Typewriter enthusiasts keeping antique way of communicating alive

World Today

Computers, smartphones and tablets have become a big part of our modern lives.  But, there’s one relic, the typewriter,  that’s experiencing a renaissance.

CGTN’s Frances Kuo travelled to the U.S. state of New Jersey for a look at how it’s defying the digital age.

Another day in the office, and Bert Rosica readies for his job as an investment banker. 

During his downtime, Bert steps back in time with this 1926 Underwood Number 5.

“You type it, you hit a key, it’s on the page.  When you have an original, it’s like an artist’s painting.  The original is truly an original,” said Rosica.

Bert’s passion began about eight years ago.  His young son bought a typewriter at a thrift store and asked Dad to fix it.

“He said, ‘yeah, they’re cool,’ “said Rosica.

Pretty quickly, Bert thought the same.

“I thought, this is a mechanical marvel,” said Bert.  “I just kept buying them, not knowing anything about them. The wife is becoming now concerned.”

That concern grew and so did his collection – now at about a dozen.

“A typewriter is to writing what a sailboat is to boating,” said Bert. ”A powerboat may get you there faster, but the sailboat is infinitely more enjoyable.”

Bert represents a revival for the writing machine, even among generations who have grown up in the digital age.

In New Orleans, young wordsmiths offer to compose poems to passersby on their portable typewriters.

Meetings of typewriter enthusiasts, including so-called type-ins, are growing across the United States, gathering those experiencing digital burnout.

Even Hollywood is jumping on the bandwagon.  The 2016 documentary, “California Typewriter,” chronicles those who remain loyal to the typewriter including actor Tom Hanks.

And, it’s not just a love for antique models.

“Who would’ve thought we’d still be here in this day and age,” said Edward Michael, General Manager at Swintec Corporation.

Swintec Corporation in Moonachie, New Jersey is one of the last U.S. suppliers of electronic typewriters.

Business is steady, with a full-time worker who painstakingly repairs them.

“It’s not a phase, it’s part of a natural progression,” said Michael.  “We don’t see an end to it.”

Swintec’s niche is prisons. It makes typewriters that are completely clear so guards can detect any hidden contraband.

“The typewriters that they used to have were not clear so they had to disassemble the typewriter, take it all apart, search it for contraband and put it back together,” explains Michael.

Another consistent client: funeral parlors.  The businesses still have to type out death certificates.

Rosica is dead-set on the typewriter trend.

After all, it’s managed to tap into a hidden side.

“It actually unlocked a creative vein in me that I never knew I had.  I’m working on my second novel right now,” said Rosica.  “I’ve written thousands of pages of prose.”

And, it’s helping ink a new chapter of his life…without a delete button.