Typewriters may not be manufactured anymore, but the device still has a loyal following in the city
The click of a typewriter, a sound from another era still cuts through the noiseless digital air in the most unsuspecting nooks and corners of the city. The typewriter might no longer be one of the most widely used instruments to record the written word, and flashing a certificate from a typewriting institute may no longer add muscle to your resume, but a handful of people in the city, undeterred, still continue to remain its patrons.
“I have customers who still preserve typewriters that belonged to their fathers and grandfathers and buy beginners' books to teach their grandchildren to use it. There are some old -timers who refuse to switch even to electronic typewriters,” says K. Elumalai, Proprietor, Typewriter sales and service emporium.
M. Sen, 86, who says that he was with the Air Force during World War II, takes pride in the fact that he learnt to use the typewriter without ever having to attend a class. “As part of our training, we were taught tele-printing. Though I have never actually done teleprinting, it helped me greatly in using the typewriter which is very similar,” he says. Mr. Sen says that he is a voracious writer, writing both verse and prose in English and Bengali. “I do commercial translations, and write verses that appear on greetings published in Australia. I use my manual typewriter to write all of it,” he says.
While some hold onto it for old times' sake, NGO Aid India uses it ingeniously as a stepping stone to bridge the gap created by the digital divide. “As part of an integrated programme we conduct for students from rural areas, we taught students from a village in Kancheepuram District to use typewriters and we also want them to undertake a certificate course in it . It is the best way to teach them basic fingering and typing,” says Logabiraman S., Project Manager, Aid India. Offices in the city who use typewriters, swear by its utility and easy handling. “Earlier I had Woodstock, Remington and Underwood models, but now I only have one Facit typewriter which I use to type official letters,” says S.K. Balasubramanian who runs Eskeby & Co, a wholesale paper mart and has been using typewriters for over 50 years now. Indira, who works as a typist at Uttam Roadways Private Ltd, says that she too continues to use a typewriter and has not considered upgrading to a computer.
In the 1960s and 70s, says Elumalai, most offices, typewriting institutes and job centres bought only second hand typewriters because buying a new one was very expensive.
“Unlike a computer, if maintained well you can use a typewriter for 35-40 years,” he says.
There is still a demand for manual typewriters from job typists and small companies, he says. Since new typewriters are not manufactured anymore, he purchases and refurbishes second-hand typewriters and sells them.
Though he had to close his typewriting institute in 2005 due to diminishing patronage, his service, repair and export centre continues to do business with the centre getting 30-35 typewriters on an average every month, for service and repair.
But this too is short-lived he says. “I will have business for the next five to seven years. Beyond that it is doubtful,” he says.