I still have two typewriters. One is a new-fangled electric which is light-weight and has enough 'memory' to correct itself for a few words (much as is in this library). The other is solid metal, takes two hands and brawn to cart from place to place and, if dropped on a foot would break bones. My father purchased it for me when I embarked upon this madness of being a writer. And - I realize - my father never owned nor used a computer. Thus does time go, clickety-clickety-clack.
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In Praise of Typing, the Clattering Kind
By GREG BEATO
AMID the civil hush of the New Main San Francisco Public Library, I recently experienced an aspect to writing I’d all but forgotten: noise. It happened in a workspace called the Typewriter Room. Operating the machine that gives the room its name, I struck the “T” key, then the “H” key, and for the first time in at least two decades, I was rewarded with the bracing clackety-clack of analog-era content production.
Enlarge This ImageJim Wilson/The New York Times
TACTILE Tate Swindell with the public typewriter in the San Francisco library. The room is used by about two people a day.
When the New Main opened in 1996, its boosters touted it as a “high-tech information retrieval center.” So did its critics. It had 300 computer workstations, additional electrical outlets for patrons who brought their own laptops, a sleek and airy layout with sightlines that made it the envy of every high-security prison warden in the land, and apparently, hidden in some low-tech, off-message nook, a Typewriter Room.
When I stumbled across a Web site mention of it a few months ago, I immediately envisioned an enclave where Mark Twain would feel at home. You know, dark-paneled walls, period carpeting, maybe a large, stuffed bird in the corner.
And of course a boxy, aggressively unergonomic typewriter, with a surfeit of levers, spools, guides, knobs, releases, gauges, clamps and keys.
Naturally, the Typewriter Room is nothing like that. It’s a cubicle-size room with glass walls that expose it to the rest of the library. It has a utilitarian, built-in desk. And while a small sign advises that the space is “designed for a maximum of two people to use comfortably,” that’s an optimistic assessment given the room’s single wooden chair.