Typewriters making a comeback amid digital burnout: Media reports

Typewriter shop owner Jason Chong pushes the paper to the side of the typewriter after completing a sentence. The former sales engineer sells and fixes old-school typewriters at his shop, Vintage Empire, at Katong Plaza. PHOTO: TNP FILE
Typewriter shop owner Jason Chong pushes the paper to the side of the typewriter after completing a sentence. The former sales engineer sells and fixes old-school typewriters at his shop, Vintage Empire, at Katong Plaza. PHOTO: TNP FILE

The clacking sounds of old-school typewriters are fast becoming sweet sounds to a growing legion of young fans.

They can even be heard in public, at what is called a "type-in" - an event where typewriter enthusiasts gather and try out various vintage machines.

Alongside such events which have emerged in the United States - in cities including Phoenix, Philadelphia, Seattle, Los Angeles and Cincinnati - enthusiasts are looking for typewriters i n thrift stores, online auction sites and antique shops.

In Upstate New York, a small dedicated community of typewriter enthusiasts are throwing their second annual festival, celebrating typewriters this weekend.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

The Festival of Type and Letter Arts features performances on typewriters, typewriter-produced art, literature and poetry, documentaries about typewriters and type face, type-ins and even a concert by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, according to a report in newyorkupstate.com.

The renewed interest in typewriters has also reignited business for stores that had not expected it - namely, typewriter repair shops.

One typewriter repairman, John Lewis, told Associated Press that he had not seen "business like this in years" at his 40-year-old shop in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

"There's definitely a new interest, and it's keeping me very busy," he said.

Nostalgia has become trendy in recent years, from film cameras to vinyl players. For typewriters in particular, the trend began around 10 years ago, according to Richard Polt, a philosophy professor and author of The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion For The 21st Century.

The resurgence is more than just a fad, he told Associated Press.

As to why the machines have become popular again, Doug Nichol, director of the upcoming documentary California Typewriter, told Associated Press that a "digital burnout" might be the answer.

"Kids who grew up knowing only mobile phones and the computer are excited to see a letter typed with your own hand," Nichol said, adding: "It's a one-on-one interaction that doesn't get interrupted by Twitter alerts."

However, typewriter sales are hard to track, as many original manufacturers had gone out of business, Associated Press reported.

Yet to some, nothing thrills like a challenge - the time and effort needed to get hold of and even restore old machines.

"That's part of the fun: the hunt," Joe Van Cleave, a resident of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who owns more than a dozen typewriters and runs a YouTube channel on restoring typewriters, told Associated Press.

The interest in typewriters is not just an overseas phenomenon.

In Singapore, several aficionados have offered typewriting services, as well as fixed up old machines and sold them to enthusiastic customers, according to reports by The Straits Times and AsiaOne.

Another alluring typewriter-linked trend emerging at home and overseas, is poetry writing.

According to Associated Press, street poets who craft works impromptu are increasingly doing so on typewriters, offering personalised, typewritten poetry to their patrons.

Here in Singapore, the group Proletariat Poetry Factory does just that.

Making appearances at various flea markets and fairs, the poets - clad in identical red jumpsuits - use typewriters to create poems for people on the spot.

"Give us a word to inspire the poem, leave a name behind, collect the typewritten poem and pay any amount for it," says their Facebook page.