The Typewriter: More Than Just a Noisy Machine

Photo By: Amy Ross

Photo By: Amy Ross

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.

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13 comments

  1. I really like how you touched upon all those points and gave a clear analysis of the article. find it incredibly interesting that the invention of the typewriter gave more autonomy to women. Granted, this was also in part by the influx of jobs women had to assume during WWII, but it was like a steamroll effect. Women now had more job opportunities, dictionary sales went up, and the fashion industry also started booming. I found this article super interesting and I really liked your analysis on it!

  2. Great post! You’ve covered all the main points mentioned in the article. Marshall McLuhan writes that there was a premium on improved means of communication in the 1960s. Prior to this age, work was fragmented and unidirectional. Work schedules often remained rigid and unchanging because a single set of orders passed down a hierarchy had to be followed. However, after the advent of better communication methods, work was far more productive and efficient. Communication allowed for a dynamic and versatile approach to completing work that was traditionally based on a single set of orders. Marshall would probably say that in the digital age, the principal source of wealth would be the internet. The internet has allowed for faster and cheaper means of communicating than any other time in history. Thus, this commodity has further enhanced work and productivity.

  3. Your post was great and very informative; it briefly went over the article and summarized it nicely. I like how you show your own brief analysis on each main point. I also found the dictionary issue and the rise in fashion to be interesting. The dictionary is understandable but how the typewriter impacted women really surprised me. I like that you tie it back to blogging at the end when you compare the two on public reception.

  4. I liked how you touched upon the topic of women. Before this article I had no idea that the typewriter encompassed so much importance. I have seen typewriters but have not actually used one myself either. When you think about it, the typewriter shaped a lot of things and ways for our future. How would have known that it would be so important? It started the buying and selling of dictionaries, which are still widely used today. It is crazy how much the typewriter shaped for the future but I will still say I am glad that I was able to use laptops instead!

  5. Your post was really informative and I was able to learn a lot from this article as well. It really is so interesting to see how significant the typewriter was at the time. I also couldn’t imagine having to retype something because I made a spelling error. I also liked how you mentioned that people were unsure about the typewriter at first, until it become publicly accepted. This post included so many interesting facts from the article and shows how technology has changed since the 1960’s.

  6. Really great job and your response to the article. i love the way you had covered how the points of how the typewriter was used at the time and how important it was for a use of communication to the outside world. Without the typewriter, no on would have a computer and blog about what they wanted. Great analysis!

  7. Your response really touched upon all the key points of the article. I loved how you talked about the autonomy of women because that is the one thing that really stood out in my reading of the article too. The whole thing about how the typewriter helped with jazz was also very interesting to me. Talking about how the typewriter affected spelling and grammar made a lot of sense seeing as how you couldn’t just backspace on a typewriter. If a mistake was made, it would be quite difficult to correct it. Wonderful job in talking about the article and highlighting such key ideas.

  8. I like how you compare the typewriter to the concept of blogging because they probably have had similar effects on the social landscape. It’s interesting to think now–years after it has become obsolete–when the typewriter was released a response was actually backpedalling. I have definitely heard people say similar things about blogging without realizing the ways it has already infiltrated our culture.

  9. I liked how you incorporated your own experience with the article. This gives readers a little more information about the writer. Secondly, I like how you exposed blogging, where you compared the type writer to blogging. Finally, the way you went through different events of history to relate to the importance of the type writer was very well done.

  10. This was a great summary of the article that highlighted the important aspects of the article’s intentions. I enjoyed your reiteration of the fascinating parallel between the women’s revolution in the progressive fashion movement, and how typewriting empowerment women with an avenue of income in a society where men were favored to be the workers. The use of the quote from the article at the end was also very interesting because it highlighted the initial doubters of typewriters, and it creates a tone that shows how far we have come with the typewriter.

  11. I’ve actually used typewriters a lot and this response is very on-point and informative. My dad is very old-school and has a typewriter at his office, where I have been working part time in an administrative sense since I was 11. The other secretaries and I were the ones using the typewriter, all of us women, and all of us much more skilled at typing than my father, who never even typed up his own college term papers. But luckily the model is newer and has a backspace function in the form of corrector tape which “erases” your mistakes, as long as you haven’t hit the enter button yet.

  12. I collect typewriters because I’m totally obsessed with them, and yes I really think there is a lot to say about the aesthetics and the texture that comes with writing on a typewriter. Its an experience that is completely different, and now that we are not dependent on them typing on a type writer becomes very much a personal and calming experience rather than having to strive to make sure there are no imperfections.

  13. I think you cover the main points of the article really well. Also, a point you make that really struck me is how a lot of people take current writing technology today for granted. We can make edits, like you said, but people who used a typewriter had so much more pressure on them to write it perfectly the first time. I thought that was great point you made and it had me thinking about the article differently. well done!

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