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There’s a certain irony to reflecting on “California Typewriter” — an ode to technology predating the computer — in an email newsletter.
As some of our subscribers point out, irony abounds in the documentary. Although the Berkeley-based store for which the film is named shut down in 2020, Marion S. notes:
“In order to keep this shop repairing vintage items open and successful in today’s world, current technology, i.e., advertising on the internet, was found to be essential.”
Of the sculptor featured in the movie, listener Chris B. makes an observation in the same spirit:
“How fitting that an artist could find success selling a creation made from a typewriter to wealthy Silicon Valley execs who preside over the industry that helped make them obsolete.”
Like some of us at Marketplace, Steven P. was tempted to go out and buy a typewriter after watching the documentary (deciding against, in the end, not wanting “another tchotchke to add to my pile of ‘stuff’ that would ultimately collect more dust than produce letters”). Steven wonders whether some new technology might come close to the hands-on sensation of physical forebears:
“[John Mayer] found that the spellcheck’s red squiggle under misspelled words takes him out of the creativity mode. That seems completely valid, however, there is a computer solution which is a program on all PCs called ‘Notepad.’ It’s exactly that: a notepad with no bells or whistles to keep you from putting anything you want down, without judgment … But it still lacks that tangible feel of a typewriter which can never be replaced. Or can it? Most smartphones have ‘haptic’ settings,” Steven points out, referring to enhanced tapping sensation on screens and vibrations for certain actions that become tactile associations.
Not at all what David Brancaccio called “the clack, thump, ding and zip” of the typewriter but maybe a modern-day approximation. Maybe.
If you have yet to watch, it’s not too late. “California Typewriter” is available with a library card or university login on Kanopy and for free (sometimes with ads) on a variety of streaming platforms. More on the movie next week.
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