Technology: It's a qwerty business bidding farewell to the typewriter
Prolific writer and commentator John Walsh contributes columns to the paper as well as writing features, interviews and restaurant reviews. He has been editor of The Independent Magazine, literary editor of the Sunday Times and features editor of the London Evening Standard.
Tuesday 20 November 2012
Edward Bryan, of the Japanese manufacturing company Brother, has earned himself a footnote in cultural history. Any day now, from the Brother's Wrexham factory, he will make the last-ever typewriter in the UK, just before the company donates it to the London Science Museum.
The gift will metaphorically stretch a final plastic cover over the history of a machine that changed history, invented the qwerty keyboard, simplified and speeded up the processes of journalism, publishing and business, and gave women, for the first time, an income and secure foothold in office life: in the 1850s there were 2,000 female clerks in Britain; by 1901, there were 166,000.
Overtaken by the rise of word processors in the mid-1980s, the typewriter is dead, after 130 years of rattle and clang, the rat-tat-tat fusillade of the professional touch-typist, the hesitant peck and tentative clack of the two-finger amateur. It was a machine that became a conduit of one's feelings. Mailer and Hemingway liked to think of it as an opponent that gazed blearily back at them, bruised and impressed, after their two-fisted drubbings at the keys for a few hours. Look at the concentration on Romola Garai's lovely face as she belabours her Adler portable in the new series of The Hour, and you can see how it can be imagined as an ally in the fight against condescending superiors.
Elderly journalists, who worked on the machines in Fleet Street before computers took over, will rhapsodise about the deep satisfaction of twisting the old-fashioned typewriter's twin knobs, sliding the carriage-return arm (with its peremptory "ping!") along after each line, and the strangely erotic business of typing on to eight carbons and tissue underlays, as though imprinting oneself on layers of frothy undergarments.
But we live in retro times. No sooner has the typewriter been declared defunct than a zombie avatar rises from the grave. At Edinburgh College of Art, Austin Yang, a student, has invented the iTypewriter: you plonk your iPad upright in a typewriter cradle and hit the keys, which send little hammer-prods up on the touch-screen. It's a pathetic echo of the glory days of the Remington and the Smith-Corona; but it might also be a squeak of protest that modern techno-communication has lost something vital: a bit of drama.
Life & Style blogs
Who is Teresa Fidalgo? Debunking the fake ghost story that's got Instagram spooked
Bio-engineering vaginas not about peach smell, company says, but making them healthier
Regin: Newly uncovered malicious software snooping since 2008 'was developed by a nation state'
Henri de Toulouse Lautrec: Google celebrates 150th anniversary of French artist's birth
Tinder dating app being used more and more by middle-aged mums and dads
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Green Party Caroline Lucas interview: 'We could be on the edge of something very big'
- 1 Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by police in Ohio park
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Naked free runner captured in breathtaking photographs above London's streets
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Manchester United named Premier League's loudest fans despite late push by Chelsea according to 'Smart Meter' app
iJobs Gadgets & Tech
£38000 - £42000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Netw...
£18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support organisation focuses on ...
£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Support Analyst / IT Support Analys...
£30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...