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Quotations about Typewriters


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Don't expect the typewriter to ever completely disappear... ~Hal Fair, National Product Coordinator for the Brother International Corporation, quoted in "Typewriters of Electronic Era," The New York Times, 1984


The children... what they are in the world for I don't know, for they are of no practical value as far as I can see. If I could beget a typewriter — but no, our fertile days are over. ~Mark Twain, letter to William Dean Howells, 1899


In the late '70s, I bought a typewriter — portable enough for world travel and sturdy enough to survive decades of ten-fingered beatings. I've since acquired many more — each different in design, action, and sound. Each one stamps into paper a permanent trail of imagination through keys, hammers, cloth and dye — a softer version of chiseling words into stone. ~Tom Hanks, Hanx Writer introduction, 2014  [Hanx Writer is an iPhone and iPad app that recreates the experience of a manual typewriter, developed by Hitcents.com. –tg]


The biggest obstacle to professional writing today is the necessity for changing a typewriter ribbon. Any school that can teach me how to do this can triple my earning capacity overnight (making it three dollars). Anybody can write, but it takes a man with snake-charmer's blood to change a ribbon. ~Robert Benchley (1889–1945)  [Ditto for the modern-day printer toner cartridge! –tg]


Man is a type-writing machine, unconsciously printing his daily record, to be submitted to the great Proof-reader. ~James Lendall Basford (1845–1915), Seven Seventy Seven Sensations, 1897


Sometimes when I look at a thing I've written I get the feeling that I must have gone out of the room and left the typewriter running. ~Gene Fowler (1890–1960), to Cecil Smith, Los Angeles Times


After a while the typewriter keys are the most comfortable place for your fingers. You miss the sound when you are away from your machine. Your mind works faster when you are sitting in front of it and words seem to put themselves on the paper of their own accord. You get to look for the "e" that is out of alignment, the key that sticks, and the funny clicks when you use the back spacer. Talk about the violinist who knows every mood of his instrument! The typewriter is just as temperamental. Sometimes it won't help you dig out a single bright idea, sometimes it puts thoughts down before you have formulated them in your mind. ~Elizabeth R. Hartman, "Ink in the Blood," in The Modern Writer's Art, edited by Theodore J. Gates & Robert E. Galbraith, 1936


A catless writer is almost inconceivable; even Ernest Hemingway, manly follower of the hunting trophy and the bullfight, lived waist-deep in cats. It's a perverse taste, really, since it would be easier to write with a herd of buffalo in the room than even one cat; they make nests in the notes and bite the end of the pen and walk on the typewriter keys. ~Barbara Holland (1933–2010), The Name of the Cat, 1988


And how can I believe in God when just last week I got my tongue caught in the roller of an electric typewriter? ~Woody Allen, "Selections from the Allen Notebooks," 1973


Most writers have a cherished beat-up typewriter and a favorite well-maintained pen. ~Terri Guillemets


Daily my soul keeps rubbing out and writing in new lines upon my face; and in the same way my typewriter, in a slow, more stolid fashion, responds to my spirit too. Two men changing typewriters or motor-cars are, though more subtly, like two men changing boots. Sewing machines, pianos, and fiddles grow intimate with the people who use them, and they come to express those particular people and the ways in which they are different from others... Steel bars and wooden levers all have little mannerisms, little expressions, small souls of their own, habits of people that they have lived with, which have grasped the little wood and iron levers of their wills and made them what they are. ~Gerald Stanley Lee, "Dead as a Door Nail!," Crowds: A Moving-Picture of Democracy, 1912


And the lunch hour is always extended unofficially for another half hour or so by the judicious smuggling of refreshments from the cafeteria. The necessity for concealment produces some quite unpleasant results. A piece of chocolate dropped into the innards of a typewriter can produce a mechanical problem undreamed of by I.B.M. ~Gerald Raftery, "Ambrosia — with Mayonnaise Yet!," in The New York Herald Tribune, 1961


I have the oldest typewriter in the world. It types in pencil. ~Steven Wright, A Steven Wright Special, 1985, stevenwright.com


Yes, let us clear the typewriter off the table: an ink-well is a sacred thing. ~Christopher Morley, "On Filling an Ink-Well"


As a playwright, Williams had the minor defects of his major virtues. He sometimes ran a purple ribbon through his typewriter and gushed where he should have dammed. ~T. E. Kalem (1919–1985)  [Tennessee Williams –tg]


Here's to the Typewriter!
Health to her type!
Whether blond or brunette
Or budding or ripe.
If she be the right type
Be she buxom or slight,
When she doesn't type wrong
She is sure to typewrite.
~Oliver Herford, "To The Typewriter," Happy Days, 1917


I will now claim — until dispossessed — that I was the first person in the world to apply the typewriter to literature. The early machine was full of caprices, full of defects — devilish ones. It had as many immoralities as the machine of to-day has virtues. After a year or two I found that it was degrading my character, so I thought I would give it to Howells... He took it home to Boston, and my morals began to improve, but his have never recovered. ~Mark Twain (1835–1910), "The First Writing Machines"


My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane. ~Graham Greene, International Herald Tribune, 1977


Don't be too harsh to these poems until they're typed. I always think typescript lends some sort of certainty: at least, if the things are bad then, they appear to be bad with conviction. ~Dylan Thomas, letter to Vernon Watkins, 1938


The typewriter is so much more to be reckoned with than the sword. ~Lee Thayer, Persons Unknown, 1941


I feel so grateful to the man who invented the "Traveller's" typewriter... ~Bram Stoker, Dracula, 1897


...not that typewriting always insures success, but... a penscript unless it is unusually legible is foredoomed to failure. When, in this competitive age, the vast majority of writers have their stuff typewritten, it will not pay you to have your penscript stamp you as an amateur. ~Victor Lauriston, "Literature as a Business," in The Writer, 1905


First of all, your manuscript should be neatly and correctly typewritten. I don't care how legibly you may write, you can't compare with the printed letters of the machine. ~Leslie W. Quirk, "How to Write a Short Story," 1904


This manuscript... is written in a clear and beautiful hand on which Dr. [Samuel] Warren justifiably prided himself. It will long remain as a chief memorial of the conscientious work of the old style author—the writer before the days when the typewriter destroyed the art of calligraphy. ~"The MS. of 'Ten Thousand a Year,'" The Book-Lover, December 1903


Stories live in typewriters. Try a different typewriter — you may get a different story. ~Terri Guillemets


I was once interviewed by Barbara Walters... and while we were off-camera, she seemed very interested in my prolificity and wondered whether I didn't sometimes want to do other things, rather than writing. "No," I said. She said, "What if the doctor gave you six months to live. What would you do?" I said, "Type faster." ~Isaac Asimov, "Prolificity," I. Asimov: A Memoir, 1994  ["It happened. He didn't brood. He did try to write faster, but eventually I had to type for him because his hands wouldn't work. Nevertheless, he was a writer to the end." ~Janet Jeppson Asimov, "Compulsive Writing," Notes for a Memoir on Isaac Asimov, Life, and Writing, 2006 —tg]


An old racetrack joke reminds you that your program contains all the winners' names. I stare at my typewriter keys with the same thought. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1963


Author:  a dancer of typewriter keys. ~Terri Guillemets


The book's idea or theme or meaning has been stirring about in your consciousness for months and probably years. When the idea first hits you you feel enormously stimulated and heightened. Then you wish you could get away from it, but now nothing but death can separate you from it. It's no use... Now everything else in your life takes second place or fades out of your consciousness altogether. Clothes are unimportant, letters go unanswered for days or even weeks, parties you regard with a lackluster eye, travel is a lure to be avoided like death, for it is ruin to the sustained rhythm of your work day. Teeth go unfilled, bodily ills run unchecked, your idea of bliss is to wake up on Monday morning knowing that you haven't a single engagement for the entire week. You are cradled in a white paper cocoon tied up with typewriter ribbon. Awake and asleep the novel is with you, haunting you, dogging your footsteps. Strange formless bits of material float out from the ether about you and attach themselves to the main body of your story as though they had hung suspended in air for years, waiting. ~Edna Ferber (1885–1968), A Peculiar Treasure, 1939


I write description in longhand because that's hardest for me and you're closer to the paper when you work by hand, but I use the typewriter for dialogue because people speak like a typewriter works. ~Ernest Hemingway, as quoted in A. E. Hotchner, The Good Life According To Hemingway, 2008


I'll tell you, I just sit at the typewriter and curse a bit. ~P.G. Wodehouse, interview, Collier's, 1956  [his method for writing —tg]


Dying of a misprint was the fate predicted by a certain medical professor for a patient who persisted in treating himself by means of the prescriptions he found in medical textbooks. The patient might well have retorted that he was more likely to die of an illegibility in the handwriting of a physician, whose prescription could not be properly deciphered by the dispensing druggist. We are not aware that anybody ever did actually die of a misprint in a textbook; we have authentic instances of deaths due to badly-written prescriptions. Quite apart from such a tragic consideration as this, however, illegibility on the part of a doctor is apt to cause all sorts of embarrassment; and everybody's handwriting is more or less illegible to everyone else. Anyway, handwriting is old-fogeyish and out of date in these days. The clear, neat, unmistakable print of the typewriter is the only justifiable method of the twentieth century. ~Multiplex Hammond Writing Machine ad, "Department of Progressive Advertisers," The American Journal of Clinical Medicine, May 1918


Calligraphy, a spiritual art that has been forgotten in favor of an emotionless keyboard. ~Stefan Boldisor, via Goodreads


Before the typewriter, this was a booming career path, as nearly every major business needed a competent and proficient penman on hand... during the golden age of penmanship (roughly 1860 to 1930). ~Master Penman Jake Weidmann


The type-writer is a machine with an educational future. A dilettante may object to its introduction into the schools, but its practical success wherever it has been answers all objections... Writers can do more work on the type-writer with less visual fatigue than with pen and ink. The boys and girls who learn its use in school exercises become acquainted with a labor-saving friend which will stand by them through life. ~“Editorial,” Common School Education: Devoted to the Art of Instruction, William A. Mowry, ed., January 1887


Your letter's received—and I see you
Seem to think my pen-script is blind,
And suggest that (from trouble to free you)
I ought a typewriter to find...
~Joel Benton, "To a Bad Penman," in Home and Country Magazine, 1894


The pen is mightier than the sword, and the typewriter is mightier than both. ~20,000 Quips & Quotes, Evan Esar, 1968


I've had secrets come out of my typewriter in invisible ink. ~Terri Guillemets



Page Information:
Original post date 2012 Jun 25
1st major revision 2015 Mar 5
Last saved 2021 May 19 Wed 19:35 PDT
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