OFFICIAL: Journalists Like Typewriters

As seen in the Museum of Modern Art! Jenn Yuan shows off her Olivetti Valentine -- a "leisure typewriter", designed by Ettore Sottsass


Typewriters were famous for 15 minutes 4 hours yesterday!

The first Philly Type-IN was scheduled to start at 1 p.m. at Bridgewater’s Pub…. and….

At 1:07, the first few attendees were trundling in with their manual typewriters…. already waiting were:

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Michael Vitez–with their top photographer, Akira Suwa; Liz Spikol from the new Latino-geek monthly, Tek Lado; Peter Crimmins from WHYY, KYW reporter Suzanne Monaghan, two TV camera men from NBC and local news (6, I think) and a tech-site blogger** who interviewed me on a Flip, oh–and Associated Press reporter Ron Todt. Knew I should have made a PowerPoint!

So in between the art of typewriter arranging, had to try and come up with varied, yet coherent quotes to all sorts of variations on this question: why typewriters? and why now, in 2010?

Tried desperately to answer that, and they seemed satisfied–at any rate, what they wrote/video’d about the Type-IN is all over the place–here are some links:


Associated Press

KYW video


Philadelphia Daily News

**Retro Thing

Newsworks/WHYY story&video

Major style points to Inky reporter Michael Vitez–he commandeered my Olympia SM9 and banged out the first draft of his story on the spot. Er, wish he hadn’t overheard me saying, “But what a body…” about an Olivetti Valentine typewriter… but they are a cool design, no bones about it, and I can’t really blame Jenn Yuan for not selling it to me! BTW –if you see any print stories picked up in other papers, can you let me know?

Serious thanks to young Matt Cidoni, who trekked down from central N.J. (60 miles) with four typewriters and was put straight to work–typing up the guest list (now missing FOUND!), matching people with typewriters, popping in ribbons, and giving great quote to a stack of reporters like a pro.

Matt also schooled the assembled multitude in speed typing–he finished  ahead of Carey  Bergsma with 55 WPM in the Typing Competition. He went back to NJ with a nice Hermes Rocket from the 1950s–for which he swapped me a Royal Multi-Touch with glass keys and a dangerously mint paint job. We both think we got over, heh.

Big surprise–Philadelphia’s dean of synth/sound design, Charles Cohen, showed up with a Hermes 3000 and grabbed third place.

Also a great surprise– typewriter repairman Michael Ardito and his brother Robert trekked all the way down from Long Island. They had their hands full from the moment they arrived–checking out a variety of typers. Sadly, they confirmed that my mint Olivetti Lettera 32 needs a new mainspring. So now for a parts search or buying a more beat up L-32 to salvage a mainspring from. But seriously, thanks guys– and note that Mr. Ardito can be reached at Hometown Business Machines–718.982.6876.

If you came out, some notes:

1) did you find a list of names and emails in your typewriter or lying about? I think we left it in someone’s typer. If you took any photos videos, could you bounce us some or let us know where to find them online? Don’t worry–found it!

2) The word is that Brooklyn Writing Machines is planning their own Type-IN at the Brooklyn Flea this spring.  I hope to take part and will post more here.

3) Thanks so much for coming out and taking part in an experiment which felt like a success. Please post to this site if you feel like it, and we look forward to another Type-IN in 2011–quite possibly outdoors. In the meantime, we may just have some smaller Type-OUTS, where we just show up at a (willing and forewarned) cafe or pub to do a bit of collegial clicking.

4) As noted elsewhere on this site–I am struggling whether to make a New Year’s Resolution to be a DTer in 2011. A Daily Typer, that is. If anyone would like to take that pledge, I may post a list and create a subgroup on this blog to keep the pressure on to Commit Daily Typing.

cheers and here’s a to 2011 filled with courier, elite, pica and a bit of cursive!

— Michael McGettigan


Filed under Hermes Rocket Typewriter, manual typewriter, Olivetti Lettera 32, Olivetti Valentine typewriter, Olympia SM9, Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer,

7 responses to “OFFICIAL: Journalists Like Typewriters

  1. charles trentelman

    Great fun, Mike — I must be older than the Inquirer reporter — when I started at the Florida Alligator in 1969 all they had were manuals, and I quickly built up the forearm muscles of a practiced typist. Nothing like banging out a story on deadline to build your speed.

    One thing you can tell people about typing news stories on typewriters is that it forced you to arranged the story in your head before you started typing — the lead, the anecdotes you would sprinkle around, the structure of the story from most-to-leas important (the infamous inverted pyramid style of writing) which was valuable in a lot of ways — it made it easier to conduct interviews because you knew, from long experience, what your stories would need.

    This training also made it possible to dictate a story over the phone to someone doing re-write, now a long-lost art as everyone thinks you can just email the story — but if you don’t know how to organize the story in your head before you write it on your laptop, the editor at the other end is going to have to waste just as much time sorting out the mess and putting it into some sort of order.

    Plus typewriters are just fun — If I lived in your town I’d have brought the last typewriter I took with me traveling in 1991 to report a week in Germany — my 1940s portable Seidal & Naumann, a German-made and German-keyed portable that still works. I have a book of pictures of the Germany Army going to Stalingrad in 1941 or 42 or whenever it was and one picture in it is a Germany military reporter using that very same model of typewriter.

    And I can still get ribbons for it. Let’s see your computer do THAT in 70 years.

  2. That blogger was me! Here’s the post I wrote about it:

    Best of luck with your next event!

  3. Couldn’t make it out there, but I’ll definitely be continuing to be a DTer in 2011!

  4. A C

    I hadn’t a clue until AFTER the fact, as I discovered on the Local News. You bet I’ll be there for the next one (with my grandfather’s sturdy Smith Corona)! 😉

  5. I have a great time reading up on the Type In, both in the typosphere and in my local paper. It sounds like it was really fun and already there is much effort being put into type ins at other locations. I think you started something pretty damn cool.

    • Well, thanks it was really serious fun, though I was starting to repeat myself towards the end!… it’s not everyday that a machine sparks a whim that becomes a bash that vaults into a micro-mini-movement or some such.
      I it looks like Phoenix may be first out of the gate with Mr. Magic Margins’ crew hosting a Western Type-IN.

  6. Linda A.

    I read about your “type-in” in a Kim Komando “News of the Day” e-mail, but, Kim didn’t mention that it was for MANUAL typewriters. How cool is that? Surely takes me back because I learned to type on a manual back in high school. I could never go back to using a manual now, though; I’ve been so spoiled by computers. Manuals are not only slow in general, but they just weren’t designed for fast typists. If you typed too fast, those whatever-they’re-called, you know, those little hammers that have the letters on them, would tend to bunch up and get tangled together. What a pain in the butt THAT was, but a manual certainly gave your fingers a good workout! {|-) Another downside to typewriters was making carbon copies. (Remember carbon paper?!?!) There was a time not too long ago when the one thing typewriters were still needed for was filling out forms because you couldn’t fill out a form on a computer. Well, you can now.

    My all-time favorite typewriter, though, is not a manual, but an electric —
    the IBM Selectric — a typewriter that could correct itself. No more having to make corrections with erasers that could — and would — tear the paper, no more need for messy correction fluids, just backspace, strike over, and voila! However, there was still the issue of the carbon paper. I also liked those changeable font elements the Selectric had. Just change the ball to change to a different font. Cool! {:-)

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