EXPLORING CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY, CIRCA 1900


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“When I was your age,” Grandpa Hue used to say, “typing wasn’t easy like it is with you and your iThis and smartThat. We had to work to put our thoughts on paper.”

Hue finally understood Grandpa’s wisdom on Sunday, April 21, at Type-In NYC, “a jam session for manual typewriters and the people who love them.”

Typewriters

This is how Hue imagines newsrooms of yore.

The lobby of Theatre 80 on St. Marks Place was packed with manual typewriters; it verily echoed with the clacking of keys. A speed-typing contest brought high-stakes intensity to an already nerve-wracking pastime.

Typing

On the left, a TV news reporter. On the right, Bryan, a thirteen-year-old typewriter collector/salesman who owns 76 of them. Check them out at typewriters101.weebly.com.

To type on these stunning but maddening machines, Hue had to jam down hard on each key, a process which required great finger strength and a steep angle of incidence. Typing too quickly would jam the typebars together. And forget the delete key; if you make a mistake, you might as well just jump off a bridge.

Underwood Typewriter

Hue’s first dalliance with an Underwood. Note the missing number 1.

Oh, and there was the pesky problem of the number 1. Most of the typewriters didn’t have one. “You have to type a lowercase ‘L’,” counseled everyone.

Type-In NYC resulted from a far less frustrating mechanical passion. Michael McGettigan, co-owner of Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia, rendezvoused with Steven Huang, Graphic Design ’99, over their mutual adoration of Brompton folding bikes. When Huang heard about the Type-Ins McGettigan had been organizing all over the world since December 2010, he offered to help out. Theatre 80 offered its lobby gratis (other establishments thought the noise would upset customers), and typewriter collectors near and far brought their beauts.

The winners of the speed-typing contest, Matt and Michael (not the organizer, who shares his first name). “They’re fun to write poetry on,” Michael says of his small collection of typewriters. “It gets friends and family looking forward to opening the mailbox.”

“Workers and hippies have sit-ins, so why not have a type-in?” McGettigan quipped.

One thought on “EXPLORING CUTTING-EDGE TECHNOLOGY, CIRCA 1900

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