Last week Brother (full name: Jones & Brother) manufactured the last typewriter to be made in Britain, and it was the end of an era.
I used to have a Brother electric typewriter, back in the 80s. There are some people who swear by them, even now – and there are others again who are passionate about manual machines. Will Self, for instance, argues that with a typewriter, there are fewer distractions – fewer temptations to dip out of writing and check your emails or play Halo or whatever.
He has a point, of course. But I think it’s wrong to say that each new development is somehow a step backwards. According to Ben Macintyre in The Times last Friday, when the typewriter arrived in general use in the 1860s, many feared it would lead to a decline in literacy – and way, way back when, Socrates thought even handwriting had made people less intelligent, as the act of reading had replaced the active effort of remembering.
So, while I sometimes find it suits me better to write stories by hand, and while I’m occasionally tempted to dig our old Olivetti manual typewriter out of the garage and buy a ribbon for it, I’m not going to turn my back on the laptop on which I’m writing this – and if, in future, I find I can dictate to a voice recognition system and then fiddle around with text on a screen or something afterwards, well, so be it. The words are what matter. Is it really important how they appear on the page, or how they enter our heads?