As I write this, I’m experiencing the music of “Three Dog Night,” that wonderful trio from the 1960s and ‘70s: “Mamma Told Me Not to Come,” “It Ain’t Easy,” and “Out in the Country.”
If you’re not familiar with those melodies and this incredible trio with their remarkable harmony, you’re in for a treat if you take a listen.
I’m not streaming Three Dog Night online. I’m listening on my “new” record player. That “… apparatus made up of a turntable that spins a record around and around …” that I wrote about in my last column. I told you then how much better the music sounds. Clear. Distinct. Clear-cut. I swear I can hear Chuck Negron breathing.
I bring up my Victrola again because I just read an Associated Press story about how manual typewriters are joining record players as old-time items that the millennials are discovering again. Yes, typewriters are once again in demand!
I never thought the manual typewriter would be popular. Before I retired at Memorial Hermann Northeast, one of our volunteers insisted on a typewriter. Said it was the only way to correctly address an envelope. I decided not to fight with her and went out looking for a typewriter – an electric one – so she could insert her envelopes, one at a time, and address them.
That volunteer might have been on to something. Business is booming at the handful of typewriter repair shops left in the U.S.A. The Associated Press writer interviewed an 80-year-old New York City typewriter repair guy who works on the old machines alongside his 50-year-old son and grandson.
The old guy claimed to the AP that he sold dozens of typewriters last Christmas. Why in the world are people buying these contraptions that you’d only see in a museum? The AP writer found a couple of museum-types, naturally, who have the answer.
“Typing for the first time is exciting, especially for younger people,” claims the guy who heads the American Writers Museum in Chicago. He’s got 16 typewriters that were used by Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou and John Lennon. He also has typewriters you can try out for yourself.
I don’t have to go to a museum to try one out. We’ve got an old Underwood manual typewriter, the kind that uses a messy cloth ribbon. It got me through high school and journalism school at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. By the time I was working on my master’s degree, I had one of those snazzy new-fangled IBM Selectric IIs, an electric typewriter with a “ball” that moved to the correct letter as you struck the key. It was a miraculous machine that got me through the hours and hours that it took to type up my multi-page master’s thesis.
Looking back at my “typewriting experience,” I can understand the appeal that a typewriter has with younger people who’ve never used a typewriter before.
The AP writer quotes a Smithsonian Museum curator who describes “typing” as only a museum curator could, “There’s an irresistible tactility to typing on a typewriter, a satisfying sound, a feeling of authentic authorship. No one can spy on you and there are no distractions.”
The Chicago Museum guy says he’ll never forget the reaction of one fifth-grader who was typing for the first time. “This is great,” the kid exclaimed. “It’s an instant printer.”
Whew! Who ever thought a manual typewriter could be, well, sexy?