When typewriters went wrong – and they sometimes did – nobody ever said ‘Have you tried switching it off and switching it on again?’ You just untangled the keys, wiped the ink off yourself and carried on laboriously banging away.
I mention this because the last typewriter to be built in the UK has been produced at a north Wales factory.
The manufacturer, Brother, which says it has made 5.9 million typewriters since its factory in Wrexham opened in 1985, has donated the last machine to London’s Science Museum. The museum said the piece represented the end of a technology which had been “important to so many lives”.
This completes an arc I’ve followed since I began writing. My progress went something like this:
Remington ‘Super-Thumper’ upright typewriter (belonged to Mum when she was young)
Remington Portable (as above but slimmer and harder to thread ribbons into).
Selectric IBM Golfball typewriter.
IBM regular electric typewriter (second-hand; got electric shocks from it).
Brother dot-matrix electric typewriter (rubbish).
Anonymous secondhand PC eventually thrown out of window in frustration.
BBC Wordstar with cassettes – disastrously slow but you could play Chucky Egg on it.
First Mac. second Mac, third Mac through to 400th Mac.
Out went ribbons, Snopake, glue, carbons and those little white sheets – what were they called? (I miss Snopake and would still use it for handwritten letters.)
And suddenly, the typewriter, as an objet d’art, has appeared in antique shops after decades of being ignored. And I’d quite like the Remington upright, not to use – God knows where you’d get the ribbons from – but as a delightful piece of design. Or as a young friend of mine said when he saw one for the first time, ‘Oh wow, it’s a steampunk computer’.