Friday, 20 June 2014

5 things laptop user should take into account when thinking about buying a *typewriter*. [All the stuff you won't (a) find in a manual and (b) to be honest, might not really need to know ...]

Hello hello.

After years of wanting one I finally bought a typewriter. Did I tell you?
While my handwriting's perfectly fine [after all I couldn't hang on to my occasional job taking handwritten notes for students if no one could read them] I just liked the idea that I could add some retro style journaling to a page whenever the mood struck me, without having to faff about printing anything out via a laptop.
So after getting impatient for one to appear in a charity shop or Freecycle, I started trawling ebay, seeking out something lightweight and portable, a lovely thing that I could carry here there and everywhere with me. But, erm, that's not quite what I got.

For one thing its travel case is not one of those chic leather things that looks like dainty luggage. No.

I daren't really take its hulking big black plastic attaché case anywhere with me for 2 main reasons:
  1. it's bulky and heavy ... but worst of all ...
  2. rather than looking like something that wouldn't be out of place being carried by Audrey Hepburn ... this one looks more like the kind of case that people in films use to deliver dirty money, drugs ... or guns.
And, call me fussy but, that's not quite the look I was striving for.

Think I'm exaggerating?
How about now?

I know!

However ...

... what I got was cheap which, when you can't test it out beforehand, was a pretty important factor in deciding which to bid on. And some of those cutie-pie pastel vintage ones go for £50 and up, up and up into the hundreds on ebay!

[BTW: if you look at the descriptions on those kind many are sold merely as 'shop display' or for 'styling' purposes ... just to make shops/homes look fancy and retro. Not to actually use!]

So I bought one for just a couple of £ [plus P+P] ordered a new tape, made James WD40 its stiff bits, cleaned the shell ... and now, following my recent workroom redecoration, I've even found an ideal space for it in the alcove:
And since it's now within easy reach I've actually started to use it, especially for the wording in the current junk journals I'm working on. [Did someone say Junk Journals? Why, yes, I have lots of junk journal 'bits' packs for sale here since you asked.]

And I don't mind admitting, it's taking some getting used to.

It's not like I've never used a typewriter before, I have. I even vividly remember borrowing an electric one to fill out my university application form. Back in the 1920s. [Or at least that's how old it makes me feel to admit that.]

And so ... in light of these teething problems I thought I'd share a few tips, pros, cons and observations I've gleaned from moving back into analogue mode.

So, if you've been debating with yourself over whether to buy a typewriter or not ... maybe something here will help you decide.

Or not.

First up, let's get the Health & Safety information covered before we go any further ...

1.  If your finger slips while typing on a typewriter ... it can get stuck beneath one of the keys. Ask me how I know ...
 It was the 'N' key since you ask and there are still traces of my nail varnish under it to prove it.

And, unless you have very thin fingers, this will rarely happen on a laptop.

2. When you type all the way across to the right hand side of the page on a laptop nothing happens. When you type all the way across to the right hand side of the page on a typewriter you might just wonder why everything on your desk has mysteriously moved to the left ... 
You know those penny slot machines in the arcade where the pennies get pushed gradually toward the edge? Yeah ... it's like that. The carriage will shuffle anything it comes in contact with across your desk. Again, ask me how I know ...

OR else ... you might wonder why you can't type any further along ... why the thing won't move any further even though you're not at the end of the line. Then you'll realise it's because you're too close to a wall/cupboard and the carriage can't pass through solid structures. Who knew?

If my mistakes save just one person the embarrassment ... it'll be worth it. Kind of.

3a. Unlike with a laptop ... you don't have to obsessively save your work every few minutes on a typewriter .
There's no such thing as crashing a typewriter, so - barring a freak and mighty gust of wind - whatever you type will always be there, in front of you, in black and white. Without having to actively save it!

So you can stand down those twitchy Ctrl + S fingers for a while.  

3b. Neither do you have to poke a typewriter every few minutes to prevent it going into hibernation mode.
When you get back from making that cuppa .... the typewriter will still be on.
4. Your new old typewriter may not have an exclamation mark key.

Mine doesn't and neither does a friend's. Clearly people had less to exclaim in the past!!!!

And so ...

... you'll either have to find a way around it [eg. using an 'l' or an 'i' or something like that] OR else  you'll just have to lower your personal excitability levels.

And finally ... in case you're still in two minds about whether to get one or not, here's a practical pointer that might just help tip the balance ...

5. When your desk is a complete mess with zero free space ... a typewriter beats a laptop for resting your lunch on:
Good to know, right?


I've got a couple of cards - featuring typed sentiments - to share in the coming days and once my journals are finished and/or photographed ... I'll share those too.

And if you've been havering over getting a typewriter ... I hope my 5 tips were all of some use to you. Although I suspect not ... ;-)

And if you're an experienced hand [preferably one that isn't stuck beneath a typewriter key] at the typing game ... how about sharing your own top tips and ideas in the comments?

You're also welcome to link up to any blog posts you've written about your own tippy tapping experiences, any projects you've made using one, or anything you can think of to add to the conversation.

I want to hear from you!  [If you can make yourself heard over all this key-thumping and pinging that is!!]

Julie :-)


  1. Well, you can use a typewriter in a power cut, and it will never run out of battery. But backspace will not undo a typing error!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing your typewriter exploits! They were funny and poignant. My mother was a secretary for the phone company for over 30 years and she, to this day, extols the virtue of her typewriter. I do wonder if it's still around her house somewhere. There is something so romantically nostalgic about sitting with a cuppa and typing on one of those. I can remember playing endlessly on hers (and trying to see what the carriage would knock over!).
    Her last typewriter was an electric model and therefore would not work during power outages, however, you never lost your work either. And whiteout is your friend!

  3. Two words for you, Audrey - spray paint.

    You could *so* fix up the black case . . . I'm thinking vanilla-white for the handle and hardware bits, and then maybe yellow or aqua for the body? Quick coat of white primer to lift up the black base first and, woo-hoo! - no one will ever see you and your money-laundering scheme coming. Obvs that doesn't fix it being bulky or heavy, but it'll be so pretty, you won't care.

    Bugger, I'm good.


  4. My parents recently found my old typewriter (which I actually used for school reports back in, 1920s =) ) while cleaning out their garage and I snatched it up for use in crafty projects. One thing I noticed right away is that you have to sloooow dooooown when you're typing on one. For one thing, the hardware of the keys just cant keep up with our super-speedy laptop-style typing, and for another, I can't go back and fix any of the errors I make when my fingers can't move as fast as my brain. =P Maybe it was just me and I need to cut back on the caffeine. ;-) My typewriter actually has a correction tape feature, but I couldn't find any of those old tapes in the garage. Maybe there's some on eBay...

  5. There's nothing like the clickety clack ting of a typewriter.... Take a letter Miss Jones!!!!!!!!....they would have taken ages on my old Silver Reed!!!!!!!!!

  6. This was so much fun to read! Brought back so many memories, too! Typing class when I was in high school was on a really clunky manual machine, but it was an easy "A" and I came away with a real skill that I continue to use to this day. I, too, have an old typewriter, but mine works. It's not for decoration. Funny thing ... I still use it ... for personal letters to family and friends, for journal entries and, sometimes, just because I can. Great read! Thanks so much!

  7. I'm going to have to check mine for an exclamation mark now and maybe actually start to use it. Fab read!

  8. Great fun to read - and I can relate to the carriage moving left and knocking things over. A bone china mug full of hot tea comes to mind! Luckily my typewriter minded less than a laptop would :).

  9. That post made me smile - especially being a home for your lunch!

  10. My kids were mesmerized by my mom´s typewriter. So much so that they brought it home. :)

  11. If you have a single quote mark, usually on the key with the letter 8, type that, then back up and type a period. Exclamation point! I miss my typewriter.

  12. Squeeeeee! Holy zeitgeist, Julie - I can't believe the timing on our shopping and our posts. I love yours and we definitely don't overlap tips ;-) Thanks for the comment (and the pin!), and no worries, you can link bomb me any time! PS even the lead photos should be friends & sorry for the deleted comment, I was having problems posting.

  13. What timing (for me anyway) I am looking for said typewriter at this very moment. I see what you mean about the prices. The main thing I have learnt from you on the positive side is the fact that a typewriter has extra storage space (for lunch etc) which I badly need. Sounds like a good enough reason to press BUY.
    Yours sincerely ... oops I mean thanks Julie

  14. Definitely a good purchase if you are using it - despite the case! There is one thing i'd like to add to you section on typing to the end of a line, prompted by your photo. Putting your glass/cup to the left of th typewriter is more likely to lead to spillage.


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