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Input Devices Technology

How Much Is That Click, Clack Worth? (failuremag.com) 69

An anonymous reader writes: Most of us are now drowning in digital media, and the flood of information has robbed [us] of the ability to focus and concentrate—or do much of anything, uninterrupted, for an extended period of time. Perhaps this explains why a small but distinctive minority of people are now embracing decidedly old-fashioned technologies" like vinyl records, 35mm cameras, and the typewriter, the latter a strong "symbol of resistance against the over-digitization of our lives," as it was replaced by the personal computer. Of course, you're still not likely to see people committing public acts of typewriting, but you learn there's a surprising amount of fascinating things happening in the typewriting community if you consult The Typewriter Revolution, a new 'typist's companion' that covers everything from privacy issues (think: intelligence agencies using typewriters) to artistic endeavors (like the Boston Typewriter Orchestra) to the clever ways enthusiasts are bridging the typewritten and digital worlds (the USB Typewriter). In this interview with Richard Polt, the book's author answers the burning question: "Is it a Mad Max-ish world where people are scrounging for every [typewriter] ribbon they can get?
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How Much Is That Click, Clack Worth?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2015 @08:36PM (#51107545)

    Don't type like my brother

  • by eyepeepackets ( 33477 ) on Saturday December 12, 2015 @08:55PM (#51107605)

    I do something similar: I unplug the ethernet cord or disable the wireless connection except for those times when I actually need to use the internet. Old fashioned, I know, but then I was a BBS guy back in the 1980s and full-on connection is just silly-unnecessary for most people.

    • I unplug the ethernet cord or disable the wireless connection except for those times when I actually need to use the internet.

      That's nothing. I turn off my computer when I don't need to use the computer.

  • This is silly (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Your life will be over-digitized (or whatever the right verb) only you allow it so. Nobody is forcing you to post your stuff (which nobody is interested in anyway) on Facebook, or to ask your buddy what he or she is up to in WhatsApp, or otherwise waste your time in any of the myriad ways in which you can do so these days. If you are stupid enough to fall for this junk, you will surely find other ways to waste your time even when it is not available.

    • Your life will be over-digitized (or whatever the right verb) only you allow it so.

      This has nothing to do with over-digitization. This is about hipsters trying to rationalize their attention-seeking bullshit and intelligent entrepreneurs making shitloads of money off them.

      The fact that a USB 'typewriter' (effectively a keyboard shaped like a typewriter) is described as 'a clever way to bridge the typewritten and digital world' is the most obvious sign that it is about appearance, not substance; about form, not function.

  • by tompaulco ( 629533 ) on Saturday December 12, 2015 @09:02PM (#51107641) Homepage Journal
    One of my girls asked for a typewriter and another one asked for an 8mm film camera.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 12, 2015 @09:08PM (#51107663)

      I hope you slapped them both and told them to help their mother in the kitchen. Retro cuts both ways.

    • There is a very active 8mm community in the art world, doing some very interesting work. There's a guy where I live who does a good business processing Ektachrome. "Retro" is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Tosh. Real retro is medium format. Long live 120!

    • If you want real retro, you get yourself a PXL-2000 [wikipedia.org].

    • Real retro is medium format. Long live 120!

      I've got a Deardorff 5X7 camera that says your 120 ain't shit.

      • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

        I miss the 5x4 Cambo and Sinar cameras I used at photography school.

        Nothing like setting up for an hour or two, for three exposures - measured, 1 under, and 1 over.

        I still wish I could get a digital back for my RB67 that didn't cost $14K - yes, fourteen thousand dollars.

        • I miss the 5x4 Cambo and Sinar cameras I used at photography school.

          Nothing like setting up for an hour or two, for three exposures - measured, 1 under, and 1 over.

          Yeah, but the pictures looked like you could step into them. Large format portraiture is sumptuous.

          • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

            Ain't it just? I pulled one of my best ones out of storage a while ago, just to stare at it.

            A 5x4 ektachrome of a red rose on black velvet.

            The notch code tells me it was Ektachrome 200 Pro 6176, but I must have shot it under tungsten with a daylight filter, probably an 80A. Looks like a single overhead lamp with a reflector or soft fill in front of the petals.

            I miss those days.

    • Real retro is wet glass slides.

      • Real retro is wet glass slides.

        Real retro is plant juice anthotypes and a long exposure pinhole camera.

        • Daguerrotype is even more retro, but trying to get the chemicals gets you on the ATF and DEA watchlists and the EPA shitlist. (Bromine, iodine crystals, nitric acid, chlorine, mercury, and sodium hyposulfite)

  • by Brama ( 80257 ) on Saturday December 12, 2015 @10:20PM (#51107879) Homepage

    If privacy is that much of a concern, use something simple to understand and produce, while still reaping the benefits of digital word processing. Like a commodore 64. Very limited functionality compared to modern computers, but still more than adequate enough to do basic word processing. It's a giant step up from using a type writer, where you cannot even correct a simple typo without having to resort to physical correction.

    You could even go one step further and use something simple like a device that doesn't have a general purpose processor, but is hardwired to only do 1 task. Older serial terminals from the 70's like the of-vi-fame ADM-3a were built using nothing but simple TTL logic chips. Try writing a virus for that.

    Of course, the one thing this does not fix is social engineering.

    • You could even go one step further and use something simple like a device that doesn't have a general purpose processor, but is hardwired to only do 1 task. Older serial terminals from the 70's like the of-vi-fame ADM-3a were built using nothing but simple TTL logic chips. Try writing a virus for that.

      How silly that you wrote this comment and neglected to remember the existence of word processors, dedicated computer-typewriter hybrids. Even if someone wrote a virus for it, the worst they could do is mangle your documents.

    • It's a giant step up from using a type writer, where you cannot even correct a simple typo without having to resort to physical correction.

      Or you can just get an electric typewriter. Why bother with an entire painfully slow computer when all your requirements boil down to being able to correct a typo? We didn't jump straight from mechanical linkages to the computer age. There were several decades of electric typewriters in between.

    • Is that beating the typewriter until it behaves?

  • by AndyCanfield ( 700565 ) <<moc.xednay> <ta> <dleifnacydna>> on Saturday December 12, 2015 @10:24PM (#51107891) Homepage

    I read constntly. As a child my mother would read to me. On the first day of school, I came home crying because they did not teach me how to read.

    I have two piles of books. I pick a book from the first pile, read it, and put it in the second pile. After 3-4 years the first pile is empty, the second is full, and I switch piles. It's hard to find good English language in Thailand. Mostly I read Louis L'Amour ("Guns Of The Timberlands"), also science fiction ("The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress"), Perry Mason ("The Girl With The Lucky Legs"), and John Grisham ("The Pelican Brief"). If you want to understand me, read "Ender's Game" (Andy's Geme).

    • Right now I am am on page thirty of "The Hobbit". All books are paperbacks.
    • If you love books, check out Project Gutengerg (www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page). They publish macine-readable texts of old books. I recently finished "The Wizard Of Oz" from them.
  • Typing bees are uncommon, but a lot of fun and still go on for the harlequin creature, "... a journal sure to be unconventional in today's overwhelmingly digital age, and, at the same time, very much in touch with a nostalgia for an earlier era, when the factories of pittsburgh and detroit were still bumpin' and steel was in. with a circle of friends that spans from los angeles to ann arbor to new york, every single journal is hand typed on high quality paper.

    typing bees are a fun, communal experience, in w

  • Please, the nenefits if vinyl are the catalog backlog of music not yet digitized as well as the (sometimes) better attention suring mastering. Personally, I'll never buy a Blue Notes pressing if Analogue Productions also releases their own version of the same album.

  • by tipo159 ( 1151047 ) on Sunday December 13, 2015 @12:35AM (#51108203)

    I bought a typewriter this year. I became interested in how they work and did research on what models were considered the best portable manual typewriters in their day. I found one (Smith Corona Silent Super) at a rummage sale just before summer. It was $35. The local typewriter repair shop (yes, there is a local typewriter repair shop around here) estimated $160 to go through it, clean it up and replace the ribbon. The shop had a backlog of job, so they had it for two months. When they were done, they found that my typewriter was in better shape than expected, so the repair cost was closer to $120. And I was able to get 5 ribbons for $10 on eBay.

    Two side notes:

    1. The plastic-cladding on later Smith Corona typewriters take so long to remove (to reach the guts of the typewriter to do the actual servicing) that it raises the repair costs to the point of making repair uneconomical these days.

    2. The most common way that typewriters get damaged is by kids randomly hitting keys and bending the rods and levers inside the typewriters

    As far as film ... I worked in a photographic darkroom for years. I have a bunch of B&W film in the bottom of my refrigerator and powder mix for developer and fixer. I taught my oldest kid how to develop film and I will do the same with my younger kids as they get old enough to appreciate it. To me, there is some cool about making pictures with chemicals.

    As far as the Max Max future .. I am more concerned about film going away than typewriters (or typewriter ribbon) going away. Ribbons can be re-inked and many typewriter repairs are as simple as straightening a bent rod. Film photography, particularly color photography, require special chemicals that are hard to create without your own chemical factory.

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      I taught my oldest kid how to develop film and I will do the same with my younger kids as they get old enough to appreciate it. To me, there is some cool about making pictures with chemicals.

      That's great, and you're right about the magic - it's breathtaking watching the image appearing on your B&W paper as it sits in the developer bath. Please tell me you and your kids wear gloves while working - I had instructors with metol poisoning from too much bare hands processing, and they were insistent on us

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      I went from the age of manual typewriters to IBM Selectrics to typewriters that had a few kilobytes of memory in them, to "word processors" to dot matrix printers, and so on.

      I still remember how annoying it was if filling out a form, even with a typewriter that allowed you to backspace and use a correction ribbon. I also don't miss the days of Liquid Paper/Wite-Out. Nor do I miss trying to precisely align the carriage.

      Manual typewriters may wind up a novelty, but I'd take a Mac Plus with an Imagewriter II

      • I don't miss any of those things either, butt what I do miss is the knowledge that what I sent was not perused by half a dozen TLAs along the way. Privacy is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. Giveing it up to the likes of one J. Comey is truly an unwise decision that will haunt us for generations. The bulletheads need their collective leashes yanked... just sayin'
      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        I went from the age of manual typewriters to IBM Selectrics to typewriters that had a few kilobytes of memory in them, to "word processors" to dot matrix printers, and so on.

        I still remember how annoying it was if filling out a form, even with a typewriter that allowed you to backspace and use a correction ribbon. I also don't miss the days of Liquid Paper/Wite-Out. Nor do I miss trying to precisely align the carriage.

        Manual typewriters may wind up a novelty, but I'd take a Mac Plus with an Imagewriter II p

        • However, there are two advantages to using a typewriter. First, it's unhindered - if you're brainstorming for ideas, the fact you can't delete means you can freeform a bunch of ideas onto the page.

          THE BACKSPACE BUTTON SAYS, "PUSH ME!"

          Are you constitutionally incapable of not editing while writing? Try remapping your backspace key, I guess.

    • "1. The plastic-cladding on later Smith Corona typewriters take so long to remove (to reach the guts of the typewriter to do the actual servicing) that it raises the repair costs to the point of making repair uneconomical these days."

      Baloney. I could strip a Smith-Corona Coronamatic (like a Coronet or any of the Sears versions) in 10 minutes, ready for the solvent bath, if needed. But these never needed that. I expect now they are getting dry enough a naphtha clean and oil dip would be first, though the p

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Anybody who uses the word "retro" to describe these things has already been taught what to think.

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Sunday December 13, 2015 @07:00AM (#51109041) Homepage

    Of course, you're still not likely to see people committing public acts of typewriting

    Really? What's the point of being a hipster if people can't see you doing it?!

  • Very smart and revolutionary. Just like writing that ridiculous blog!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Wait, so because we're distracted by our digital lives we exchange efficient tools for older less efficient ones? What a load of bullshit.

  • It has nothing to do with privacy issues, nothing to do with practicality. The "small and distinctive minority" is nothing but a bunch of sad hipsters for whom everything which is worse is actually "better". Their cultural references are limited, their outlook is stunted, they think that the 1950s and 1960s were the epitome of civilization. They are "flat white" as much as their coffee: no depth to their lives, and as white as a country music gig. Typewriters are toys for privileged adulescents.
  • by NReitzel ( 77941 ) on Sunday December 13, 2015 @11:34AM (#51109699) Homepage

    The current in-vogue trend towards last (and older) generation technology represents a foolish nostalgia for "simpler, better" times that never existed.

    Digital media came about because of limitations (and lifetime) of analog methods. A typewriter is great if you only want one (or two) copies, but if you need to publish something, then it is wholely inadequate. Of course, if you selectively ignore bias towards older methods, you can Xerox a manuscript. How is it that copy machines are OK, and word processors are not?

    The same flavor of thing has been happening ever since technology became good enough to be a consumer item. Horses are popular today, not because they're convenient, good transportation, easy to take care of, don't drop dead at the most inconvenient times, but because they're a memory of an older, more romantic time. The important thing to understand is that that time _never existed_. Cities full of horses were knee-deep in horse excrement and smelled that way.

    Renaissance Festival enthusiasts happly don chain mail and helmets and swords, and play at being Proud Knights. Somehow, they leave out things like fleas and lice, impetago, death by infected cut, plagues, and castles that smelled like latrines. Oh, What a Marvelous Age, Forsoothe.

    What a load of crap.

    Things have changed because they are -better- and conspiracy theories aside, it is tough to force something less good onto people for any length of time.

    I live in South Texas, and I miss snow. Mostly, I miss it because I do not have to actually live in it. I remember those bad old days of trying to figure out which lump in a parking lot was -my- vehicle. I still miss snow, and I enjoy going places that have it, but only because I don't have to actually live there. People find it easy to eschew "modern" technology, but I'll bet that back home they have refrigeration.

    I have no problem with someone wanting to use a typewriter -- I did, after all, for decades. I think that a lot of the resurgence in popularity comes a widely watched television show where the good guy uses an old underwood to write novels.

    Personally, I think it's delusional behavior.

    • by edis ( 266347 )

      Ability to step back and enjoy vinyl sound and process of playing record instead of intangible audio stream, expose medium (or large) format film, using equipment about hundred years old, instead of instant bit-gatherer - it is all very special experiences, and is quite a special choice.
      It results in positive emotions, absurd to deny.

    • I think there's something else at play here. Specifically, people are intentionally doing things that are inconvenient.

      It's a reaction against the consumerist war on effort. Every single part of life gets gradually streamlined and polished until there is nothing resembling physical exertion or concentration required for any task whatsoever. It's considered painful to spend a single moment without being entertained and coddled. If something has a learning curve longer than 30 seconds, it's abandoned immediat

  • Here is another one http://typeself.cc/ [typeself.cc] ... the typewriter creates a picture of your face.

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