Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Revolution in the mailbox: Typewriting letters in India

I received an inspiring message from Mayank A. in India, which I am reproducing in part with his permission:

I finished reading your book 'The Typewriter Revolution' last week. An excellent well-rounded book on the subject, and it was a very engrossing and satisfying read for me. Earlier this year, I had found the book 'With Great Truth & Regard: The Story of the Typewriter in India', which is a beautiful compilation from the archives of Godrej, the last company in this part of the world to manufacture typewriters till 2009. Both books are a valuable addition to my personal collection.

My wife needs to be with her parents in another part of India for these few months. As this is going to be a relatively extended time away from home, I thought of writing letters to her regularly on a typewriter. It certainly was such a joy for both of us to write and read them. Not relying on the postal system here, I used to scan the typed pages and send them across through email or instant messaging.

Getting more adventurous, one such letter I typed on an inland letter card and actually put it through the regular mail. I found the experience of typing within the limited confines of an odd sized paper really exciting. Needless to say, the letter did get delivered at the recipient address, but only after a delay of almost 40 days! 

Our India Post still prints these pre-stamped inland letters as part of postal stationery. It's supposed to be the cheapest mode for private transmission of the printed word anywhere in the country. Yet, it sees no takers for personal communication today thanks to the ubiquitous smartphones. The only inland letters we receive are from the investment and insurance companies reminding about an upcoming payment. For anything more important or urgent --- personal as well as professional --- needs to be sent through a postal booking service or private couriers. Whether it was technology or the system's own lethargy that killed the medium is debatable.

Apart from these leisurely personal writings, I am now also actively using the typewriters for typing formal letters to banks and other agencies. As a result, I hardly see any use for my desktop printer these days.

I am very grateful to Mayank for sharing this inland letter card, which is much like the late, lamented aerogrammes that I used for international correspondence in a bygone world. 

The quotation from Peggy Mohan is moving. I am reminded of Heidegger's saying that "language is the house of being"; when a language dies, so does an understanding of what it means to be. That's why I support The Language Conservancy. And one could make a good case for conserving not only languages, but linguistic media—such as inland letter cards and typewriters.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Mark Zuckerberg's typewriter

(starting at 1:03, with a good view of the Smith-Corona)

From Zuckerberg's "Founder's Letter" introducing Meta:

"The next platform will be even more immersive — an embodied internet where you’re in the experience, not just looking at it. We call this the metaverse, and it will touch every product we build.

"The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place. Feeling truly present with another person is the ultimate dream of social technology. ...

"In this future, you will be able to teleport instantly as a hologram to be at the office without a commute, at a concert with friends, or in your parents’ living room to catch up. ...

"Think about how many physical things you have today that could just be holograms in the future. Your TV, your perfect work setup with multiple monitors, your board games and more — instead of physical things assembled in factories, they’ll be holograms designed by creators around the world."


JoAnna Novak

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Catalogue giveaway

As I have before, I’d like to give away an Auction Team Breker catalogue. This one is from September and includes lots of interesting typewriters as well as other technical antiques. 

To get this catalogue, be the first to send me a picture of a typewritten request, including your address (US only). I’ll add a note here when I have a winner. We have a winner!

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

Sunday, November 21, 2021

When computers dream of typewriters

Today, on a tip from Kirk Jackson of Nashville Typewriter, I've been experimenting with various sites that use artificial intelligence to generate new images based on text and/or images that you provide. The results are so strange that they truly look like dreams. Here are a few oneiric writing machines generated by NightCafé and NeuralBlender.

This device...
... is based on this image plus the word "typewriter."

This is the result of the text prompt "Hieronymus Bosch typewriter":

Here's a Burroughs typewriter plus "Salvador Dalí."

AI image:

"Antique typewriter in a Vermeer painting":

"Typewriter in Heaven":

Incidentally, I don't like the colors and background on this blog right now, but I'm having trouble making them work better. Blogger's new interface is less powerful and easy than the old one. You've got to wonder whether there's a plan to make blogging die.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

O manifesto da máquina de escrever

I appreciate this translation of the Typewriter Manifesto into Portuguese by a new insurgent.

There's one improvement on the original: where I wrote "we strike a blow," the translation has "we strike the keys." I like it!