Typewriters, Then and Now …

Ever since childhood, I have had this deep adoration and affection for typewriters.  Perhaps I owe this to my maternal grandmother who taught me to type on her Remington typewriter perched on the vanity in her room. Twenty years later, my first book was typed on a Smith Corona which sat on a homemade desk my husband built for me during my bed-ridden pregnancy. I can still feel the residue on my fingers from the little white out sheets used to correct my inevitable typos.

Those of you who have visited my website, know my splash page features a typewriter and if you’ve visited my writing studio, you cannot help but notice the assorted collection of retired typewriters. At a recent meeting with a colleague in New York  I learned that there are others with this deep-seated affection. My colleague directed me to a website called, “The Classic Typewriter Page,” http://bit.ly/9rKFR3. The site states that typewriters in their original form date back to 1714, however, the actual concept of the writing ball dates back to 1870 when the pin-cushion-resembling ball was released by Malling Hansen.  In 1873, the Sholes & Glidden typewriter was launched  resulting in capital letter typing and the introduction of the QWERTY keyboard which we are still familiar with today.

As a writer, it’s fascinating to hear about other writers and their typewriters. I recently learned that Mark Twain claims to have been the first well-known writer to have submitted a completed typed manuscript to a publisher. Hunter S. Thompson used a typewriter until his death in 2005. Some writers, such as Cormac McCarthy still use a typewriter. In fact, he’s written all of his novels on an Olivetti , which he has been using since 1963. Supposedly in 2009, his original typewriter was auctioned at Christie’s for $254,500. He ended up buying a new one for a mere $20 to continue his writing. David Sedaris is another author who still uses a typewriter, up until the release of his essay collection, Me Talk Pretty One Day (2000).  Isn’t it interesting that my research has revealed only male writers? If anyone has any insight into this phenomenon, I would love to hear it!

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5 Responses to “Typewriters, Then and Now …”


  1. 1 Sarah March 29, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Here’s one reply from a woman writer. The gift of my first green portable typewriter in the early 1960’s opened a door to a future with words and writing. I have always loved typewriters as have the other writers you’ve discovered, mostly the older stalwart black models, though I’ll admit to no longer writing with one. I tend to write ideas out by hand as they develop in my mind, then go to my laptop, hating as I do white-out and its relatives. Dreaded editing and revisions come with less hesitation as well.

    However I have a beloved Remington Noiseless typewriter at home, close to my writing. It is stylish and a beautiful instrument of imagination and practicality. It reminds me of the hard work of writing, the effort of hands and keys, the meaningfulness of sliding the return handle as words move a story forward. It is black, dignified and business-like, polished but marked with the scars of intention and hard work. I can see each letter print as they form words and meaning. There is a limit to the speed with which my mind and hands can collaborate on the machine. And it sits ready and silent while I reflect, no pulsating cursor or prematurely dimmed screen. It is a full partner in my labors and I can see its work, and so I trust it. My laptop is brilliant and fun and lovely, but it also has a mind of its own the workings of which will forever be a mystery to me.

    My Remington Noiseless is still and serious. It survives the careless embrace of technology while harking back to a world of perhaps more serious commitments.

    Thanks for the memories,

    From another typewriter lover.

  2. 2 Susanna March 29, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Why do men love old-fashioned typewriters? Because they require manual manipulation. And they make beautiful music.

    A fellow collector

  3. 3 susan wooldridge March 30, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    > I loved my old manual Olympia typewriter….(wonderful blog, friend). I used to clean the keys with a stiff metal brush, remember? That made the type face crisp. I would roll pages of my small looseleaf journal into the paperfeed sometimes so my journal would occasionally have a typed page to condtrast with the blue ink of my parker fountain pen. I remember the two tone grey case and wonder what with my olympia. A treasure! Love Susan.

  4. 4 susan wooldridge March 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    > I loved my old manual Olympia typewriter….(wonderful blog, friend). I used to clean the keys with a stiff metal brush, remember? That made the type face crisp. I would roll pages of my small looseleaf journal into the paperfeed sometimes so my journal would occasionally have a typed page to contrast with the blue ink of my parker fountain pen. I remember the two tone grey case and wonder what has happened to my olympia. A treasure! Love Susan.

  5. 5 Sheli Ellsworth April 6, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    I too carry a genuine affection for the smell of the oleaginous Remington. I remember being fascinated by the oily Royal that belonged to my grandfather. The one thing I wanted to touch was off limits. Sometimes when I sit down at the keyboard I imagine the wafting of the inky ribbon and the sticky keys…just for fun.


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"A writer uses a journal to try out the new step in front of the mirror."

~Mary Gordon

About Me


I am a memoirist, essayist, poet and teacher whose passion is keeping a notebook. My notebook is my muse and my alter ego. It contains personal snippets of my life and observations from the world around me. Diarist Anaïs Nin has been a great source of inspiration for me. My hobbies include writing, writing and more writing, but when I have extra time, I enjoy reading, walking, hiking, yoga, working out, cooking and hanging out with my family and Maltese Poodle, Spunky. In order not to become ensconced by the glare of my computer screen, I also teach in the UCLA Extension Writers' Program and in various conferences and festivals around the country. My pleasure comes from sharing my joy of journaling with professional writers and anyone interested in writing.

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