(not) like sweeping powder over glass

Some things about typewriters and the corporeality of the mechanical and the sensuality of literacy:

Typing means “taking foolish chances with words”:

Typing represents to me the work of writing, of striking the physical world, and in so doing, changing it. Writing on a laptop (as I did to write this) is like sweeping powder over glass�a breeze, even a breath, can undo all the work. While I no longer believe that what a typewriter produces is somehow more truthful, I do miss the fact that it receives no email, can�t surf the web, and will never crash.

And of course there’s a retro revival:

With a typewriter, Cupertino resident Heather Folsom said, writing is a sensory experience. Her “noiseless” Underwood portable makes a satisfying thwack when she taps the keys. She piles finished pages beside her. The ink has its own special smell.

The visceral experience of writing rescued from the unbearable lightness of the digital – or something like that…

But it all feels different when the typewriter is the “new” technology: mechanization, speed, efficiency, desensitisation, dehumanisation – it bears all the symptoms and promises of modernity. From a wonderful piece in Cabinet Magazine:

The typewriter, by definition, mechanizes writing, the way the rifle mechanizes killing. The cold metal of a rifle or a typewriter insinuates itself between a person and his or her passion.

Being masters of their machines made women cold, too:

At the Rosenberg spy trial, in 1952, the prosecuting attorney sharpened the government’s case against Ethel Rosenberg by asking the jury to visualize the female, Jewish suspect sitting behind her typewriter, “hitting the keys, blow by blow, against her own country in the interest of the Soviets.”

For sale by crafty virtuoso: one typewriter nostalgia love box.

Or choose your letter and hang a key around your neck.

History of the IBM electric typewriter here.
IBM typewriter ad

And there’s Friedrich A. Kittler’s Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (which I haven’t read, but probably will) if you like your history of new media technologies infused with Heidegger and psychoanalysis.

Also, think mobile and handheld devices are new?

Think again.

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