Being born in the 90s I have never touched or used a typewriter. Whenever I hear the word
“typewriter”, I think of an old-fashioned noisy mechanical machine with the one simple task of putting black printed words on a white sheet of paper. Marshall Mcluhan’s “Into the Age of the Iron Whim” sheds light on the major contributions the typewriter has made to society. In addition, parallels can be drawn between the typewriter and blogging.
One surprising impact the typewriter had was on the autonomy of women. Women were not obligated to only be housewives anymore because there were more jobs available for them due to the typewriter. Since more women could enter the workforce, they did not have the pressure to get married and depend on the husband to be the breadwinner. Furthermore, Mcluhan points out that the increase of women working lead to a revolution in the fashion industry.
Along with contributing to women independence and fashion, the typewriter changed the way poetry could be expressed. Just like how jazz allowed musicians to freely express themselves through improvisation, the typewriter allowed poets to create more effects in their poems. Mcluhan stated, “The machine is like a public-address system immediately at hand. He can shout or whisper or whistle, and make funny typographic faces.” Similar to the typewriter allowing poets to have more freedom of expression, blogging is way for writers to express their opinions online.
It was also interesting to learn that the typewriter had an effect on spelling, grammar, and the sales of dictionaries. At first, I was puzzled as to why it lead to the increase of dictionaries. I knew that typewriters did not come with the convenience of a spell check program, but I later learned that there was no backspace or delete key as well. If a typist makes a mistake they would have to restart. I do not think that white-out was even invented yet. Today, many people just take for granted of how easy it is to delete and edit a mistake while typing. I am so glad that WordPress offers an “edit” feature and nothing is set and stone. This puts less stress on the writer knowing that they can change a mistake after a post has been published.
Another interesting concept mentioned in the excerpt, is that at first people were unsure about the use of typewriters. As Mcluhan stated, “The personal touch of the hand-penned letter was considered so important that the typewriter was ruled out of commercial use by the pundits.” Many new technological innovations usually take time to gain the confidence of the public. Like the typewriter, I believe that the concept of blogging had a rocky beginning. Some writers may feel uncomfortable putting their opinions online for everyone to see and judge. As a novice blogger myself, I was not very confident at writing posts, but the more posts I published, the easier it became for me to be more open and write more freely.