Love and Typewriters and Why Permanence Matters

Love and Typewriters and Why Permanence Matters

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I had no idea how much I have missed writing on a typewriter until today. I have long pined for the Smith-Coronoa Coronet Super 12 electric I used throughout my youth, a machine initially handed down from family and that eventually disappeared into the crease of time along the way in my various travels. I recently found the same model, case and all, on Ebay for a song and impulsively bit the bullet, buying it a one way ticket into my eager arms and under hungry fingers.

There is an element of removal when writing with a computer. It is something that clearly showcases my vintage, but that has to be relatable for anyone who grew up on typewriters and handwriting. I am in the midst of assembling a book of poetry and prose, and have had a tremendous struggle writing new material because I open a fresh “page” on my computer and just sit staring at it. It is like looking at a rock and expecting it to say something stirring. It is cold. Vacant. Full of temporary things, deletable data, and impulse driven internet history. It is a fragile catacomb for memories. A digital photo archive so massive and completely unorganized it can hardly ever be of any practical reference, and folder after folder of projects from years past and present. All looking at me. All looking the same.

I plugged the Super 12 in this evening for the first time since its arrival, and the smell and hum immediately put me at ease. The incense of birth. The sensory reminder of the last hyper productive period in my life, writing-wise. My body knew how to react, and my hands instinctively moved to the home row. Poised. Anxious. I felt it moving under me. Like the streets in New York City. It is alive. So alive after years of the plastic stillness of computer keyboards that sit stupidly doing nothing until prodded into activity. No, not the Super 12. This thing has a pulse, and its rhythm is music to my mind.

Pushing keys is an ancient, violent, satisfying process. Computer writing is so passive. The relationship between your fingers and the screen is a series of electronic arteries transferring idea into fallible words and sentences and paragraphs without effort. The resulting product printed with a tarantula-touch-light spray of ink on the surface of paper which must then be left to dry because of its sensitive and casual bond. On the Super 12, each finger stroke prompts, in an instant, a hammer to slam into a thin inked ribbon through to the paper, where the force of its momentum, weight and the angles of the raised letter/number scar the surface with permanence. You reel the sheet out and can feel what you have written, front and back. Your idea has been transcribed into record via a physical process so precise and beautiful and with a beat all your own, it is impossible not to feel connected with each and every letter.

This is special. This matters to me. My arms are complete again.