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Typewriters (huh?) make a comeback in post-Snowden era

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So, the typewriter, an icon of a bygone, pre-PC era, is, making a comeback. Say what?

The German government is reportedly thinking about using typewriters — non-electronic ones at that — for its clerical work, according to this Guardian report earlier this year. Why? Because they cannot be hacked.

From the story:

Asked “Are you considering typewriters” by the interviewer on Monday night, the Christian Democrat politican Patrick Sensburg said: “As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either”. “Really?” the surprised interviewer checked. “Yes, no joke,” Sensburg responded.


Last year, the same paper reported that Russia’s Federal Guard Service — responsible for protecting Vladimir Putin and other big wigs — was reverting to typewriters. They also cited concern over NSA snooping on electronic communications.

Welcome to life in the post-Snowden era.

Tom Furrier, owner of Cambridge Typewriter, a 48-year-old service shop in Arlington, Mass., agreed that interest in typewriters has been on the upswing, but in his view that trend started more than 10 years ago — and thus predates NSA-gate.

He sees interest both from those who fondly remember the sound of the carriage return but also those who are too young to know what a carriage return is.

The “under-30 crowd” likes the idea of analog technologies — just as many of them are looking at vinyl versus digital music, they like the idea of a non-digital machine, he said in a phone interview. But he also has a lot of business customers who want to keep their fleets of typewriters in tip-top shape. A Phoenix area typewriter shop is seeing a similar trend, according to this KTAR story.

There are practical reasons to keep the old Royal or Underwood or Smith Corona or IBM Selectric running. My dentist’s office uses the latest in cutting-edge digital X-ray imaging and other technologies. But it also still has a typewriter. When asked why they still have that machine, the office manager said it’s much easier to address one-off envelopes and labels with a typewriter, compared to a PC-and-printer combo.

It’s enough to make me want to dig up my old Royal, wherever it is.

3 Responses to “Typewriters (huh?) make a comeback in post-Snowden era”

  1. Of course, a Selectric isn’t a manual typewriter, so the “cool factor” is diminished by at least -1.

    Furthermore, it’s possible the National Snooping Association can spy on electric typewriters also, because there are electromagnetic signals associated with electric typewriter key-presses that may be able to be “intercepted” using the proper technology — hence the German governments reason for preferring only manual typewriters.

    Incidentally, we have some typewriters at (not a gratuitous link, per se … have to justify being on this site during the business day for work purposes) …