Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Click clack, the typewrter is back, for an afterno n

.Dear Reader,

Michael McGettigan, 56, types using a typewriter. (Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer)
Michael McGettigan, 56, types using a typewriter. (Akira Suwa / Staff Photographer)Read more

.Dear Reader,

Ooops. This is already harder than I remember. I am here at the first Philadelphia Type-In, "a pleasant afternoon of mqnual typewriting." I h ve forgotten how the keys stick, and how you can't just backspace and erase your letters.

This young man, Matt Cidoni, 16, told me I should switch from an Olivetti Lettera 31 to the Olympia.

"It's so much bette . Feel the tooch. Roll in a fresh sheet and get started."

Matt had his mothe4 drive him to the event Saturday at Bridgewater's Pup at 30th Street Station down from East Brunswick, N.J. Matt fell in love with typewriters in seventh-grade when he found an old Sears electric in his basement. He owns 10 manual typewriters now, and brought four to this Type-In, and keeps a photo of his favorite on his Iphone, a Royal 10 from 1928.

(Do you know, reader, that there is no 1 key on a manual typewriter and you have to hit a lowercase L?)

Matt was so excited to see a journalist typing.

"Brings back memories, huh?" he asked.

Truly, it did.

A dozen people came, of all ages, and swapped and sold their manual computers. They wrote letters, which were promptly walked across the street to the post office for immediacy, and even competed in a typing contest, which Matt won in 55 words per minute. He says without pressure he can hit 80.

Matt bounced all afternoon from typewriter to typewriter, showing off his favorites and sampling others.

He sat at a Hermes 3000.

"Look at the motion on this!"

"Oh my gosh," said Jennifer Wuan. "It's gorgeous."

Wuan is a web designer from Center City who said she had "three Ipods in my purse" but came to the Type-In because, "I want to be with my people."

Matt rolled a sheet of paper into a Hermes Rocket and typed, "Well, I really love this Hermes, and I think it's going to be mine for sure."

He was hoping to buy the typewriter from Michael McGettigan, the event organizer, owner of Trophy Bikes in Philadelphia, who also owns four computers and five typewriters and thought it would be fun to invite typewriter lovers to an afternoon of typing. So, of course he spread the word through Facebook and Yahoo Groups and it rippled into the blogosphere.

Bill Ince, 48, came from Jenkintown and brought his old Underwood that once belonged to his Aunt Jo. Ince was wearing a brace on his left hand, not from a keyboard injury, but "from too much thumbing with this," he said, and pulled out a smart phone.

McGettigan believes typewriters are making a comeback.

"The computer increases your volume," McGettigan said. "A typewriter makes you more linear. On a computer, 'Lets throw all these thoughts on a page and we'll force an order into them later.' You've got to bring a quiet mind to typewriting."

Matt types all his papers for high school on a typewriter, which his teachers love.

He has a blog, Adventures in Typewriterdom, and he types his entries on antique-looking paper and then scans the pages into his computer.

He loves the feel of the manuel typwriter, the precision and the permanance and sound of the keys and the bell at the end of a line and the routine of the carriage return. "It feels like you're getting work done," he said. "When I pull that paper out I feel like I accomplished something."

He expressed great dismay looking at a Remington portable two-tone with shiny glass keys. "What I can't stand is something like this -- they'll cut the glass keys off, throw the rest away and make some crappy jewelry out of it which will just sit in a drawer."

But Matt pounced like a puppy when Wuan took her hot red plastic Valentine out of its case.

"Did you know the Valentine is the only typewriter in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art," she said.

Matt couldn't help but correct her, and said the Olivetti Lettera 32 is also in the museum, and that the Valentine, built for fashion, is "just the Olivetti 32 in a new chassy."

"But, oh what a body," added McGettigan.

Matt showed off his Smith-Corona Skyriter, "meant to fit under an airline seat," he said. "Back in the last century, in the 50s and 60s, you saw people typing on them."


Post script: This reporter did go back to the office, and retype this letter into a computer - fixing most of the typos but leaving a few for nostalgia - and rearranged a few things from the original draft.

He did enjoy the intensity of the experience. And never once worried whether he had hit "save" or whatever.

Contact Staff writer Michael Vitez at 215-854-5639 or