By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 2:39 pm
On yesterday night’s NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams reported the tragic news of the passing of a beloved international icon: the typewriter.
The factoid about the last typewriter factory closing struck me as surprising–even implausible. The typewriter may have been an endangered species for decades, but many, many businesses move really, really slowly. If there are still companies in America who use them–and I’ll bet even some big outfits have them on hand to address the occasional envelope–there are surely ones elsewhere in the world who aren’t ready to give them up.
So I went to OfficeDepot.com. It took only ten seconds to confirm that it will still cheerfully sell you a new Brother typewriter:
In fact, Brother still lists six typewriter models on its Web site.
So why was Brian Williams eulogizing the things? He credited the Atlantic for the scoop. And indeed, its site did report that Indian manufacturer Godrej and Boyce had shuttered its Mumbai factory. But the Atlantic’s post referenced a Daily Mail story. And now the Atlantic says that the Daily Mail was wrong–and quotes somebody from a company called Swintec that’s still doing booming business in typewriters. (Among its models: transparent ones for use in prisons, which don’t want jailed typists hiding anything in there.)
The new Atlantic story makes a reference to “mechanical” typewriters. Typewriters are by definition mechanical objects–even electric ones are electromechanical–but perhaps the Godrej and Boyce plant was the last one left that made manual models. Or maybe not–here’s a manual model you can still buy via Amazon.
This much I’m pretty sure about, though: there will still be people using typewriters long after all of us who are writing about this are gone.