Sunday, December 26, 2021


Yes, just like #typewritercake, this is a thing.

Thought you'd want to know.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Fresh on the bumper

 I have two great new additions to my bumper crop

This gorgeous, professional-looking emblem is the creation of Leigh W.:

(She also created this Corona decal which I confess I put on in reverse.)

This sticker for Austin Typewriter, Ink. is by Everett E. Henderson, Jr.

Now I don't think anyone can miss the particular nature of my insanity.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Royal Quiet repaint (after)

My 1938 Royal Quiet is back from the dermatologist.

You can't say it didn't need help (more pics here):

Thanks to Jennifer Colombo of Colombo Collection, it has a beautiful new paint job, new key legends, and new feet.

This was a difficult paint job that I could not have completed myself. Jennifer even had to deal with a flood in her workshop (my typewriter was not affected). She could not save the original Dick Hoyt decal, but decal wizard Paul Robert has created an amazing reproduction that is on its way to me.

Thank you, Jennifer and Paul!

Thursday, December 16, 2021

In Praise of Skimming

The faster you process 

information, the smarter you are.

Flipping through Gary Shteyngart’s “Super Sad True Love Story,” I ran across a scene where some character gets “freaked out.” Her older boyfriend is not just “scanning a text” but reading a book. And not just any book, but “War and Peace”! “He had this ruler out and he was moving it down the page very slowly and just like whispering little things to himself, like trying to understand every little part of it. ... I was so embarrassed I just stood there and watched him read which lasted for like HALF AN HOUR.” 


Nostalgia for the dead world of print and slow reading may be charming, but the girlfriend got it right. Reading is embarrassing. It’s for losers. Thinking means processing information, so the more new information you can process and the higher your throughput, the smarter you are. Whoever dies with the most information wins.


As someone said somewhere, “certainly if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.” Our brains can’t achieve the unbelievable efficiency of a server farm, but thanks to the Internet, the computers are just a click away—unless you’re reading a book, in which case there’s nothing to click. This is your brain on books: starved of information.


If you spend months on a musty 19th-century novel, how much 21st-century data will you miss? Sitting down to pore over some tome means losing out on Google knows how many updates, clips, texts, tweets, and memes. Just scan the book, if you really must, and get it over with.


Look how inefficient reading is. A verbose volume like “Super Sad” runs for 331 pages. That’s around a megabyte. A doorstop like “War and Peace” is maybe 5MB. While the reader is still getting started on paragraph one, you can watch a video and take in just as many megabytes in ten seconds.


The benefits of optimized information processing are documented by extensive psychological research. By this point I expect the skimmers will have jumped to the end—so hello, fellow reader. I suspect you’ll agree with me that thought is not just information throughput. I call thinking the art of taking time—time to dwell on what we have encountered; to sift through the familiar and uncover its ambiguities; to look again, listen again, and find the nuance, the tone, the irony; to reflect on the consequences and presuppositions of pronouncements; to hear the unvoiced tensions in a confident conclusion; to imagine how the universal applies to the particular and the particular illuminates the universal; to discern the patterns in the play of the evanescent; to discriminate between the few moments worth revisiting and the dross that must fade away. Our information-processing machines can skim terabytes of text to find a sequence of characters, or skim an image and match a face to a name. But they can’t read the meaning of the characters in the text, or read the character behind the face on the video. That takes thought, and thought takes time. Because we love to think, you and I will still read, and the world’s skimmers will still depend on us readers to find the deeper senses of their world. But now it’s time to hand them the conclusion to which they’ve already leapt.


Getting information by agonizing over every word in some text is like commuting by bicycle or writing by typewriter: slow, unsmart, and obsolete.


So be smart: glance, flip, click, and swipe your way to the payoff.


Here’s the takeaway:


• the faster the better

• cut to the chase

• skim

• react

• move on


Remember: to save time is to lengthen life.



(I wrote this essay in 2012 but haven't published it until now.)

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Revolution in the mailbox: Where metal meets paper

This lovely little poem came to me on paper, from a recent insurgent in Belgium.

Monday, December 6, 2021

A quieter typewriter dream

Here's an AI-generated video that's less wild and crazy than yesterday's. This time I began with Greg Fudacz's photo of a Chicago no. 3 that's now in my collection, and added the prompt "antique typewriters."

The results feel very much like dreams I've had in which I've discovered a cache of previously unknown machines in a corner of an antique shop.

 Video created by NightCafe. (Make some of your own and share them with us!)

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Video of a typewriter dream

A few days ago, I published some AI-generated images of bizarre typewriters.

Now NightCafe has just rolled out a new service that allows you to create AI videos. All you need to do is enter some text, and the computers take it from there. (This does cost a bit of money and take some time, since as you can imagine, it takes a huge amount of processing power.)

Here's what came out when I tried "Boris Vallejo typewriter hero." (Vallejo is a painter known for his fantasy scenes of muscular barbarians and dragons.) Play this in full-screen mode (click icon in lower right) for the full effect. Don't play this at all if you're easily freaked out (I'm looking at you, Abby.)

Higher-resolution but faster version here, for those who like freaking out.

I find this fascinating and disturbing. It's as if we've tapped into the associative processes that generate our dreams—but now, we can watch and replay the dream while we're fully conscious. 

Where will this take us? It won't be long before computers can generate feature-length, high-resolution films. Then we'll immerse ourselves in 3D, interactive, AI-generated environments as we explore the "metaverse." Will it be thrilling or nauseating? Safer and more fun than LSD? The last nail in the coffin of our sense of reality?

Whatever is coming, I am experiencing some future shock right now.