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The Last Typewriter Factory Closes. Good Riddance (UPDATED) The Last Typewriter Factory Closes. Good Riddance (UPDATED)
Education

The Last Typewriter Factory Closes. Good Riddance (UPDATED)

by Liz Dwyer

April 28, 2011

Godrej and Boyce, the last company in the world still manufacturing typewriters, is closing its one remaining plant in India. We've had typewriters in America since 1867, and although they haven't been in common use for decades, the closing of this plant is the end of an era. But should we be nostalgic about the death of the typewriter?

Sure, there might be something romantic about tapping out a novel on those mechanical keys, but coming at this issue from the perspective of an educator, I say good riddance.

Modern students despise the drudgery of typing out a 10-page paper using a word processing program, but imagine having to write and rewrite drafts over and over again by hand. With a typewriter, if you decided halfway down the page that your ideas weren't flowing—or maybe you wanted to rearrange the order of a couple of paragraphs—you had to start all over with a fresh sheet of paper. Don't take for granted the convenience of being able to edit your work in real time. The backspace key, the undo button, and the ability to select huge swaths of text and either move them or cut them completely—those are new and they're a student's best friends. 

And in the era of typewriters, completing college applications was a painstaking process. Schools still mailed out paper applications, and applicants had to feed the forms into the typewriter to fill in their responses. I remember the cold December day I plunked my dad's typewriter—the same one he'd used throughout his college years—down on the kitchen table to type my college application forms and essays. Applying to college is stressful enough, but I sweated over positioning the application pages correctly in the typewriter so that my typed essay responses didn't look crooked.

For parts of the application with lines—as in type-your-name-on-this line—I agonized over making sure that my name was indeed on the line. Schools didn't send multiple copies of the application forms in case you made a typing mistake, and there was no college website to download a new form from. If my responses were spaced too high or low, or if there were too many correction fluid marks because I'd misspelled a word and had to go back and correct it, would the college reject me? I certainly thought so!

So please, don't mourn the death of typewriters too much. After all, typing itself isn't going away anytime soon, and when it comes to the getting assignments done for a class or completing a college application, word processing on a computer—to say nothing of the internet—has revolutionized education.

If you're going for that retro charm or a personal touch, you can always just write a letter by hand.

UPDATE: False alarm. As noted in the comments, typewriters haven't completely disappeared from the planet. It's more difficult to find them but fans of the devices can still snag electric ones. Interestingly, it turns out that these days prison inmates and some law enforcement officials are the main users of manual typewriters.

photo (cc) via Flickr user xlibber

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