Technology: It's a qwerty business bidding farewell to the typewriter

 

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 and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

    £27500 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

    Guru Careers: Graduate Software Developer / Junior Developer

    £20 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Software Develop...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Web Designer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Web Designer is required to join a f...

    Day In a Page

    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

    Caught in the web of legal imperialism

    The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

    Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
    Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

    The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

    How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
    Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

    Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

    'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

    Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

    How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

    Art attack

    Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
    Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

    Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

    Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
    Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

    'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

    Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
    10 best wedding gift ideas

    It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

    Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
    Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

    Paul Scholes column

    With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
    Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

    Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

    Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
    Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

    Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

    The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
    Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

    For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
    Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

    Fifa corruption arrests

    All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert