Typewriter Dependency (common disorder resulting from metaphysical thinking about punctuation)
June 9, 2002 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Typewriter Dependency (common disorder resulting from metaphysical thinking about punctuation) [nyt reg req] "A recent survey of the top 1,000 living English-language authors finds that more than 80 percent own manual typewriters averaging 43 years in age and three broken functions, with a per-unit resale value of $4.75 and slipping. Yet in a questionnaire about their response if brigands should invade their homes and demand either their beat-up old manual typewriters or their spouses on pain of death, a whopping 96 percent wrote ''Spouse.''
posted by Voyageman (23 comments total)
Harlan Ellison is a rather big fan of manual Olympia typewriters (check out the pics on the second link.)
posted by Cyrano at 2:10 PM on June 9, 2002

Might this has something to do with the affliction/dependancy of the 96 percent?
posted by Voyageman at 2:22 PM on June 9, 2002

Don Delillo also uses a typewriter, White Noise was written with each paragraph started on a fresh page. Ondaatje wrote "The English Patient" by hand.

One of the problems with writing on computer is sometimes it seems like writing in water, words flow and shift and disappear. The advantage of paper is that one can cross stuff out without erasing them, and one can scribble notes easily.

I've been trying to work my way around this by using strikeouts instead of deleting words. I know Word supports tracking changes, but I like to differentiate between minor corrections of grammar and changes I want to remove but save for reference. And I've started using C style /* comments*/ for stuff I want to remind myself of.

Maybe I should be using vi to get into that typewriter state of mind, i'm just not sure how to get it to support strikeout characters.
posted by bobo123 at 2:31 PM on June 9, 2002

I collect old typing paper, and like to clack some stuff out.
I use a 62' (62' 0r 65') HERMES Rocket, made in Switzerland for Paillard Products. Hard cover shell, lite olive finish. I keep it stocked with purple ribbon from an old supply store i know in florida. The 'G' key sticks. This was donated to me by a mefi member (waaayyy) back when i had no clacker. saw one almost exactly like it in an antique store (275$)... i tease him time to time:) Olympias are great.
posted by clavdivs at 2:32 PM on June 9, 2002

< derail>

if brigands should invade their homes

Brigands is right up there with hooligans in my anachronistic criminal synonyms list.

< /derail>

And what is the likelihood of brigands invading homes in search of manual typewriters these days?

I remember reading somewhere that Gene Wolfe icollects antique typewriters.
posted by y2karl at 3:02 PM on June 9, 2002

ioops! iDo'h!
posted by y2karl at 3:03 PM on June 9, 2002

Functional fixedness.
posted by rushmc at 3:12 PM on June 9, 2002

Writers seem fetishists when it comes to writing instruments and paper etc....
One author I have been told uses quill pens to slow down his writing. A friend (kid's books) refuses to use computer because his papers are to be left to a university and they want all copies of what he has done in making his book (now available: program that can recover changes done on writing on computer). A favorite writer (Edmund Wilson) wrote only on yellow legal pads in pencil, and began each day with at least 10 sharpened pencils on his bridge table. He would late have work transcribed by typist.
The sci/fi guy in Mass (his name escapes me now) who turned out so much always had an electric typewriter as a stand-by in case the one he was using went bad on him.
And then one could list places where writing was done...again bad luck for many (so they believed) if a pattern was changed.
I notice that Brian Lamb usually asks writers he interviews on public TV how they write--paper, instruments etc...and now of course he has his own book out.
And writing and drinking? lots to explore here too.
posted by Postroad at 3:46 PM on June 9, 2002

William Gibson's breakthrough cyberpunk novel Neuromancer was famously written on a manual typewriter.

In fact, for years and years Gibson refused to so much as have an email address, but finally caved to the 'net. The temptation that pulled him in: buying watches on eBay.
posted by NortonDC at 4:10 PM on June 9, 2002

That buying watches on eBay is one of the most entertaining things I've read online in a long time, NortonDC. I can most definitely relate to his addictive personality, and the thought of him "clicking the Netscape Reload button like a bandit-cranking Vegas granny" over and over again is such a kick.
posted by iconomy at 4:41 PM on June 9, 2002

Bah, I call fake ... 'the historian Lincoln Booth'? 'best-selling bodice-ripper novelist Gwen Google Huzzah'? 'master mystery writer Dvorak Bigelow Jr'? The typewriters' make and model names are equally fake-looking.

But's a cute story.

posted by aeschenkarnos at 5:46 PM on June 9, 2002

The best way to support strikout in vi would be to make up a tagging system, similar to the C comments. Console vi wont do the strikeouts visually. But if you use vim you could also write a parser that would color your strikeout characters differently from the normal ones.

I have many manual typewriters and I love them, but I find myself usign them less and less for unknown reasons. hmmm.
posted by n9 at 6:17 PM on June 9, 2002

Ditch the typewriter. It's harder to get your wife back on eBay.

Also, they "wrote'Spouse'"? They didn't type it?
posted by kfury at 6:29 PM on June 9, 2002

From article: "Yet in a questionnaire about their response if brigands should invade their homes and demand either their beat-up old manual typewriters or their spouses on pain of death, a whopping 96 percent wrote ''Spouse.''"

They don't mention that they wrote 'Spouse' right after it asks the question: "Which would you save?"

Stupid journalists...
posted by kfury at 6:31 PM on June 9, 2002

Just use RCS/CVS for writing to maintain version control. Why is writing any different than coding?
posted by pjdoland at 7:52 PM on June 9, 2002

Any which way I can get words down is fine by me. I like to switch between the word processor, a notebook, editing print-outs, and a tape recorder plus Dragon NaturallySpeaking. The different methods work with different speeds of thought--and if you're writing 10-14 hours a day, a bit of variation is appreciated. As for typewriters, I honestly don't see the appeal over my cordless logitech keyboard. Can't find-and-replace on an Olympia, and if I want hardcopy, ctrl-p is all it takes.
posted by muckster at 10:42 PM on June 9, 2002

Bah, I call fake...

Let's see what Gwen Google Huzzah has to say:

"Called the most gifted satirist in America, Bruce McCall made his name in the pages of National Lampoon and Esquire before becoming a favorite of Vanity Fair and The New Yorker..."
posted by rory at 4:35 AM on June 10, 2002

Yup, aeschenkarnos nailed it. Well done, Bruce.
posted by NortonDC at 4:49 AM on June 10, 2002

There's no way in hell I'd switch to a typewriter for writing. I wrote 2200 words yesterday in 80 minutes: there's no way I can match that ouput with a typewriter, which works out to about 27 WPM. I do appreciate the logic of writing slowly—if you're the kind of writer who governs and modulates as your brain issues ideas—but for those of us who write straight through, whatever may flow, and then edit or elaborate heavily later, the computer is a god-send. The key is those bursts that come unbidden: I feel like they must be captured, and with my top speed of 80 WPM, I can do that. So many times I feel like an impulse has slipped away. So if a computer is like writing in water, writing slowly on a typewriter is like water evaporating. Plus, the idea that there's only one copy in the world of my work appalls me. It might be total dreck, but it's my total dreck and I'd like to protect it.
posted by Mo Nickels at 4:49 AM on June 10, 2002

Well, yeah, aeschenkarnos nailed it... but... how can I say this tactfully... surely everyone knew already?

Might be time to pick up a few $4.75 Glab-Porkovnyka bullshit detectors.
posted by rory at 5:14 AM on June 10, 2002

There's no way in hell I'd switch to a typewriter for writing. I wrote 2200 words yesterday in 80 minutes

Maybe you should post this to alt. writersblock, you FREAK OF NATURE!!!
posted by mecran01 at 5:25 AM on June 10, 2002

I laughed out loud at the */y quote, and loved the authenticity/ghostwritten autobio bit, but I didn't put it all together until later.
posted by NortonDC at 7:34 AM on June 10, 2002

I have an ancient, ancient Remington, manufactured in London sometime near the first World War I think. I bought it in Islington years and years ago...but now, I can't get ribbon for it, so it sits, dusty and unused, but very much loved, in my office...on the off chance I can find parts for it.
posted by dejah420 at 10:09 AM on June 10, 2002

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