The New Typewriter

The magic of iPad focus

I remember being excited about going to my father’s office when I was growing up. Beyond seeing what he did on a day-to-day basis, it meant a trip to hang out with his secretary. And that meant a lesson in using a seemingly magical piece of technology: the typewriter.

This was the mid-1980s. There were personal computers, but most people still did not have one. Certainly, most small businesses were not yet using them as a replacement for much of anything, let alone typewriters. So I learned how to type on a typewriter, how to set a page, how to replace the ink ribbon, etc.

I loved a lot of things about the machine, especially the sound it made when your finger touched a key, triggering a long, letter hammer hitting the paper. But the thing I remember most is how great it was to be able to think about something and have the corresponding words appear on the page in real time. This was one of my very first real interactions with “technology”. And it was magic.

Then came the personal computer. By the time we got our first IBM PC in the late 1980s, I had forgotten all about that typewriter. The PC had a screen! It could play games! It could connect to something called Prodigy. This was true magic.

I didn’t think about typewriters much over the next decade. The required Wite-Out. Who would bother? But in recent years, nostalgia has kicked in. The thought of a machine only used to write longer form thoughts is compelling. No Twitter. No Facebook. No internet.

I’ve been thinking about this recently when wondering why I like to write on my iPad so much more than my computer. It’s not that the iPad is “better” for writing, it’s that it’s decidedly less distracting. Yes, you still have access to Twitter, Facebook, and the like. But it’s not open in a window just next to the window you’re composing in. It’s a different app. Sure, there are push notifications, but you can easily switch those off. Or let them pile up.

I’ve long been a fan of the Logitech keyboard attachments for the iPad. And the other day, I got a new one, the Ultrathin, which allows you to alter the iPad screen viewing angle. I’m sitting here typing this on the combination right now, and it’s brilliant. It reminds me of… a typewriter.

It even feels like I’m using a typewriter. Because there is no trackpad/hand rest below the keyboard, it feels like I’m attacking the keys at the typewriter angle, versus hovering over them at the keyboard angle.

It’s the best of both worlds in many ways. It has the benefits of correction, with the benefits of focus. And it’s decidedly portable. It may be the perfect writing machine.

Update 8/18/14: Continuing this theme, behold: the Hanx Writer.