A technology extinction event?
(file this post under frivolous banter)
In a post the other day I was positing that the declaration of "X is dead" is usually a good indicator of a charlatan/self-promoter. I suggested that technologies rarely die, but find more nuanced, specialist audiences. Some people commented that technologies NEVER die.
So, just for discussion – is the typewriter a contender for a technology that will actually die. The last one in Britain was produced yesterday. I know there are some existing users, writers often, who still like to craft their work on a typewriter. But this is a habit, and a declining market. This is very distinct I would suggest, from a new audience discovering a preference for the old technology, as we've seen with analogue cameras and vinyl records. These typewriter fans would suggest otherwise. I think people can make a case for preferring a typewriter to work on (it makes you think more about what you commit to paper, it forces a linear sequence rather than cut and paste, etc), but I think these only apply if you started out on a typewriter, they're not compelling enough to make you want to use one over the convenience of a word processing package. Anyone who has used a typewriter for typing a long document on will know these romantic preferences soon wear thinner than your correction fluid.
Then there's typewriters as objets d'art, which I think is valid, they are quite exquisite machines. But admiring them in a museum is different from them being used in anger.
So what do people reckon, will the typewriter die with its existing set of fans, or will it find a new existence with a niche audience?
There could be a market for keyboards in a typewriter style. Maybe I should learn how to make one! (Looks like someone has already had that idea! http://shop.usbtypewriter.com/ )
It’ll give all the steam train enthusiasts something to do on their days off. Maybe some members of the Sealed Knot will defect. Nothing ever dies.
It will (sadly) die out. I say sadly not from a sense of nostalgia (though I do have that too) but because for some specific contexts, it is actually still the best machine for the device. Have you ever tried to output print to a form or label for which you did not have an existing template? It is a much more common task than you’d expect, hence the reason there are actually still lots of these tucked away in back corners (we even have a full on typewriter repair shop in Victoria still.)
And yes, I am nostalgic too, hence why I installed http://fffff.at/noisy-typer-a-typewriter-for-your-laptop/ recently 😉