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Two things happened yesterday. One of them you probably heard about. Unless you live under a rock or are my grandma you likely know by


The Microsoft Surface and Hipsters Buying Typewriters

typewriter mug.jpg
Two things happened yesterday. One of them you probably heard about. Unless you live under a rock or are my grandma you likely know by now that Microsoft unveiled, during a super-secretive, much hyped announcement at Milk Studios in Los Angeles, plans for its Microsoft Surface tablet - Redmond's answer to the iPad. But what you may not realize is I also read an article about hipsters buying typewriters.

It's true. All of it. Microsoft did, indeed, bust out at least a handful of specifics on its new Surface - teasing us with a keypad, and leaving only small details like the price and when they'll be available for another day.

And, yes, I did read a story by Jessie Schiewe on Salon about hipsters buying typewriters. Or, more specifically, a handful of nostalgia buffs, throwbacks and nerds - hipsters included - buying typewriters, leading to a quasi typewriter revival of sorts that's at least enough to support one fairly cool sounding typewriter store in Berkeley, inspire a few Facebook groups, and lead to the coining of the term "the Typosphere."

Are these things at all related, the unveiling of Microsoft's latest and greatest piece of Jetsons-esque technology and the fact that guys in tight pants and ironic facial hair are buying typewriters again? Almost certainly not. But let's pretend for a moment, at least for the sake of this blog post, that they are.

The Salon piece first details Jesse Banuelos, the only technician at Berkeley Typewriter:

Forty years ago, the shop was at the top of its game. But during the '90s, as computers became more affordable, fewer customers bought typewriters or needed them repaired. Many typewriter stores went out of business. Berkeley Typewriter laid off some staff and managed to remain open by offering services like printer, photocopier and fax repair. Banuelos is the store's only remaining technician who knows how to fix typewriters. He never learned how to type on a computer and for a time he worried that the typewriter industry would soon disappear.

He was wrong. In the last few years, both typewriter sales and repairs have increased at the store. Berkeley Typewriter experienced an increase in overall sales in 2011, moving about two or three a week. It's not like the olden days, Banuelos said, but it's enough.

And ...

Some customers bought machines years ago and still come in for repairs. Others used one when they were young and are nostalgic. But most of the customers are typewriter newbies, many of them in their 20s. Typewriters are never going to be a home or office mainstay again, but they've found new fans among hipsters who are repurposing them for the digital age.

"Let me tell you something," Banuelos said. "Young kids today, they want one of these machines." And he has the dwindling inventory to prove it.

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Microsoft's new Surface tablet
What could it be, leading people back to the typewriter? And what's leading kids to the typewriter for the first time? As the article implies, there was a point in history, not long ago, when we couldn't get out of the typewriter fast enough, when people were abandoning the typewriter en masse in favor of the ease and glow of the computer. Literally leaving them by the side of the road. Technology had offered us something better, something easier, and the decision to ditch the typewriter in favor of progress was easy.

And now, however many years later, people are returning. Technology has never been better, more widespread, more relied upon, more intuitive and sexy, yet there are some - far from a majority, but some - who long to get away from it.

Because of the simplicity, or the beauty, or the irony, or the freedom, or the history, or whatever.

More from Salon ...

By using the Internet to reach a broader audience, young typewriter enthusiasts have advanced their interest in novel ways. They hold "type-ins," for example, to type, talk and swap machines. Since the first one, held in Philadelphia in 2010, type-ins have taken place in other U.S. cities and in Switzerland. Although people of all ages attend type-ins, their main draw, Matt said, is so that people can experience a time when laptops did not exist.

Indeed, signs of typewriter fetishism are popping up around the hipsterverse. In 2010 a group of 20-year-olds in Boston discovered that they could make music from the machines and formed the Boston Typewriter Orchestra. Dozens of sellers on Etsy specialize in handmade typewritten invitations to weddings and events. Twenty-nine-year-old Zach Houston, who was recently profiled by NPR, makes money by selling personalized poems typed on the spot for customers.

Now, far be it for me to suggest that technology, and all its recent advancements, is leaving a growing number of people -even hipsters - feeling cold and empty on the inside. Far be it for me to suggest that as much as it advances, technology will never fill the void left by relics like the typewriter. That would be too easy, too obvious. It might not even be wholly accurate.

But the fact is, at least according to Salon, hipsters are buying typewriters. And unless they're the kind of hipster that only uses a typewriter as house decoration, that's pretty cool. And it does mean something. What it means I'm not exactly sure, but it's something.

The Surface tablet may have created the news of the day, but typewriters have carved out a warm, nostalgic place in our hearts - and that's something very little of today's newfangled gadgetry is likely to accomplish.

As exciting as yesterday's news was, something tells me, 20-plus years after its demise, hipsters will not be lining up to buy the Microsoft Surface.

Of course, I could be wrong. Hipsters are a strange bunch.

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