DALLAS -- Clunky and archaic typewriters once performed a function that laptops, tablets, and smartphones nowadays can accomplish in a fraction of the time and effort. The task of writing and printing can now be completed quickly, allowing us to move on to the next thing on our to-do list.
But younger generations that never knew the typewriter, along with nostalgic generations that did, are discovering a charm in the slower and more manual process.
“We are in a time right now where we are going so fast. It is boom, boom, boom,” said Fatima-Ayan Malika Hirsi. “The typewriter requires you to stop and think between breaths.”
On the weekends, Hirsi can usually be found in Bishop Arts typing up poems with her vintage Smith Corona typewriter. Customers give her a topic to write about and she gives them a poem on a typed-piece of paper within minutes.
But her creativity, the poem structure, and the way she put words on paper all changed three years ago when she switched from writing in her journal to typewriting. She said the physical movements involved and the sounds of an operating typewriter engage the senses, leading to a greater feeling of connection not felt with other machines.
“It really is the perfect machine. It is like a poem. The perfect poem has no extraneous words. Everything serves a purpose," she said.
The personality and re-emergence of the outdated technology is explored in "California Typewriter," a film featuring Tom Hanks, due in theaters this summer. In the trailer, the typewriter is painted as a form of rebellion against the digital media, which continues to consume a larger piece of our lives by the day. The narrator can be heard saying “we chose the real over representation, the physical over the digital, and the self-sufficient over the efficient."
The store Curiosities in Lakewood sells vintage items and pieces of nostalgia, but the typewriter has recently become a popular item.
“It is very young people who did not learn in class how to type on a typewriter,” said Manager Sandi Outland. “They come in and really want to learn to use and explore one of them.”
While you can probably find the old-fashioned typewriters in many antique stores for less than $100, they will likely need some touching-up before they operate like new. Ed Ellis has a typewriter repair business and said he has seen requests for house-call repairs soar within the last year.
Whether they're interested in the nostalgia or suffering from digital exhaustion, Hirsi believes the typewriter can be a therapeutic new hobby regardless of age.
“It is like a meditation,” she said. “We are getting back to these older processes where things were more grounded and intentional.”