Return of the typewriter: Vintage machines making a comeback

Vintage typewriters are making a comeback and it’s keeping some of the few remaining repair shops hopping.

“I haven’t seen business like this in years,” said John Lewis, a typewriter repairman who has operated out of his Albuquerque shop for four decades. “There’s definitely a new interest, and it’s keeping me very busy.”

Interest in the old machines began building a decade ago when typewriter enthusiasts connected online, said Richard Polt, a Xavier University philosophy professor and author of “The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist’s Companion for the 21st Century.”

Since then, interest has grown and has spurred public gatherings of typewriter writers.

“It’s beyond the phase where this is just a fad,” Polt said.

With recent sales happening secondhand, it is impossible to gauge how many people are actually buying typewriters. Thrift stores, however, say typewriters are one of their quickest sellers.

“That’s part of the fun: the hunt,” said Joe Van Cleave, whose Typewriter Video Series covers everything from repairs, to bags, to the efficiency of different keyboard layouts.

“Sometimes, like a little luck, you might find something from the 1920s in great condition.”

A new documentary, “California Typewriter,” looks at the artists, writers, and collectors dedicated to the old machines, and features Tom Hanks, John Mayer, David McCullough, and Sam Shepard.

Doug Nichol, the director, said interest spans ages.

“Kids who grew up knowing only mobile phones and the computer are excited to see a letter typed with your own hand,” said Nichol, who owns 85 typewriters. “It’s a one-on-one interaction that doesn’t get interrupted by Twitter alerts.”

In the documentary, Tom Hanks shares that he uses a typewriter almost every day to send memos and letters.

“I hate getting email thank-yous from folks,” Hanks said in the film. “Now, if they take 70 seconds to type me out something on a piece of paper and send to me, well, I’ll keep that forever. I’ll just delete that email.”

Hanks said he owns about 270 typewriters and often gives them to people who show an interest.

“No one is ever going to make the great typewriter ever, ever, ever again,” he said.


With files from the Associated Press

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