November 26, 2012

Just my type

Under: Language | News | Random thoughts

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?

What do you think?

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