Today I felt like pounding away on some glass-top keys, so I dragged out the Royal KHM to bang out Chapter the Latest.
That machine was made in 1935, when my grandfather was eighteen, and nine years before my father was born. And the damn thing still works. Sure, the rubber on the platen is hard as a rock after seventy-seven years, but that’s about the only thing wrong with it. And it still feeds and holds paper, so it’s not a fatal defect. I suppose I should have the platen re-covered with new rubber, because this thing is so solid that it will probably last another 77 years with a minimum of care and maintenance.
On occasion, people will ask me why I bother writing on typewriters, or longhand for that matter. Writing on the computer is faster and easier, you can’t take the typewriter to a coffee shop, you have to type everything up again when you plug it into the computer, etc. etc.
I don’t claim that my writing is any better when I use retro tech. In the last few years, I’ve written stuff directly on the PC or Mac, on the typewriter, and longhand with a fountain pen, and I can’t tell a qualitative difference between any of the end products. I suspect it wouldn’t read any different if I punched my next short story into the iPhone, or wrote it on linen paper with a dip pen. But I like the older, tactile methods more than I do the tippy-typing on the computer keyboard. I use those things because I enjoy using them. If the end product doesn’t suffer in quality, I prefer to create it in the way that gives me the most pleasure. (Incidentally, my first pro sale short story was written with a fountain pen.)
Having to retype the output of the typewriter or the pen is a feature, not a bug. It forces a word-for-word revision, so what ends up on the PC is actually the second draft already. Also, it’s kind of neat to have a tangible, verifiable hardcopy of the first draft.
Final bonus of retro tech: no distractions. No Twitter, Facebook, Wikipedia, or Angry Birds to steer you away from your work. And it works just fine in a power outage. I’ve written quite a few pages by oil lamp light that way.