Friday, May 10, 2013

On Writing: Working in Two Worlds

     I've written here before of my interest in manual typewriters and the changes they make in my writing process. I have four of the things now, three-quarters of that stock picked up from the eternal yard sale set up a block or two from my favorite bar. My babies represent four of the big classic brands: Underwood, Olivetti, Royal, and Olympia.
Olympia Carina 1 (Early 1980s)

The Olivetti Lettera 33 (types in cursive, 1968)
Underwood Universal (1950s)

Royal Quiet Deluxe (1948)

     I love writing on the things. They smell like machine oil, dust, and ink and make quite a racket. The work feels like work, percussive, like I'm pounding the words out rather than politely poking them into my hard drive and Cloud. The downsides are, of course, the inability to save files electronically and a certain inflexibility in the editing room. 

    My heart leapt, then, when I found The fellow there, Jack Zylkin, has rigged a way to use a manual typewriter as a computer keyboard, linking it to your desktop, laptop, or iPad with Ye Olde USB port. Zylkin sells an "easy" conversion kit and a "DIY soldering kit." He also sells full conversions, but I think enough of my skills that I will attempt the process myself ... and then beg for help.

      Here's to the best of both worlds! 


  1. I've also been eying the USB conversion kit, though the ease seems to very much depend on the typewriter model. I wrote most of my last novel on manual typewriters, and used Word's OCR to get it into the computer. The results were mixed, to say the least. It was probably faster than re-typing, but not by much. I went a bit typewriter-crazy a couple of years ago, and did a write-up of all my typewriters on my blog:

    I haven't decided yet whether to write the next one that way, but there's something so satisfying about drafting on a typewriter, and the USB conversion might provide a more reasonable method.

    1. Daryl,
      I enjoyed the blog and the story about the twice-gifted Royal. I've yet to write anything beyond a few thousand words on my manual typewriters, and I salute your endurance.

      If I get the USBTypewriter first, I'll tell you how I like it. If you beat me to it, maybe you could give me a shout? I'm not likely to have time for the experiment for a few months at least.

  2. Just picked up an Underwood Master and a Smith & Corona Sterling to add to my collection. Underwood is my brand of choice, but I'm beginning to expand my horizons.

    I love writing out a draft on a typewriter. It's romantic. There is a finality in each keystroke, and a sense of connection between you and the machine's history.

    1. I had a small collection years ago, with a mind toward someday opening a writers' bar. The Underwood Master is a pretty thing.

  3. That is frickin' awesome! Will you drive South and hook a typewriter up to my computer?

    1. July 4? It make take me a couple of months to find time to rig my own, but if it works out ... It does sound pretty damned cool.