like a Sherman tank and works like new. I found it in a thrift store and  consider it the smartest purchase I’ve ever made. Where else can a $40 investment lead to decades of happy, satisfying, cathartic thwacking?

God, what a fun machine. It’s such a refreshing change of pace from the wimpy, whispery clickitaclickitas of my laptop keyboard.  Writing is hard work, dangit! Bangs, whumps, and thumps from a good old fashioned manual typewriter makes it sound like you’re working!

Longtime readers of this blog know that this isn’t the first time I’ve delivered an ode to typewriters. This (typewritten) blog post below is from 2013 and I still agree with it–especially my views on Davy and Goliath.  (Click to see larger.)

Long story short, I highly recommend that you peruse the secondhand
shops for a typewriter right now. One THWACK and you’ll be a convert for life.

Are there any typewriter fans out there? Do you prefer another (non-laptoppy) way to write down your ideas? Leave a comment! Let’s chat!

40 Replies to “It’s National Typewriter Day!”

  1. I still have my typewriter from college.. circa 1981. It was a gift to help with term papers etc. I learned how to type on a manual typewriter in high school. There were ~ 25 in the room and about 10 were electric. It was a good day when you got to class early enough to snag one of those. I’m still not the fastest typist in the world but I appreciate the sound of the noise because it brings back memories. I also appreciate the fact I know how to type properly.
    Happy Typewriter Day Mike! Your collection is awesome!!! 💙

    1. My middle school typing class only had manuals, which at the time was a slog, because I was only familiar with the Barely-Touch-The-Key action of an electric (see childhood photo in the above post). I was (and still am) a pretty awful typist–both slow and sloppy–but I ain’t here to win any speed contests, I just want my writing to be as fun as possible!

  2. My very first typewriter was a bright orange Tom Thumb — for kids. I remember is sitting under the Christmas tree. I learned to type on manual typewriters in the 60s and owned a Royal. Electric typewriters were just coming on the scene when I was in college and began writing for newspapers. You forgot to mention the carbon paper (which most kids don’t know about) and white-out. And I remember working for large newspapers that still used led type and type setters. I worked on a morning paper, so the paper went to bed before midnight and we’d wait for the first and back page to be printed so we could correct the typos. By the mid-70s the papers transitioned. Fun times.

    1. I came into newspaper writing in the 1990s, right around the time all the pasteup guys at my job were getting laid off.

      I went to school for Graphic Design and, to earn my degree, I had to take classes that painstakingly explained the traditional methods of pasteup. This knowledge was completely impractical as everything was switching to computers, and my fellow students grumbled about it being a waste of time, but I found it fascinating and fun. My time at the paper was the only (all too brief) instance I ever saw those techniques being used in the real world.

  3. I learned to type on a Royal typewriter in high school in the early 60s. I was terrible at it, because my little fingers weren’t strong enough to depress the keys that they were meant to depress, and I’d have to stop and hit those keys with my index finger. How happy I was years later when I first sat down in front of an IBM Selectric, where the keys depressed easy as pie, and instead of a fixed set of them, you had the Magic Font Ball. You could own two or three different ones and swap them out for a change of typeface. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

    Now, I actually am thrilled with all I can do on a computer, and my typing skills have improved drastically over the decades. But having said all of that, I’d love to have a beautiful antique Underwood like yours. I’d definitely display it prominently and respectfully, with appropriate lighting to bring out the full glory!
    😁

    Fun post, Mike, and a nice trip down Memory Lane, too! Thanks! 😊

    1. I had problems when I first used manual typewriters, too. I was too familiar with the electric Smith Corona Coronet I grew up with. But I grew to appreciate (and prefer!) the manuals. I have a weird fondness for complex machines that one can still use during a power outage. They’re delightfully impractical in this day and age, but I just don’t care.

  4. You and Tom Hanks are both typewriterphiles. Have you seen the documentary California Typewriters? Click. Clack. Moo by Doreen Cronin is right up your alley as well, Mike.

  5. That’s so cool about you and typewriters. I’d get into it too, but it does take up a chunk of money. My writing implement of choice is pen and paper. But of course, drafting on the computer is always easier. There, I have mechanical keyboards to satiate my desires. One day, I’ll get a typewriter!

  6. I remember the old typewriter that sat on my dad’s desk. I had to push hard on those clacking keys, but what fun. I’m so glad you received your uncle’s Underwood and love it that you display it. A writer at heart. 🙂

  7. I used my parents’ 1960s Smith Corona that had its own hinged cover. The THWACK was quite satisfying, but I do recall the striking keys getting tangled if you accidentally hit more than one key at once. Now, I do love the sound of my laptop keys when I’m in full-on speed-typing mode. I cold never type that fast on a manual. Never. But perhaps this is the reason that agents and editors are now overwhelmed by manuscripts. Typing fast is so much easier. Probably why agents and editors are overwhelmed with MSS. That, and electronic submissions that avoid paper altogether. My other question is this (based on your affinity for spic-n-spanness): how do you dust that typewriter, since it doesn’t appear to have a cover?

  8. I don’t even remember that typewriter…..I guess I was too focused on the bar. Clearly it found the right home!

    1. I don’t remember seeing the Underwood at the house in Ringwood, but it was prominently displayed after your folks moved to Toms River. It was on the shelves in the basement next to the puzzle boxes, close–but apparently not close enough–to the bar.

  9. Wow ! I learnt typewriting. I think I was the last generation to learn and attend exams. My son still is awestuck how fast i can type and I can say the abcd in reverse. Thank you for reminding me about typewriters. 😃

  10. I had to use a typewriter in college. I gained newfound respect for folks who had to use them every day. Unfortunately I never got really fast at typing on one and my writing always seemed to have mistakes. I’m much more partial to a laptop now, but definitely understand the typewriter fascination! Nice post!

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