Skip to content

Typewriters rule!

Before computers came along, no possession was more important to me than my typewriter. I have been fascinated with typewriters — or anything with keyboards, really — for my entire life. I got my first typewriter when I was about 10 years old. My father even had an old touch-typing textbook, so I taught myself to type correctly right from the start.

In the 1980s, after I had computers and printers, I got rid of my typewriter. But I always longed for an IBM Selectric, particulary a Selectric III. The Selectric III was the very pinnacle of typewriter technology. I finally acquired one in 1997. The San Francisco Examiner had a whole pile of them abandoned in the basement, so I rescued a Selectric III. It worked pretty well for a while, but eventually, unless they’re kept oiled and maintained, Selectrics get sticky and stop working. Mine needed to be soaked in a bath of cleaning solvent, then put back together, lubricated, and adjusted. It was a splurge, but I finally got this work done. My Selectric III is now working like new.

The work was done by Bert at Executive Business Machines in Winston-Salem. Bert has been repairing typewriters for 65 years. He got started with IBM Selectrics in the 1960s, when he took an IBM class on Selectric repair. I also found out from Bert that he used to repair typewriters for the Winston-Salem Journal. That’s the newspaper where I got my first job and where I worked until I moved to San Francisco in 1991. So, without knowing it, I’ve been using typewriters maintained by Bert since 1966, when I first went to the Winston-Salem Journal as a weekend copy boy.

I’ve been thinking that there ought to be typewriter clubs these days — for people who still have and use typewriters and who send each other typewritten notes in the mail just for the heck of it.

Bert with my newly reconditioned Selectric III


  1. Quetal wrote:

    They have such a beautiful sound, especially when you’re really good at typing and the machine catches up to you, when you pause to think about what it is you are typing ;0

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 12:42 am | Permalink
  2. David L.M. Marcum wrote:

    IBM Selectrics are the Rolls Royces of typewriters. The feedback (both the sound and the pressure) from the keys was ideal for those of us who enjoy typing. I always achieved my best typing speeds on them. And Quetal is right: it was a lot of fun to hear the typewriter catch up.

    I wish someone would make a computer keyboard identical to the Selectric keyboard (with that wonderful “click” feedback).

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *