He's developed an app for the iPad, called Hanx Writer, which "recreates the experience of a manual typewriter." I haven't tried it myself, but it apparently mimics the click of typing and the ding! of the carriage return bell. A "white-out" option may be forthcoming.
I must confess I'm intrigued by the app, but have no interest in going back to typing on a typewriter — which is what makes Hanx Writer perfect.
As a Gen X-er, I'm one of those people who used a typewriter for papers through high school and freshman year of college. I distinctly remember changing over to one of Wellesley's computers (using a floppy disk to save) at the end of my first year. A girl (not a particularly nice girl, as I recall, but in this instance she was) saw me struggling with typing a paper in a common room and finally cried, "I CAN'T STAND IT ANYMORE! YOU NEED TO USE A COMPUTER!" She taught me, bless her, and I never looked back.
And after that it was all computers, all the time. I used them at work (although there was generally a typewriter around for labels and FedEx forms, etc.). And then I used them for writing fiction.
I was trying to imagine writing a novel on a typewriter these days and the mind simply boggled. What do you mean I can't just insert an important detail after the scene is finished? What do you mean I can't change a character's name with a Find/Replace? What do you mean I can't take a typewriter to cafes/on trains/on planes?
I may try the Hanx Writer for nostalgia's sake, but I will never go back to actual typewriters again! (Insert fist-shake echoing Scarlet O'Hara's here.)
Reds, do you remember making the transition from typing on a typewriter to using a computer? How was it for you? Do you miss anything about the experience of typing?
HALLIE EPHRON: I can't imagine how anyone wrote a book on a typewriter. I'd transitioned before I got around to thinking I could write fiction. My mother wrote movie scripts on a manual and then electric typewriter, carbon copies and no white out even.
What I miss about typing: is yanking a piece of paper from the roller, either in anger when it wasn't going well or in satisfaction at the end of a well done page.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I learned to type on my Gramma Minnie's typewriter, one of those cool ones that came in a suitcase. I didn't have anything to type, though, since I was eight. So I copied out the vocabulary words from her Readers Digests.
I started being a reporter WAY before computers. And I remember, at Rolling Stone, having the page of my typewritten stories COATED with whiteout, since I had to make the change as soon as I saw the mistake.
I also became very adept at literally CUTTING my stories apart, with scissors, by paragraphs and and even individual lines, lines, and editing them by scotch taping them together in a different order.
I have to admit, sometimes I still do that.
RHYS BOWEN: I got a portable typewriter for my eighteenth birthday (ready to write the next great English novel). I never took a typing class and was always slow and mistake-ridden. And hated it. For many years I'd write in long hand and then transfer it to the typewriter, swearing and grumbling. When I arrived in America and had to get a job that was not the BBC agencies made me take a typing test and a knowledge test. The result was they had no jobs for someone who scored 100 percent on world knowledge and intelligence and could type 8 words a minute.
I used to pay to have someone type the final copy of my writing.
Then computers were invented. Halleluja! Suddenly I could write as fast as I could think. No white out. Freedom to move stuff around. I bought one of the first home computers in 1982 and have been blissfully happy ever since.
LUCY BURDETTE: I majored in French literature in college and was required to write a junior paper in French, and then a senior thesis. So I bought a little black typewriter and had the special accent keys installed: l'accent aigu and l'accent grave. It took a lot of pressure to pound out those words--with tendinitis, I can't even imagine managing a typewriter now. I'd have to retire).
But here's an amazing thing I found out when I googled the accents to remember their proper names. There's a website with a French keyboard http://french.typeit.org/ on which I typed this: Le café est ouvert, n’est pas? And, there's a way to get all these symbols using my Mac. The euro symbol, for example, typing "€"--that required holding down the option key and the shift key, and the number 2. So cool!
DEBORAH CROMBIE: Lucy, I wonder if there is something that works for PCs? I can't type the pound symbol--as in British pounds sterling--and it drives me crazy.
I learned to type on an IBM Selectric (does everyone remember the cool little spinning ball?) in secretarial school (on hiatus between colleges...) Before that, I always got my mother, who was a brilliantly fast typist, to type my papers for me. Now I can't imagine NOT being a touch typist, although switching keyboards really messes me up for a while. Computers with word processing software were just becoming commonplace when I wrote my first novel--in Word Perfect. (Anyone remember that??)
I can't imagine writing a novel on a typewriter. While I'm a fast typist now, I'm not terribly accurate, and I think my pages would look like Hank's news stories! I do still like a keyboard that has a slightly tactile response, though. A little click, a little bounce. It make me feel productive:-)
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I was working at my first post-grad-school professional job when I was introduced to the wonderful world of computers. I slid past typing lessons in high school because I wasn't going to be a secretary. (And because my mother, like Debs', typed all my papers for me. Thanks, Mom!)
When I started college in the early eighties, my folks gave me a spiffy new electric computer, with the back-space eraser that was great if you caught you error a few letters on. If it was further up the page, you had to use Wite-Out (TM). I once got drunk and gave myself a Wite-Out manicure, an experience the cosseted youth of today will never have.
Working at the Columbia Historical Society, I got to share a donated IBM with the entire rest of the staff. It came with no instruction manual or documentation, so whenever anyone figured out how to do something in DOS, he or she had to write it down in a loose-leaf binder we called The Chicken Book. The reason for the name is lost in the mists of time.
I left the nonprofit world to study law in '87, and by that time the law school had an entire computer room for students to use - none of us, of course, owned our own computers. I produced every law school paper on those computers, drafting by hand and then revising as I typed. It wasn't until I started dabbling in fiction (on a desktop that cost $2,000 and had less memory than the flash drive on my key chain) that I figured out how to draft while typing. What a liberating experience. Like Hallie, I can't imagine writing fiction on a manual typewriter. No wonder authors of yesteryear famously drank.
SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Lovely readers, do you remember making the transition from typewriter to computer? Are you nostalgic for the clicks of the keys and the bell of the return — or have you joined the cult of computer and never looked back? Would you use an app like Hanx just for fun?
Please tell us in the comments!