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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: 1st / 2nd Line IT Support Technician

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a small IT consultancy business...

    Guru Careers: Account Manager

    £30 - 38k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a digitally focussed Account Man...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Java

    £24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This exciting and disruptive co...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP / MySQL / HTML / CSS

    £23000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion, this digital ...

    Day In a Page

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935