The Typewriter Revolution: A Book Review

By David Michael Newstead.

The Typewriter Revolution is an information packed handbook that chronicles the rise of the typewriter, its near extinction, and trendy resurgence today. According to author Richard Polt, people are embracing typewriters again for reasons that range from digital detox to recapturing the lost art of writing letters, from zines and street poetry to countering government surveillance. Moreover, these classic machines are tactile and distraction free. They’re disconnected from the internet in perhaps an overly connected world. And in The Typewriter Revolution, that makes using typewriters almost a form of meditation as well as an act of rebellion.

Here’s an excerpt:

We make things so efficiently that they’re all disposable; none of them endure, none can belong to us for long before they end up on the scrap heap. We process information so efficiently that we don’t dwell on thoughts and words anymore – we flit incoherently from one set of distractions to the next.

The author goes on to write:

The insurgency doesn’t ask us to smash our digital devices. Instead, it helps us to keep them in perspective and invites us to question our assumptions about progress. It may seem like the only way to look to the future is to generate and gobble up brand new information, joining in the chaos updates, posts, and tweets. But most of that noise is an empty echo, and the busiest participants are just running in place. No, it’s in the quiet places and idle moments that the seeds of something truly new are being planted. When we typists use our “things of the past,” we’re opening up a space where we can take our time and make messages that will last. When we write our stories by typewriter, we’re typing the future.

Like vinyl records, typewriters have found their way into many people’s hearts even when more high-tech alternatives are available. There’s just a certain character and an authenticity to them that this week’s latest device will always lack. And perhaps the author is right. Maybe we should take a step back from being constantly connected, choosing to live more purposefully, and reflecting on what matters the most. It’s also very hard to imagine greats like Hunter S. Thompson or Ernest Hemingway ever using a laptop. One writer featured in the book put it this way: As long as people are reading, someone’s going to have to write, and writers want typewriters.

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