26 April 2011

[tech] The Typewriter Era Is Over … Period

2611.Typewriters have, of course, been on the way out for a long time. Here in America they've all but become ghosts, and those of us who have actual typewriters and use them (me, for one) have to know where to get typewriter ribbons (not an easy thing, but I at least have Bill Morrison's at 122nd and SE Stark St, which is within walking distance).

I was aware that they were less popular for a long time, you know when I knew that the typewriter's days were numbered? When you couldn't find them at the Goodwill store anymore. They used to have shelves and shelves of broken old machines. Then, one year … and not all that long ago … the old typewriters just kind of disappeared.

Those of us who like type and typing … and for me there's always a sort of joy to it, a healing feeling … cherish our machines. The author Harlan Ellison has several in storage, because nothing lasts forever and, I imagine, soon enough, there won't be any way to even get them fixed any more. Keeps spare typewriter ribbons in the freezer, I understand.

With the announcement of the last known typewriter manufacturer in the world ceasing operations, I fear that day is here:

With only about 200 machines left -- and most of those in Arabic languages -- Godrej and Boyce shut down its plant in Mumbai, India, today. "Although typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India -- until recently," according to the Daily Mail, which ran a special story this morning about the typewriters demise. "Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers." Secretaries, rejoice.

"We are not getting many orders now," Milind Dukle, Godrej and Boyce's general manager, told the paper. "From the early 2000s onwards, computers started dominating. All the manufacturers of office typewriters stopped production, except us. 'Till 2009, we used to produce 10,000 to 12,000 machines a year. But this might be the last chance for typewriter lovers. Now, our primary market is among the defence agencies, courts and government offices."

Well, my Royal Futura isn't on the verge of breaking down, and I can still get ribbons for it. But she's amongst the last of a now-extinct species.

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