WHEN MICHAEL McGettigan visits coffee shops to write a letter, he gets a few wayward glances when he pulls out a manual typewriter rather than a MacBook Pro.
But McGettigan doesn't care that the noise of clacking typewriter keys is more intrusive than the soft tap-tap-tap of today's quiet keyboards or the silence of touchscreen keypads. He's invited other typewriter enthusiasts to bring their manual machinery to Bridgewater's Pub at 30th Street Station on Saturday afternoon for Philadelphia's first Type-In.
"There's nothing like the idea of having a beer and typing something out," McGettigan said, adding that the free event is an experiment to discover who the typewriting community is.
"The bike community is made up of little groupings of people," said McGettigan, who owns Trophy Bikes in University City and the Trophy Bike Garage in Northern Liberties. "The same exists for people who love typewriters. This is to find out who they are."
The Type-In will give attendees a place to type letters on a bar top - McGettigan is providing the stationery - trade typewriters and participate in a typing challenge to see who can type a Paul Auster passage the fastest.
"Depending on how many people we have, we might even have a couple of heats," McGettigan said. "Maybe we'll use something crazy like a Jay-Z lyric."
The prize? An Olympia SM9.
Marshall Davis, a typewriter technician, also will appear at the event to instruct owners how to "keep a manual typewriter happy."
Upkeep, along with finding a manual typewriter, isn't that hard when compared with caring for a computer, McGettigan said.
"I had an eMac a few years ago, but now you can't run any of the software," McGettigan said. "A person with a 10-year-old computer has a machine that is obsolete. A 40-year-old typewriter just needs some paper and ribbon."
Donna Brady of Brady & Kowalski - a Brooklyn, N.Y., business that repairs, restores and sells manual typewriters - said taking care of a manual typewriter is as simple as keeping it clean and putting it to good use.
"To ensure my collection gets used I have a machine for every purpose in my household," Brady said. "One typewriter for my daily notes, one for my nightly journal entry, one for checks, envelopes and business correspondence, one for creative writing and personal correspondence and one for visitors to use as they wish."
After announcing the Type-In, McGettigan sent information to a few blogs and businesses to spread the word, only to discover a burgeoning Web presence for those who still appreciate what a manual typewriter has to offer.
On "Adventures in Typewriterdom," a 16-year-old blogger announced Philly's Type-In using a "type-cast" as he does for all of his blog posts. The post announcing the Type-In to his site visitors was a scanned version of a letter typed on his 1947 Royal KMM.
Brady said if she and business partner Brandi Kowalski didn't have an obligation the day of the Type-In, they "would be there with bells on."
Even if the number of attendees at the Type-In is sparse - McGettigan expects a dozen or so - the idea is spreading. This spring, Brady and Kowalski are planning a similar event at the Brooklyn Flea, a market where they sell their machines on weekends.
Regardless of the Type-In's success in Philadelphia, typewriters still enthrall McGettigan. He relishes the way typewriters slow things down - like vinyl or acoustic guitars - and has even typed a letter sitting on the beach in Avalon, N.J.
"As this tide of glowing plastic is going everywhere, there's still a physical technique to typewriters," McGettigan said. "Your progress is measurable: It's rolling out there in front of you like a handwritten letter.
"I don't recall people waking up in the morning saying they need these smart-alecky little things that can be a calendar and Gameboy," McGettigan added. "You almost feel as if they don't need you. You can never get too attached. Typewriters are machines that really need us. You get involved with them."