Saving Mr. Typewriter

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Dear Tom Hanks,

Thank you for making typewriters cool again. I think, typewriters force you to think. They offer a distraction-free alternative to the modern day methods for producing a document. They challenge the user to be more efficient and see their errors on paper.

I had my first typing lesson when I was seven years old in the back of a Sheepshead Bay High School (Brooklyn NY) classroom where my mom’s friend was teaching typing over the summer. By the end of that summer I was typing faster than the teenagers taking typing. It fostered a love of words for me.

You may know Tom Hanks as an Academy Award winning actor, director and producer. But did you know he was also a typewriter collector? In the documentary California Typewriter in 2017, Hanks has said he probably has about 250 plus typewriters in his collection and “that 90% of them are in perfect working order.”

Why does Tom Hanks love typewriters?

“What thrills me about typewriters, is that they are meant to do one thing and one thing only and with the tiniest amount of effort, maintenance, it will last a thousand years,” he explained in an interview during the London Literature Festival with Gabby Wood, literary director of the Booker Prize Foundation and writer for the Telegraph. Here is the interview in its entirety (from November 2017) featured on YouTube published by Penguin Books UK.

He’s also got videos of himself plinking dramatically on a 1940s Smith Corona at the CNN headquarters, in front of Wrigley Field in Chicago, in a hotel outside the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (see image below), and on the Westminster Bridge in London.

Hanks has a book of short stories called Uncommon Type, which all feature a typewriter as the main character, and even an app called Hanx Writer, which allows you to turn your computer or phone into a typewriter equipped with all the bells and whistles, including the classic typewriter sound.

In articles, Hanks says “If you write somebody a note with a typewriter, it is permanent and will last as though you chiseled it in stone.”

What does Tom Hanks look for in a typewriter?

 It’s not uncommon to see Hanks at a swap meet or perusing a typewriter shop. For Hanks, it’s not just one thing that he looks for when buying a typewriter. It’s the thrill of the hunt, the mechanics, the tactile experience, the permanence of type on paper, the unique sounds — the shook and the click-clack-ding — that only a typewriter can give.

In an interview with Lee Cowan on CBS Sunday Morning, Hanks explains, “If the drums are the backbone of any rock-and-roll band. The sound of a typewriter is the sound of productivity,”

While Hanks doesn’t have “one” favorite typewriter, he did reveal a few of his favorites in an interview with Tribune-Review News Service Writer Nicole Brodeur. “Any Smith-Corona Sterling or Silent is a gem. Any Hermes, either the green or tan, all work like lightning. I have a thing for my Olivetti Lettera 22’s, as they are masterpieces of design, the action is crazy fast and light, and the typewriter is in the Museum of Modern Art.”

Check out Tom Hanks talking about making Typewriters Cool Again on TheListTV from March 2019, below:

One comment

  1. I really enjoyed this post, and thinking back of typewriters that I’ve used in the past, starting with a really old one that my parents let me use as a child – a toy that made me feel very grown-up! Nice to see there is a revival!


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