Typewriters officially dead technology

April 27, 2011

Manual typewriters are officially dead technology, with the last factory still churning them out closing its doors.

The first commercial typewriter was produced in 1870. Over the next 40 years the technology evolved into a standardized format which contained most of the basic elements typewriters featured for the next 60 years. Then electronic typewriters were introduced and quickly became standard. At least until computers became personal and wiped out typewriters in all but developing countries.

With that in mind it’s no surprise that the last company manufacturing manual typewriters was based in Mumbai, India. And also no surprise to learn that Godrej and Boyce, the company in question, has now given up the fight. And you can’t really blame them when you look at the figures.

Godrej and Boyce were doing brilliantly for many years after being founded in the 1950s. During the 1990s the company was selling 50,000 models each year. That had dropped to around 10,000 by the mid-2000s, and last year the company sold less than 1,000 typewriters. According to the company’s general manager Milind Dukle the only people now buying manual typewriters are “the defense agencies, courts and government offices.”

With manual typewriters no longer being produced, I think it’s fair to say we’re now a world where computers rule supreme. Even those who have held out (either for financial or nostalgia reasons) from making the move are now doing so. Or they’re keeping hold of their antiquated technology because it’s somehow more romantic. Is it? I couldn’t say.

One thing which has remained, and is likely to do so for the foreseeable future, is the layout of the keyboard, with the QWERTY letter ordering being retained as we left typewriters behind and moved to personal computers. And manual typewriters, even those produced relatively recently, will surely become antiquities that are worth collecting. It surely beats stamps and coins.

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10 Responses to “Typewriters officially dead technology”

  1. gm:

    I’ll never stop using my type writer, it’s right there next to my Amiga 500.


    I also have an A500, and a typewriter, but they’re both collecting dust in the loft.

  3. robertsgt40:

    I don’t use my buggywhip anymore either

  4. MBP(etc.):

    I worked in a newspaper/public affairs office in the early 1970s where everyone had a manual typewriter on the desk. I learned how to run the thing with the efficiency that such work demands…though I have a computer, and have written on it, I also have a considerable collection of manual typewriters, and in fact have written 389 pages of my next book on a fine Smith-Corona “Classic 12″ portable just for old times’ sake–and here in this town you can still go to the office supply store and buy new ribbons for the thing! I like the physical act of whacking the keys; I like to hear the little bell go “ding”; I like the pause between thoughts as one changes the paper; I like going through what I’ve written with a pen to make handwritten emendations…

  5. OldGeek:

    Back in the 60s, I learned my typing skills using “old fashioned” Office manuals You certainly developed strong fingers and forearm muscles using those! But also proper finger placement/posture to prevent carpal tunnel and/or shoulder/back problems later.

    I still have my Royal portable. Then later acquired one of the “Monsters”. They both still work. “Old fashioned” technology still has a place. They don’t stop functioning if the power goes out. Or “short out” by a accidental water/coffee spill or drenched by rain. Just dry them out and keep typing!

  6. John Pospisil:

    @MBP – Is your next book about typewriters? Just kidding – your book actually looks very intriguing, good luck with it. I got into publishing just as typewriters were being phased out. At uni, we learned word processing on Amiga 500s, I kid you not, but by the time I got my first job, Macs and PCs were being used.

  7. John:

    I took typing in high school in 1988. We were the first class in the school’s history to have a typing class taught on both manual typewriters and computers.

    The only thing I can say about typewriters is that they’re less distracting. You’re not tempted to switch to another sheet of paper every five minutes to check Twitter.

  8. Adrian Werner:

    Nah. I’m sure some small company will start making new manual type writters. Plus there are still plenty of companies who produce eletronic type writters

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