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I Am Typewriter

February 4, 2011

From the 2nd to the 13th of February, the good people at Sticky are having a celebration of the typewriter, I am Typewriter, with zine launches, workshops, show and tell and a big zine fair on Saturday 12th, where you can say hello to me if you like, as I will have a table there, along with many other zinemakers from all over Australia.

For now though, I’m finishing a couple of new zines and thinking about my collection of typewriters. I have to be stern with myself to not collect any more typewriters than necessary, I have five and this is enough: they are heavy and often temperamental creatures, each with a particular character. Each has its peculiarities and problems, which makes them seem like a very animate kind of machine. This is one of the pleasures and sometimes the frustrations of using a typewriter.

While I love typewriters, only one of my zines, Disposable Camera, is typewritten. I write this zine in one sitting, which particularly suits writing on a typewriter – once it’s typed, there’s no going back. (Well, you can go back, but it’s fiddley. I use white out and also will stick replacement words over ones I’ve made a particularly bad job of, but in my zine I try to keep such modifications to a minimum.)

When I was a kid I loved typewriters in the same way I loved sewing machines – I liked the ribbon/thread running through them, and I liked to think of all the parts working together to make a complete machine. When I got a bit older I’d type out letters for my grandfather – to the council and the local paper – and imagine myself an efficient junior secretary. I didn’t get a computer until after I left high school, and when I typed essays for school I did so on an electric typewriter, so, for me, typewriters haven’t seemed particularly ‘retro’ until reasonably recently! I lived in a world in which all these things were still useful, a world of the past, which I guess is what happens when you grow up with your grandparents. Perhaps this is why the contemporary time never seemed to fit with me very well (even when new technology was the VHS player).

Typewriters and zines fit together in so many ways – they produce immediate results, they require tinkering and mistakes often happen – sometimes I think about what typing school must have been like, and how hard it must have been to be a typist. The typewriting manuals and practice books you find in op shops sometimes all look like an awful lot of work.

Looking at a piece of typewritten text you can sense the moment of writing in it, which is lost in the clean text that is written on a computer. Like handwriting, with the typewritten text you can imagine the person sitting there, putting one word after the other.

The Imperial Good Companion is a beautiful machine, but is sadly missing some vital parts, and I can’t even make it type these days. It needs the kind of specialist attention that I have not the slightest clue about. Though it would be a nice thing to do, repair typewriters, imagine the clientele! The elderly and zinemakers. That’s an idea for those times when I sit around thinking about career changes.

So I have no message from the Good Companion, though I do have a rather wonderful story from “English Journey” by J.B. Priestly, which I bought from an op shop for $2. It is a wonderful book and the typewriter passage is particularly good, he writes about typewriters with such love!

“Just as some men talk about the motor cars they have driven, so, when I occasionally meet a fellow typewriter owner of long and rich experience, I talk about the various machines I have hammered at.”

(The final pages goes into a long analysis of capitalism and industrialisation so I didn’t include the entire section.)

Now, after all that frenzy of typing on typewriters, computer, finding books, scanning, and trying not to expire in the oppressive heat, I bid you farewell, see you at the zine fair, perhaps.


6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2011 6:32 am

    Quite the perfect way to celebrate ITAM!

  2. Fergus permalink
    February 5, 2011 9:30 am

    My typewriter looks a lot like your Imperial, except mine is a beautiful murky forest green. It is too old to fit those new universal typewriter ribbons. Also it can’t type all the way across the page. Anyhow, see you in Melbourne!

  3. Fergus permalink
    February 6, 2011 9:37 pm

    I forgot to say (and I’m sure you know this already, but anyway) – if you want to type an exclamation mark on typewriter without that key, the er, formula, is full stop then backspace then apostrophe.

  4. Penny Spent permalink
    February 11, 2011 2:15 pm

    I have the exact same orange Brother 210! Tim gave it to me, it’s such a great colour. It’s also my favourite typewriter of the three I have here at home and the 4th that seems to be on permanent holiday with an old school friend.

  5. February 15, 2011 5:58 am

    That Imperial really is a stern looking old fellow.


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