The Lost and Found Glory of Typewriters

Jul 6, 2010

Not long ago the typewriter used to occupy a proud of place in many offices.  Naturally a visitor to any government office was greeted by the typewriting noise that was emanating from these quintessential machines that gave the office sanctity of its own.   Today the typewriters have slowly disappearing from the offices.  The only places one can find these good old machines are government offices, police stations, courts, etc., which are also hit by the modernization bug and are opting for swanky offices.   Computers, the news avatar of the good old typewriters have long ago replaced the typewriters in most offices, as it is the need of the times.  Learning typing formed an essential part of young students soon after their SSLC mainly for those who were aspiring for a career those days.  The change is quite drastic in the last few years.

Typewriting institutes which once used to bustle with young and aspiring students are today desolate and many of them have either shut the shutters or have converted them as computer institutes.  

As a last nail in the coffin, the government has recently announced that hence forth typing tests would be conducted on the computers.   Naturally many feel that it is nothing but the death knell for the typewriters which till recently survived the onslaught from the computers.  They survived the assault despite writing obituaries and issuing death certificates a couple of years ago.  So it looked as though is it the end of the road for the typewriters as far as India is concerned.   But it is not to be.

(Old typewriters being kept for sale at Chor Bazaar in Mumbai - Pics: Rons Bantwal)

Despite predicting such a bleak future in India, it is said typewriters will thrive for another five to six years before they go into history books.  According to recent reports even in this age of computers about 12,000 typewriters are still produced in India mainly for export purposes and for domestic use also.  Godrej, which has an annual turnover of Rs. 8 crores from typewriters, exports the machines to many Asian and African countries even now.  The domestic demand for typewriters in India comes mainly from North East, which means that it is not yet curtains down for the manual typewriters. 

Typewriters have come a long way in India ever since the 1930’s when Remington made its presence in the country heralding a new wave of communication with emphasize on saving time money and paper.  It brought about a new change and was looked upon as a status symbol.   The machine revolutionized the work of many writers and journalists and that is why many people have turned nostalgic reminiscing about the bygone era when journalists made it big reporting from the remotest corners of the world or writers striking it rich with their novels having spent sleepless and struggling nights in the company of their typewriters for countless number of days and nights.  

Association of women with typewriters has become a part of the folklore and would go down in the annals of history for the simple reason that it was the typewriters which facilitated the entry of women in the offices, a major shift as earlier women were employed in factories and some service industries.  So much so it was presumed until recently that a typist is usually a female, a belief still prevalent even among the educated class.  

For those who swear by the typewriter and its good virtues there seems to be some good news.  Though many claim that the typing is a dying art and that typewriter is in the last leg of its journey taken take heart from the fact that there is a fresh demand to the typewriters to find a place into the collector’s items museums. Museums collect these machines realizing its importance as an inseparable part of the ongoing history of the people’s need to communicate.   It stands as the testimony to the great communication revolution, great design, and scientific achievements and also reflects the transformation of the workplace since its advent.  Some antique machines, especially the unusual ones are being sold on eBay for a good price, something that is unbelievable even to those who never had a fancy for the clucking machine.  

Typewriter, which once formed an essential part of our communication evolution and was a symbol of the social change, will continue to be talked about as it also the precursor to the modern day computer.  As an ancient saying goes as long as a dead persons name is spoken about or remembered he/she will live for ever.  Similarly if the typewriter is being talked about, collected, eulogized and makes way for the collector’s item then it has come a long way.  It is time to restore the machine from collecting dust or getting rusted among other waste.  Long live typewriter !! 

by Florine Roche - Daijiworld Media Network
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Comment on this article

  • Raju Aswani, Mumbai

    Wed, Dec 28 2011

    If you need any Smith Corona Daisy wheels, you may contact me by email:

  • Raju Aswani, Mumbai

    Sat, Jul 09 2011

    Lovers of Electric & Electronic Typewriters can contact me for Ribbons, Correction Tapes, Daisy Wheels, Golf Ball Type Elements for Brother, Canon, Olivetti, Hermes, Nakajima, Smith-Corona, Silverreed, Sharp, olympia,Triumph-Adler, Xerox,IBM, Facit Typewriters in Mumbai.

  • Raju Aswani, Mumbai

    Sat, Feb 26 2011

    If any IBM Electric Typewriter User in Mumbai requires IBM Golf Ball Elements in 88 or 96 characters in various Type Styles, I can provide him / her with it. Contact Raju Aswani on 9920444539 or email:

  • Gabriel P Fernandez, Mangalore / Abu Dhabi/UK

    Sun, Jul 11 2010


    Stress and contemplate, how IIT' PRINCETON's production of scientist and Engineeers Phd's -yet they dont have any basic knowledge of what is the "LOG" and SLIDE RULE two major heart valves components, (without which advancement of Science will remain absolutely STALLED ) in Combination of 9/10/11 Dimesional" Space - Time penetration-tunneling and destination travel.

    Iam proud of Melwyn -opportunity to make my Engineering project work with his typewriter and I even carry a copy of the project work. Even today, even today carries the old typewriter as a memento

    WE ARE NOW IN MANY RESPECTS 10, 000 YEARS BACK in the bullock cart.

    The computer age has changed the way we work today, with advantages and disadvantages, we should strive to erase and control young minds from the onslaught of adverse effects"and brain thought wisdom proces damages", as it is now mandatory in Jewish homes for the young children to be under restrictions in Israel.

  • John Tauro, Mangalore / Kuwait

    Thu, Jul 08 2010

    Typewriters and telex are the two machines through which I started my career and livelihood. It's so sad to see that these are disappearing from the offices.

  • Rudolf, Mumbai

    Thu, Jul 08 2010

    Dear Maam,

    Very good article. There are still some typewriting institutes out in Mumbai with some children finding it better to practice typing on mech. typewriters rather than feather touch keyboards!!

    The last typewriter unit of Godrej has been shut down if newsreports are to be believed.

  • Vishwanath Shetty, parkala / mumbai

    Thu, Jul 08 2010

    I honestly feel that those days are also not too far away when we may see article on Desktop PC..wherin we would write about the HP,Dell etc...Ofcourse Pentium & its earlier Processor are Obsolute even now.....
    Hats off to Inovation....With such a Great Pace !!

  • melwyn lobo, bejai/mangalore

    Wed, Jul 07 2010

    I had opportunity to use the typewriter during the 80's. My uncle who was a stenographer at KMC used to type thesis of medical students who were doing their project work.Each thesis was made up of 250 -300 pages and in the absence of the Xerox machine was necessary to make into duplicate with carbon paper. I had opportunity to make my Engineering project work with his typewriter and I even carry a copy of the project work. Even today Doctors recognize him for his typing skills and patience and wonder how he was able to do this.He even today carries the old typewriter as a memento The computer age has changed the way we work today, but during the good old 60'and 70's passing the typewriting and shorthand was a great achievement to enter the government or private sector.

  • Ronald, Mangalore

    Wed, Jul 07 2010

    Technology is advancing so the old technologies are vanishing. Computer is one of the greatest inventions which is used today for each and every job and automation all over the world. It has artificial intellignece built into it by programming. If you start wrting the advantgaes of computers then it is never ending.

  • Sanam.S., Nekhare

    Wed, Jul 07 2010

    good of comments poured in from one and all..each and everybody started there career with manual typewriter's only..its for today become advantage those who have good speed in typewriter to switch on to computer quickly..thx daiji..recalled memory of good- olden days....Jai Hindustan..

  • Gabriel Vaz, Bangalore

    Wed, Jul 07 2010

    After reading the comments, I did my own search & this is what I learnt:

    Patent for first English typewriter granted in 1714 to Henry Mill. But nothing is known. First US patent for typographer machine given to William Austin Burt in 1829 but never commercially produced.

    US Mechanical Engineer Christopher Latham Sholes invented first practical modern typewriter patented in 1868. It was commercially manufactured by Remington Co. in 1873. Carlos Glidden & Samuel W Soule were his other partners.

    Thomas Alva Edison invented first electronic typewriter in 1872 but was not successful at that time.

    German goldsmith & printer Johannes Gensfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg invented first modern movable type printing machine in 1438 & revolutionised book printing.

    Old-timers like me, who now use computers, started with typewriters & am always grateful to the machine's inventors. Thanks to Florine for this informative article. Keep writing, though not necessarily by typewriter.

  • Antony Herbert Crasta, Mangalore,Sydney/Australia

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    Bad luck for me - for, I had two nice portable manual typewriters in my possession for a long time, which I chucked away recently for nothing! Little did I know that they had such a marketable value as is being predicted by Mr Aboobaker Uppala after 50 years or so, when I won`t be around, and also I don`t expect to have any grand children either, as my two grown up sons are not in any mood to settle down into marriage and have kids.

  • Max E Rasquinha, Mangalore/Houston, Tx

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    Typewriters always prompt us to reveal the "Story of Glory" of all our past life. I learnt typewriting in the 9th Grade at St Aloysius College under the direction of Mr.Sadasiva Rao who was also the Principal of Canara School of Commerce at Hampankatta. I completed the Higher Grade Typewriting Diploma Course under the London Chamber of Commerce thru the Sunbeam Institute of Commerce at Falnir. I carried the double carriage Remington typewriter to Calicut by train to appear for the Exam at the YMCA in the year 1955.

    Tyopewriter was like a locomotive of our career then. Until I left Saudi Arabia in the year 1979 we always used non-electric typewriters in the Arab world due to lack of power facility. Hundreds of millions of dollars of sales was conducted thru ordinery typewriters. These are all proud memories to cherish in life that make us feel humble as well as proud that also make us feel rich and prosperous. The memories are precious and God's merciful life has been looming large throughout our life of pride and glory.

  • Richie Rebello, Belman/Syd, Australia

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    Nice article on Typewriters. Reminds me my first typing institute "Dildar School of Commerce", Koppalangady/Kaup & exam hall at Govt. College, Udupi. Love to type on manual typewriter...

  • aboobaker uppala, Uppala/Makkah

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    Nice Article...Whoever having such type writer,it will be a wealth for his grand children.Because it will be a antique piece after 50 years.

  • Juli, Mundkur/Doha Qatar

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    I love to type on manual typewriter instead of computer, I was a typing instructor for 2 years in Mumbai.I love the sound of typing on typewriter.

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    Please make a correction to the
    word IBM "seletric".

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    Great article.

    I always have a special respect for
    typewriters because one typewriter
    made the way for me to come to the

    My father got a brand new portable
    made in England typewriter
    "Imperial" in 1967. Typewriters
    of the institutes didn't type well,
    so I was caught up in a social
    service of typing. It became a
    big burden for me at times,
    however, I did it to help others.

    One total stranger came to type
    an important letter to be sent to
    the U.S., and I did that cheerfully
    for him, and God used that person
    for my coming to the U.S.

    Royal, Smith Coronoa, Underwood and
    Remington were the internationally
    known American products later
    on IBM introduced " ric"
    (letters on a ball), then the
    " daisy wheel" technology came.

    That great typewriter is going to
    disappear from the show within a
    few years. I still keep my old
    25 year old daisy wheel Smith
    Corona and it is working
    great. " Typewriter, I salute you".

  • Shiva Shetty, Kateel / UAE

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    - sorry no memory for typewriter ..... i started with computers in Ajaar Kateel... :)

  • shalini salian, mangalore

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    This article on typewriters took me back to the 1970s. My 60 w.p.m. in typing and 120 w.p. in shorthand enabled me to get stenographer post in mumbai's judicial dept. which i had to relinquish after i went abroad after marriage. typing memories still linger. even today when i sit in computer my husband appreciates my typing speed telling nobody can match me. this article today brought me sweet memories of 1970s when we really enjoyed typewriting. thanks Daiji.

  • Fredrick Correa, Nairobi, Kenya

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    The first typewriter was invented by Johanes Gutensburg of Germany. He invented in the year 1448 and the first job he did on the typewriter was to type the Bible which he completed in the year 1456. There were no commas, full stops or other signs. There was no space either. William Austin Burt inventing the typewriter in 1829 is news to me. Could someone throw more light on the history of typewriter. Thanks.
    We in Kenya, still import the typewriters from Godrej, India. They are useful to type out the forms and in villages where there is problem of electricity.

  • Abraham Coutinho, Mundkur/Bombay

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    I learnt typing in K.G. Mallya institute in Kinnigoly. He not only taught us typing but also how to cope up with time of emergency. During second world war import was a problem. If ribbon is faded, what to do? He told us to remove it from the spool and hang it spreaded in the bath room. It absorbs moisture and can be used for some time. Then what? he asked us.

    He said use three papers with two carbons underneath them and go on typing. Finish the job. Throw the first sheet. Write the word "Original" on the second and " Copy" on the third. Your purpose is served. He also took special classes for us and taught us how repair the typewriter to some extent. Like giving tention to drum when carriage moves slow. How to replace ribbon, drum rope when broken. Cleaning the keys and key holes and also certain other maintenance of the typewriter.
    He told us that dust is enemy of the typewriter machine. So always keep it covered.

    He had various brands of typewriters. Best of them were Remington and Underwood. Remington, I liked for it's speed. Underwood, for it's smoothness.

  • Jaimini P.B., Manipal,Sharjah

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    When I was attending Jr.Grade Typing exam in Udupi, One of the students became so nervous that he fainted in the exam hall.May be taka..taka..taka sound is a nightmare for him. And he upset my rhythm and speed also.I typed same para twice. So I got second class instead of easy first class. One more memory about typewriter is my uncle's story. His typewrter machine in the institution was so old that when he pressed the long bar(space bar),upper part of machine (where we keep paper) jumped and dashed against a machine where a new girl was slowly typing. That was the first and last day of her class.She didn't turn her face to the institution !!

  • Antony Herbert Crasta, Mangalore, Sydney/Australia

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    I started my working career as a Stenographer way back in the year 1961, after passing my  Government exam @ 100 wpm in Shorthand and 50 wpm in typing, and the memories of the various typewriters that I used, specially the Remington, are still fresh in my mind. The article brought back so many other memories of my working career as well - thanks Florine Roche! The knowledge of typewriting has come quite handy for me these days of computers since I can still type fast without looking at the keyboard, though, sadly, the shorthand has gone ashtray.

  • Frederick Pinto, Shirva

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    Today Typewriters have largely been replaced by computers for word processing and printing. The story of typewriter begins in the early 1430 but William Austin Burt invented first typewriter in 1829. I even leaned to touch typing on a manual typewriter. I actually took a typing class in Mumbai on a manual typewriter. So I'm pretty gentle on typewriter keyboards. Even now when I use it, I still feel like I have to hit the keys really hard to push them all the way down.

    I started working most of the typewriters were electic. My first office job on electic typewriter, no problem one learns to adjust to different kinds of typewriters. I have used Olivettis, Remmingtons, Olympias,Brother ect...ect...However I love to type with manual brother typewriter. Even with the fingers I was soon capable of fifty to sixty words per minute.

  • ruchir agarwal, mangalore

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    I have a old remington type writers ...does anyone want to buy it?

  • Rons Bantwal, Mumbai

    Tue, Jul 06 2010

    Old is Gold Typewriters Mechines are Now available at Chorr Bazar, Mumbai. Nice Write-up.
    Rons Bantwal

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