Theses on typecasting

by | Jul 24, 2012 | Uncategorized | 22 comments


  1. Bill M

    I believe you are.
    I think both typewritten and fountain pen written texts both show character that cannot be found in a pencil, ball point pen or computer generated anything. It is like the dramatic qualities of a good black and white photo taken with real film in a real camera and processed with the care and diligence of the photographer or even take it one step further to the artist.

  2. Scott K

    I think you have a lot of interesting points there.

    You've touched on a lot of subjects, and it could make for some interesting social examination. But I think there's more to the visuals than their striking and attention grabbing qualities. I think the typecast is a graphical piece of beauty on its own.

    And I think one of the greatest things about a typecast is – the mistakes. So often I have winced at my own turn of phrase, miss spelled word, or grammar sin. But I love every one of them, because – despite their mis-drafting, they are a raw thought, a raw piece of me that was never backspaced or erased. I've been embarrassed by my own mistakes, but I have never regretted them.

    This is what I think typecasting is about – really. It is about the expression and truth that you get from the typewritten word.

    I'm looking at my typecasts from my trip and seriously thinking about redrafting them. But they were written on the bonnet of my car, and in the boot. They were written on picnic tables, and they were cast on paper on bedside tables.

    As far as written words are concerned on the net, I don't think I've seen anything more personal than a typecast. And it is a thing of beauty.

  3. Scott K

    Am I a silly and incurable romantic?

  4. Anonymous

    I hope so. The world needs more of them!

  5. notagain

    To me the typecasts are the closest that text gets to speech, with its hurried imperfections.so yes, right track.

  6. Miguel Chávez

    I'm completely with Bill and Scott here. To me, the charm of typewriters and typecasts, besides their materiality and individuality, is that they build a bridge between two very different eras, two different worldviews and contexts: the world of immediacy, of instant rewards, of efficiency and precision, and the world of craftsmanship, durability, and permanence.

    I really like the craftmanship involved in a typecast, but I also feel a lot of respect for the instruments themselves. In an era where most things we use are controlled by sophisticated electronics and are designed and built by computers and computer-guided tools, a mechanical typewriter, with its metal parts made in the old-fashioned way with lathes, grinders and milling machines, becomes, to my eyes, not only a writing instrument but a testament to the ingenuity and ability of the people who were capable of turning these metal bits and pieces into a sophisticated and sometimes very complex mechanism capable of making writing more efficient, precise, and fast… precisely the same qualities that today render typewriters obsolete when compared to a word processor.

    And then we have the immaterial aspects each of us associate to the things that remind us of people and places that no longer exist. Precisely because it was made to last and can be used for its original purpose 100 years after it was made, a typewriter is a tangible link to the past. Back then, when you bought a typewriter, it was an important family affair, because it represented a relatively big investment but also because it was a purchase that had to be considered very carefully, precisely because it was a tool that was going to last for many years. I can say that first-hand: I still remember vividly when my siblings, my parents and I went to the department store to buy our Olivetti Studio 46, and that happened in 1983. I can't imagine that feeling of importance and permanence attached to any computer, with a life cycle of a mere couple of years or so.

    And don't forget the issues of permanence and accesibility of the information stored in a digital media compared to the hard-copies consigned to paper. Until recently I still had some old 5.25" diskettes with all my school papers in them, which were completely unreadable because a) I no longer have a computer fitted with a 5.25" disk drive, b) the diskettes have been exposed to dust, mold, and natural and artificial magnetic fields for over 20 years, and c)the software used to write those essays is now consigned to the dustbin of history. Sure, you can always migrate the information from one obsolete form of storage to the newest one, but it requires a constant investment of money, time and effort to keep the old information available, while a printed page, provided it is properly stored, will not need any adittional work in order to preserve the information consigned to it.

    So, as far as I'm concerned, my typewriters not only represent a rebellion against the digital world I'm forced to live in, they also are a monument to a time when mechanical engineering, ingenuity and craftsmanship provided us with the tools that helped shape the world as we know it. And I love the feeling, the sound, and, yes, even the smell of my old typewriters, as their typebars (or spheres. Or daisywheels) hit the platen with decision and contundency. Who knows? Maybe 10, 20 years from now someone will open the case of one of my typewriters and find a typed message in it. Through it, I'll be greeting the future from the past.

  7. Anonymous

    This sounds like a terrific essay! I can't wait to read it.

    All of your points are pertinent to a discussion on typecasting's rhetorical aspects, but #3 seems to me especially important: there is no one single rhetorical style to typecasting. But here's my question: does that pose problems from an analytical standpoint? (Please understand that I'm just spitballing ideas here for the sake of discussion, not making an argument.)

    You can compare, say, two types of marketing communications or two physics papers according to their adherence to the particular methodology of that field of communication. But when you have "blogging with typewriters about typewriters" and "blogging with typewriters about things other than typewriters," how strongly does the common element "blogging with typewriters" really bind the two?

    To extrapolate, if you have the groups "writing with a computer about computers" and "writing with a computer about art history," for example, will the two groups be able to communicate across the specialties about more than just the technical aspects of their computers (reviews of writing software, keyboard shortcuts, etc.)

    Personally, I think the Venn overlap between these two kinds of typecasting is pretty large because of our common bond: the love of all things typewriter. It seems to foster a wider readership and discussion among the community. Blogs like yours and Welcome to the Typosphere serve as hubs that the rest of us can find unexpected gems and discussions on topics we would have never thought of otherwise.

    But that sharing is a very organic process. There's no formal methodology, it's so much about serendipity. It's a very human process of communication through discovery and sharing.

    I'm not sure I have a point to make here, and certainly not an argument for or against any way of classifying the typosphere. But maybe my ramblings might have a useful nugget or two in here. Thanks for the opportunity to get thinking over the morning coffee!

  8. rn

    Yes, Richard, yes! With one caveat that we all know: Just as looking at a photograph online is not the same as holding the printed photograph in your hand, typecasting is not typing. Nor, even, does it share the same experiential space as handling a typed sheet of paper. The typecast is not a material object. It lacks the physicality, the elegant interaction of human and machine motion. It does not have the thrilling tactile immediacy of the typed page. The typecast may imply all these things — but it does not contain them physically. Indeed, I could flip your starting idea in section 2 on its head and suggest that typecasting is a quixotic and ultimately doomed attempt to capture all of these things in an arena — the online world — that is unavoidably fallen and lacking in materiality.

    But … keep on! There's something important in what you're writing.

  9. notagain

    To the point above about "writing about" vs. "writing with" specific tools and whether cross-communication happens, just check the forums in NaNoWriMo – so many devoted to the tools/software/methods. The more you use something and it becomes a larger part of your experience, the more you will naturally want to compare that experience with others. Heck, I found out there are many forums on *shaving* where I could learn all about the various razors through history and the experiences of using them. So even if the blog is not ostensibly about typewriters, the topic will inevitably come up, if only in the comments of each others' blogs.

  10. Ton S.

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Ton S.

    1. Agree. In addition, you also care about the sensory connection in typing, which makes the writing process more of an involved experience.

    2. "… in the internet but not of it." I like that.

    3. Agree.

    4. Disagree. "Success" will be short-circuited by the very nature of the typewriter insurgency (2b); efficiency will still be the market predilection. Typecasting is cool. Is fun. Is interesting. BUT it is also work. It is creativity. It is commitment. There will be blog extinctions as we've already seen. Typosphere will remain a niche.

    Here's a kind of counter-proposition:
    Why the Typewriter is the Ultimate Hipster Accessory

  12. Richard P

    Thanks for your wonderful reflections so far, everyone!

  13. Cameron

    I always enjoy other people's typographical "errors" — manifestations of expression and immediacy, highly personal — but do not tolerate them nearly so well in my own presentations.

    What's up with that?

  14. Mike Speegle

    Different predilections indeed! Well out, sir.

  15. L Casey

    What I love so much about the Typosphere is what you have outlined in #3. I love to read about typewriters, to be sure, but sharing personal experiences, and finding several ears lent in your direction based on the medium of the text, and the relationship this medium has allowed you to cultivate with the owners of said ears, is priceless.

    Thanks for sharing this. I enjoyed the read.

  16. Anonymous

    You've hit a few nails right on their heads with this one. If however, that sad day arrives when typewriters skyrocket in value because they are totally hip, one can at least derive some comfort by selling a typewriter every year or so and living off the proceeds. I can dream can't I?

  17. schrijfmachine

    This will be a nice essay, for sure! About point 3: this sounds more like something we would like the typosphere to be, than something that it really is. I am afraid the typical white high educated male is overrepresented in the typosphere, but I might be wrong. Some investigation should easily bring some conclusions.

  18. an *sshole with a typewriter.

    I would very much like to read this essay if you write it. As someone new to the Typosphere I can attest to its ability to go unnoticed but to really grab your attention when you finally do catch wind of it. Also, I am glad you make the point that not all typecast have to neccesarily be about typewriters.

  19. Dwayne F.

    Thanks for posting that article. Perhaps the typewriter is going through a hipster phase. Some will enjoy the experience to the point where they keep on typing. The majority will likely move on to the next thing. The good thing is that their typewriters will end up in garage sales on ebay. More toys for us!

    I agree with your assertion that the Typosphere will go on in one form or another after the blogroll is diminished. I can't speak for other Typospherians, but my participation is way more about nerdy delight than being cool or hipsterish. I most definitely do not fit either descriptive term.

  20. Anonymous

    I totally agree with you, Cameron. I see nothing wrong with the human errors of others, but I'm afraid others will view my own typos as the workings of an illiterate boob.

  21. Anonymous

    Great essay, Richard. And I am so glad you FINALLY made some typos at the end there! I was almost beginning to think you weren't human.

    With respect to typewriters and other "retro" technology, use of such things always seems to bring a sense of having to earn something. I have to commit to memory a telephone number or otherwise have to reference the number, and then go to the trouble of dialing a rotary phone (and God forbid my finger should slip on the rotor at the last moment and I have to start all over again). The point is, whether you're rolling your own cigarette or memorizing a phone number or pounding out words on a typewriter, there's the feeling that you're engaging the real world and not one made up of digital bytes and electric currents.

  22. rino breebaart

    agree on the authenticity angle, which is then swallowed up as hipsterism and spat out again, passé. But the use of them as writing machines will persist and work for a small dedicated crowd.

    I'd emphasise the analogue angle strongly – the physical interaction & means, the instant print quality, the sense of sufficiency and machine interaction – as a relation you don't have with digital tools. Digital used to mean anything related to fingers anyway, boom boom. This was made by hand.

    And, for some writers, typewriters are their preferred means of composition. That's not just habit; that's not just nostalgia or retro-hipster blah-blah, it's a relationship with the means/tools of composition. The machine lasts; the relation works; therefore typers will continue.

    One tool doing one thing well – that has a zen appeal.


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