Analog College

by | Feb 15, 2019 | Uncategorized | 50 comments

high tech

Florida Polytechnic University’s bookless “library”:

Typewriters are technology.

Smart speakers are evil.

Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio)
Walker Library of the History of Human Imagination (Stamford, Connecticut)

St. John’s College


  1. Gisizee

    I'd never want to graduate!

  2. Mark Adams (type-writer.org)

    I, too, embrace the digital age, but not without reservations. That schools and colleges are dispensing so easily with books is distressing. Our high school "library" is now simply a section of the student union, a few book cases here and there, not hardly identifiable as an actual library. Lost are pages upon pages of ideas.

    In my own life, there is a place for digital things and a place for analog things. I remember as a college student getting lost in books stores in Seattle, rummaging through disorganized stacks and discovering entire worlds. That experience is mostly inaccessible — there are hardly any bookstores in the San Jose area where I work!

    One last thing, I believe the analog world enhances the digital. A healthy dose of the printed page helps me to see better through the "stacks" of digital documents.

  3. Bill M

    A library without books is just a big room. Part of the enjoyment of a library is getting lost among the stacks and stacks (ok, shelves) of books, picking up a tangible item and being able to rapidly flip through its pages to get a glimpse of what is inside and then deciding to sit and take time to read it. I remember one of the saddest parts of THE TIME MACHINE when the traveler discovers a futuristic society and no books. B.T.W. I want to enroll in AC

  4. LivingMuseum

    Why is it that people who are out of touch with what people want who are selected for and deemed experts on deciding the course of things? People go to the library FOR the books; flipping through the pages, searching the volumes on the shelf. The excitement of finding something you were or weren't looking for. A library with no books is no library; it is a sad, depressing empty hall that serves only as a reminder of what we lost. Another victim of progress for progress' sake, another cornerstone having the magic sucked out of it. As for A-C College, I would attend but I already live like that with a few exceptions!

  5. The Philosophy Teacher

    Nice. By the way I'm a survivor of St. John's (Annapolis '88). The best thing about our library in those days? You could smoke in it.

  6. Mike A.

    To get in I suspect I would have to fill out an actual form that you would mail me. Following that, I would have to mail it back and wait nervously in anticipation of your reply.

    Sign me up please.

  7. Mike A.

    All this talk of libraries takes me back. I was lucky enough to live within walking distance of the town library (1/2 mile). I walked there nearly every day to sit and read and checked books out with my paper, had written library card. I am pretty sure my eclectic nature is because I read everything and anything in literature and science/math that I could get my hands on. Ah, those were the days.

  8. Charles F.

    This sounds like one of the more conservative Catholic colleges or like a seminary of a traditional order.

    Coincidentally, I know of many Catholic seminarians who own typewriters…even witnessed an impromptu type-in on the second floor of the juniors hall. Lots of nice Euro portables and my own big rusty Royal KMG. Rest in peace, KMG, I hope whoever got you keeps what little chrome you have left polished and your bike-tire platen well thumped.

  9. Martha Lea

    The Analogue College only disconnects students from superficialities. In my last year at Analogue College in Falmouth UK this new thing called the internet came into the library ( which also had a vinyl section) I ignored it at the time, it felt irrelevant. I love your vision.
    But the vision of a future library without books is just nightmarish. Shudder x 1000

  10. Richard P

    Me neither! That's why I want to teach there.

  11. Richard P

    Yes, the two worlds can coexist. It's difficult to avoid an unhealthy predominance of the digital, though. I think there would be a market for AC among people who want to purge and purify, at least for 4 years.

  12. Richard P

    Yes! The pure pleasure of books and of a real library is so often discounted by digimaniacs. And many young people CAN and DO feel that pleasure.

  13. Richard P

    Exactly! The "experts" just don't get it, often enough.

  14. Richard P

    Must have created some smelly books! I envy you; all the Johnnies I've met have a certain thoughtful depth that is remarkable.

  15. Richard P

    Consider yourself admitted! Maybe I'll follow up with some speculations about how the administration of AC would work.

  16. Richard P

    I used to go to the local library with excitement to check out all the old science fiction anthologies — published in the '50s, with most of the stories dating from the '30s and '40s. Some people still have that relationship to the local library — although, inevitably, many come for the computers, the DVDs, etc.

  17. Richard P

    That's interesting, and makes sense. Thanks!

  18. Richard P

    Yes, that place in Florida is just awful, isn't it? Frightening and robotic. Not inviting at all.

  19. Richard P

    Wow. That certainly is an interesting building — it looks like a jellyfish, or something.

    A single adjunct teaching philosophy at an entire university? I want to cry.

  20. DonN

    I once took a book from my local town library (Dorval, Quebec)- the Ascent of Everest, by John Hunt. When I got it home and opened the cover I found it was autographed – by Edmund Hillary! You can't get that in a digital library.
    One more thought – the architects of this edifice must conceive and execute all documents by hand on paper, or preferably linen, drawn in india ink.

  21. Richard P

    Wow. What a neat discovery!

  22. Erik

    This makes me think back to my first trip to the Ohio State law library when I was on my HS debate team. My search for modern precedents concluded, I followed the smell of antiquity to the lower level where the stacks were lined with moldering legal tomes. There I found court records from the 1800s, written by hand, in elegant script that I could barely read. No digital facsimile can reproduce the way it felt to hold those books in my hands. Please keep me in mind if you ever establish A.U. I would gladly enroll as a perma-student.

  23. Richard P

    Thanks. Yes, the sheer pleasure and interest of encountering physical documents is not to be underestimated.

  24. Bill M

    There is one nice thing about all the digitized books though; we can easily find and read out of print books that we may never get to find let alone read. Project Gutenberg will never replace a real library with real books though. I'd hate to visit a place as sterile as FPU's library.

  25. Richard P

    All true … of course, Google Books has far surpassed Project Gutenberg now.

  26. Robin Heilschild ????

    The Analog College… A college I want to join, away from those snobbish Millennials and their luxurious, expensive gadgets they usually show off to me (while I had to cope with old -borrowed or mine- books, cheap copies of those books, normal notebooks and huge piles of paper). I had joined a college owned and managed by the government, and, since Mexican stuffs owned and managed by the government are pretty cheap or even free, they're supposed to be focused and oriented to the working class instead of the upper class! xD

    Actually I miss paper at schools, specially at colleges. Specially because I usually make some doodles while I am studying and because I love making "files" for "future researching". Organizing computer's files is complicated, and I usually forget what I have in my hard disk (yes, I still use my own files and my own hard disk). xD

    Your idea of the analog college reminded me of the Waldorf's educational system to some extent. xD

    A library without books cannot be a library. Rather, I'd be a sort of what we Mexicans know as "cyber-cafe". Actually the "library" of the college in Morelia where I used to be has just a few of books and it's mostly empty; students prefer to buy by Internet (the computer's or tablet's version) or to download (illegally) the information they need (I'm not including the fact that town lacks libraries). They rarely understand what they read (and the career where they and I was is "Literature"), but they are much better than me at handling digital technology (they are ten years younger than me). :(

    Actually I'm rather into the 70's and 80's "cassette futurism", but the Mexican version, where mechanical, analog technology shares the same space with magnetic tapes and TTL electronic devices (glass-screen TV's , AM and SW radio, vinyl records…). The typewriters I love the most are mechanical, but date from the "late" period: Olympia SG 3, Olivetti Linea 98…

  27. Mark

    AC for undergrad, and then a technical university for grad work… where the student will be abreast of the latest developments in their field. Something like that could totally work.
    I'd like to teach at AC too!

  28. MTCoalhopper

    I have so many reactions to the vision of Analog College. One involves Hari Seldon from Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series, who (for anyone who hasn't read it) sets up a remotely-located institution to preserve human knowledge after the inevitable collapse of contemporary civilization. (Anyone else think about that, while writing for Cold Hard Type?)

    Another aspect is that I am the library staff person in charge of ebook services. I am also the guy with over a dozen typewriters, who brings them in for the week surrounding June 23rd. There is more enthusiasm for the old machines, in that one week, than for digital media, all year.

    So, when is someone going to start producing Analog College sweatshirts, tee-shirts, and such? What an awesomely subtle way to promote the anti-digital, pro-human philosophy.

  29. Richard P

    I fully agree: a library without books is not a library. The very word means "book collection" in Latin.

  30. Richard P

    I'd love to see that line of spirit wear!

    It is interesting that conventional wisdom assumes that digital = exciting. Instead, digital = normal and boring.

    I think there will be some related visions in Cold Hard Type.

  31. docdave

    And hopefully, the Analog College merch will be produced with traditional silk-screening equipment? One can hope. And plot.

  32. John Cooper

    Remember all the SF anthologies where each story was preceded with a note from the author, often a personal anecdote, in italics? I got such a sense of the writers as personalities. Because of Asimov's teasing recollections, I continued to think of the late Harlan Ellison as a snotty teenager until he was well into middle age.

    I remember the thin, rough paper they used for those collections, and the way that the inside front bookflap always had the initials of the book title printed next to the price, as a kind of stock code, I guess.

    I went back to my hometown library in the mid-1990s and found many of the volumes still there, still with their cards tucked into envelopes pasted onto the front endpapers, my childhood autographs still on the cards.

  33. Edwin Feliu

    There could be other additions: analog cameras, such as 35mm, and movie cameras such as 8mm, 16mm and Super 8. These, like typewriters, are enjoying a resurgence. Digital can't match the look of film. It seems to me that today's generation is embracing analog, albeit in smaller numbers.

  34. taimdala

    Would radio be allowed? I would suffer severe NPR withdrawal, otherwise.

  35. taimdala

    I, too, would love to buy Analog College merchandise–wear and display it proudly to advertise the college!

    (And now I'm thinking of doing up some of the designs. I have pencil and paper and am not afraid of using them!)

  36. taimdala

    I browse Google Books frequently and yes, they have far surpassed Project Gutenberg.

    HOWEVER, could someone PLEASE thump Google Books on the head and TELL THEM to SCAN THE FOLDING MAPS they find in the books? UNFOLD the lovely things and SCAN them please.

    There is little point in finding a Baedeker's London from the 1800s and not have the fold out maps in useable form. Seriously!

    Digital format is wonderful and it does facillitate sharing knowledge that otherwise might never be seen, but I do wish Google's scanning staff understood that while not scanning a map or a fold out may save them time, they aren't completing the mission they've undertaken, that of making knowledge accessible while preserving it.

  37. Ruurd

    Reading this the question occurred to me why one should put 'things' in a library that are DISTRACTING the mind of the work you want to do in a library? Screens. Gizmos to be able to make them work. Other people's screens. Multimedia using sounds! Hardly fitting for an environment designed to let you CONCENTRATE the mind on a subject. What is a library anyway? A room where you have your reference and source material handy and where you have a quiet environment enabling you to perform your studies. A large part of that has become mobile but one thing: the quiet environment.

  38. David

    I just came across this article, but I would be completely in favor of such a place. But in this day and age, sadly, it sounds more fantasy than reality. But if such a place did exist, I would relish the opportunity to be at such a fine institution.

    I wrote and self-published 11 books, completely done on my laptop. Then after an internet search for something I can't even remember, I came across an article on authors and screenwriters who write/wrote their first (or more) drafts by hand. And more searches on that topic led me to and down the fountain pen rabbit hole. I recently completed my first handwritten manuscript. In fountain pen because I can write for hours with one without cramping. Then I used a red fountain pen for my first read-through edits. I felt so much more connected to my story that way.

    Analog College, Analog College, wherefore art thou, Analog College?

  39. Richard P

    Thanks, David. After a year of near-constant Zooming, I need analog tools more than ever. Write on!

  40. SBolli

    I'm totally signing up to get a Degree in something appropriate for the 1880's….

  41. typewriter.works


    if you need a mad zen teacher/creative writing assistant, you know what to do.

  42. Treehuggy

    Im in. Please tell me where I can sign up. I returned to school after being away for 3 plus decades, and I HATE the online platform modality. It makes everything so much more stressful. I want real books and actual human contact.

  43. Richard P

    I'm with you! Keep looking around—there are proper, physical classes that can provide what you need.

  44. Anonymous

    I love this idea!


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