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Last Typewriter Factory in the World Shuts Its Doors 249

Posted by samzenpus
from the goodbye-wite-out dept.
SEWilco pointed out that the last typewriter factory has shut its doors. Indian typewriter manufacturer Godrej and Boyce stopped production today after 60 years. The company's general manager, Milind Dukle, says, "We are not getting many orders now. From the early 2000s onwards, computers started dominating. All the manufacturers of office typewriters stopped production, except us."
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Last Typewriter Factory in the World Shuts Its Doors

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:21PM (#35944736)

    Brother still makes and sells typewriters. This is just bad reporting by The Atlantic, which has REALLY gone down hill since it changed hands.

    I assume that this is the last *manual* typewriter factory.

    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:27PM (#35944834)
      Yes. Also the company is not shutting down. It is merely selling the last 500 manual typewriters and focusing on its other products. It also stopped making them in 2009.
      • by sootman (158191)

        >> Brother still makes and sells typewriters.
        > Also the company is not shutting down.
        > It also stopped making them in 2009.

        But other than that it's a pretty good article. :-)

    • by MarkGriz (520778) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:30PM (#35944880)

      I assume that this is the last *manual* typewriter factory.

      Nope. Someone posted this comment there:

      This article is NOT correct. I am with Royal Consumer Information Products in Somerset, NJ. We have been making typewrithers for over 100 years. We are still making both manual and electronic typewriters and we have no plans to discontinue them! True, the market size is small in comparison to what it once was but there is still a steady demand for both types of typewriters.

      So, it appears to be a crap story. Moreover, WTF does this have to do with news for nerds

      • by SteeldrivingJon (842919) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:41PM (#35945034) Homepage Journal

        "Moreover, WTF does this have to do with news for nerds"

        Interest in typewriters is pretty nerdy.

        But even nerdier, there are still people hacking typewriters into USB keyboards and such, or doing Arduino hacks, etc.

      • by Insightfill (554828) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:42PM (#35945054) Homepage

        We have been making typewrithers for over 100 years.

        Apparently, not very good ones.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mariox19 (632969)

        I took a look at the Royal Consumer Information Products site, [royalsupplies.com] and it seems like they're either no longer selling manual typewriters or are currently out of them, with no word as to when they'll have them back in stock.

      • Swintec still makes them too, although they primarily do government sales: http://www.swintec.com/ [swintec.com]

        Yes they are expensive, but they seem to be well built.
        • by MoonBuggy (611105)

          I spent a few minutes clicking around on the site, and I'm intrigued by a few things: the first is that there's a market for typewriters for use by prison inmates, the second is that the different versions (marked for different states) appear to vary only in memory size, and the listings state that "Memory sizes greater than those permitted in any specific correctional facility will be rejected at the facility property room.".

          Anyone know enough to elaborate on that? I can imagine situations where a typewrit

          • by Zerth (26112) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:16PM (#35946390)

            To limit the ability of inmates to pass notes using the internal storage of electric typewriters, same reason tape recorders(but not players) are frequently prohibited.

            You only need one line to type "shiv jimmy in block 8", so I'm not sure why there is a specific limit instead of only permitting electric typewriters that clear on power down.

            For that matter, you could just look at the ribbon and see what the last guy typed.

            • by MoonBuggy (611105)

              I hadn't thought of that, but it still doesn't really make sense. Not only the fact that (as you said) you don't need much to pass a note, but that the memory sizes were all of the order of tens of kB - several pages at least. Unless your prisoners are communicating by means of epic verse, that shouldn't be too onerous a limitation for them. Perhaps it's just a stupid rule, I suppose, but I would have hoped for more satisfying logic.

      • WTF does this have to do with news for nerds

        Well if you don't know, then you're clearly not nerdy enough.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Please turn in your nerd card.

      • by rubycodez (864176) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:09PM (#35946304)
        Typewriters still have at least two important uses. One is for filling out duplicate/triplicate/quadruple pressure-sensitive forms that have to be done in either pen or typewriter (I had to do some a couple years back for a foreign government as part of immigration of relative).

        The other important use is that some famous writers love them rather than computers for whatever reason, some authors that slashdotters like might be some of those people.
        • Another use manual typewriters have is for filling out forms or typing documents involving classified information, without having to prepare and file a 70-page System Security Plan, get approval from everyone from the cook on up through God, and do weekly security audits.

      • Back in the late 80s or so, a friend of mine was moving off to Africa. We tried to find a manual typewriter for her, but nobody really sold them any more - electrics had pretty much replaced them. Eventually we found a children's manual typewriter, which was fairly light-weight and portable.
        I wish I'd known about that typewriter company back then - I lived an hour or so away from Somerset.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I assume that this is the last *manual* typewriter factory.

      Gotta be. There's still a fairly significant (captive) market for typewriters in prisons that continues to be met:

      http://www.google.com/search?q=site:walkenhorsts.com+typewriter [google.com]
      http://www.google.com/search?q=site:https://www.accesscatalog.com/+typewriter [google.com]

      (Though looks like they're mostly Swintec these days. E.g., http://www.swintec.com/clear-typewriters/21-2410cc-michigan.html [swintec.com])

      We used to have to have specific manual typewriters (no built-in memory or spell-check) for law school exams, though that pretty much

    • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:50PM (#35945196)

      I tried to post a correction to the Seattle PI when they picked up this bullshit story, and they didn't publish it. Then Neatorama picked up the same bullshit story, but at least there I could leave a comment saying it was bullshit. (Actually, I just checked back-- looked like Neatorama pulled it. So there's one success story, I guess.)

      Is there anybody in news who fact-checks before republishing? This is just embarrassing, for the Atlantic, the Seattle PI, and every other paper that's copy-and-pasted this non-story.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Facts? Who needs facts with the New Media? Are you trying to slow down the march of progress?

    • manual typewriters use to be jammin... jammin to the end of the night. it is now gone (from the new realm).
    • There is still a demand for typewriters - For instance, I know that some law enforcement organizations need to type things onto cards. Also certain insurance agents type things onto cards.

      These things break, they get dropped, they are simple and generally built to a price.. No-one knows how to or wants to repair them - with the exception of one wholesaler I dealt with, Carolina Wholesale. They sell typewriters and also can repair them. The demand is low, sure, but if you look you will see typewriters out
    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Tragic Hipster. Someone riding a fixed gear bike while wearing a backpack that costs more than $100 filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

  • Guess means we won't be seeing any more Harry Potter books?

  • Anndddd.. (Score:2, Funny)

    by drewsup (990717)
    Nothing of value was lost...
    • by kimvette (919543)

      . . . until you need to deal with lots of forms where no PDF is available but you want to ensure the form is entirely legible, or when you need to complete a form with carbon copies.

      For the former, geeks can scan in the form, import it into photoshop or gimp and rotate/align and crop it, then overlay text over the fields. Do you expect the typical administrative assistant to be able to do that?

      There will always likely be some need for manual typewriters, and dot matrix printers as well for that matter.

      Dot m

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Dot matrix printers: When it comes to debugging very poorly written undocumented spaghetti code (especially VB with goto abuse all over the place) nothing beats a wide dot matrix printer and tractor paper for making sense of spaghetti code because you can see all the code at once and trace through the spaghetti.

        My impression is that this is a different anti-pattern, one megafunction and tons of global state - no encapsulation or classes. Spaghetti code is typically recognized by massive and unstructured layers and calling, making it impossible to see where one code call goes like tracing one piece of spaghetti on a plate. A matrix printer won't do you any good because it's not linear at all.

        • Dot matrix printers: When it comes to debugging very poorly written undocumented spaghetti code (especially VB with goto abuse all over the place) nothing beats a wide dot matrix printer and tractor paper for making sense of spaghetti code because you can see all the code at once and trace through the spaghetti.

          My impression is that this is a different anti-pattern, one megafunction and tons of global state - no encapsulation or classes. Spaghetti code is typically recognized by massive and unstructured layers and calling, making it impossible to see where one code call goes like tracing one piece of spaghetti on a plate. A matrix printer won't do you any good because it's not linear at all.

          Wrong there buddy. It doesn't matter if the code is linear or not. After having dealt with typical procedural spagetti in FoxPro, QuickBasic and PickBasic or VB megafuncs, nothing beats tractor paper and a wide dot matrix printer. Sometimes a debugger just doesn't cut the mustard, and nothing beats the he ability to print a megachunk of shitty code all at one, that you can tape to a whole and look at it as a whole. That's one of the things I sometimes (but certainly not always) miss from the good ol' days.

          • by sconeu (64226)

            Actually there's exactly one thing that beats tractor paper and a wide dot matrix printer...

            Tractor paper and a wide *CHAIN* printer. At my first job, we had a Dataproducts chain printer that did about 6PPM text only on 14" wide tractor feed.

      • by jeffmeden (135043)

        . . . until you need to deal with lots of forms where no PDF is available but you want to ensure the form is entirely legible, or when you need to complete a form with carbon copies.

        For the former, geeks can scan in the form, import it into photoshop or gimp and rotate/align and crop it, then overlay text over the fields. Do you expect the typical administrative assistant to be able to do that?

        If a typical administrative assistant can't do that... They had sure as hell at the least posses legible handwriting!

        Also, the article is (overgeneralizing and) saying that fully mechanical typewriter production is no more (according to a survey sample of 1) but doesn't mention that electronic typewriters will live a long time, for reasons similar to your concern.

      • by b0bby (201198)

        . . . until you need to deal with lots of forms where no PDF is available but you want to ensure the form is entirely legible, or when you need to complete a form with carbon copies.

        I bought a Brother typewriter last month just so we'd be able to type out 1099 forms - spending the $80 was better than any alternatives. I was actually a little surprised at how easily available they are.

      • by slapout (93640)

        Ah, yes. I remember putting carbon paper in between two sheets of form feed paper so I could print two copies at once. When I tried two sheets of carbon paper (3 copies at once) it always jammed...

    • I see what you did there. Well played.
  • ...when there's Michael Winslow [vimeo.com]? :D

    *cue "We can emulate them, we have the technology" jokes*

    np: Alva Noto - Teion Acat (Xerrox Vol. 2)

  • by bmo (77928) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:35PM (#35944944)

    Brother still makes an array of electric typewriters.

    http://www.brother-usa.com/Typewriters/default.aspx?src=productIndex [brother-usa.com]

    Still useful for multipart forms (yes, they still exist, unfortunately), labels, and envelopes. Laser printers don't do so well on these. Laser printers have the unfortunate habit of heating the page of labels, so after a couple of passes, you throw away the rest of the page if you haven't used it (or you have a fun time digging out random labels from the laser printer).

    --
    BMO

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:38PM (#35944978)

    This made me reminisce about touch typing classes we took in high school in 1977. They were taught on manual typewriters that had several inches of key travel to them. It was damn hard to get up much speed, but I eventually managed 76 WPM for an extended period. Most of the class struggled to get into the 50's. (I can hit well over 100 on a modern PC keyboard - higher if I tolerate some mistakes). I don't know how long the things had been there, but they look ancient when I was there in the late 70's. I'm guessing they were from at least the 1950's.

    I'm always surprised when I watch most of the younger generation that grew up with computers trying to type on them. It's painful to watch. You'd figure that people who grew up with PCs as a part of their lives would be good at it, and a few certainly are, but more often than not they struggle, type very slowly, and can't type without looking at the keyboard the whole time! Then again, they also struggle to do what seems like basic operational tasks with the same computers. If the goal is to rename 200 files in the same way, I'll do it with a one line script in about 20 seconds, while most younger people I know will sit there for 45 minutes and do it by hand with a GUI file manager. I had once guessed that the generation growing up with personal computing would be proficient at using them, but in virtually every case, I'm the one that ends up helping them with anything that's nontrivial. Weird.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      Come on, how many of the "younger generation" do you really observe type? I'm sure your sample size is way too small to get a valid view. And I did one touch typing class in junior high but fortunately nothing stuck; formal touch-typing methods are absurd.
      • by DarkOx (621550)

        Did your write your post without touch typing? I'd be really surprised if you did. Maybe you fingers just sort of know where to go and you don't always return to home row or whatever but I would be pretty surprised if you were even looking at the keyboard when your write that, I bet you looked at the display.

        Formal touch-typing is not really about "the correct way to type" its a starting point and a set of exercises to encourage the development of kinetic memory so the typist's hands just know what to do.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      Then again, they also struggle to do what seems like basic operational tasks with the same computers. If the goal is to rename 200 files in the same way, I'll do it with a one line script in about 20 seconds, while most younger people I know will sit there for 45 minutes and do it by hand with a GUI file manager. I had once guessed that the generation growing up with personal computing would be proficient at using them, but in virtually every case, I'm the one that ends up helping them with anything that's nontrivial.

      "Growing up with computers" != "Growing up with shell scripting"

      Oh, there I go again...

      • by cusco (717999)
        Bingo. If you learned on a DOS or CPM operating system you learned how to create batch files and the like. In some ways the modern GUIs are great, but they shield users from the actual guts of the operating system so they never get that exposure. My co-irkers, who learned about computers sometime after Win95 came out, are always surprised what is possible at the command line.
    • by slapout (93640)

      I still think one of the best things I did in college was take a typing class (they called it "Keyboarding"). It was a lot of work, but by the end of the class I could touch type. And it's a skill I still use every day.

    • by MoonBuggy (611105)

      I think it's something that we geeks will never get our heads around (and it's certainly not limited to computers), but evidently many people genuinely don't care, or even think to ask: "How does that work?"

      Even matters we would consider absurdly basic (computers run on code, which can be repetitively executed using loops, for example) aren't necessarily self-evident if you don't stop to think and/or ask about it. The bit I find hard to understand, though, is how someone can sit at a computer every day and

    • by dpbsmith (263124) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @05:58PM (#35947370) Homepage

      Our high school typing classes in the 1960s used a set of records--78 RPM shellac records, of course--of rhythmic music. The rhythms were calibrated in words per minute--30 wpm, 35, wpm, 40 wpm, etc. The same piece of music was used for several increasing speeds, then as you got to some faster speed you were rewarded by getting to hear a different piece of music.

      The slowest ones used a piece of march music named "American Patrol," which is one of those pieces of music most people cannot name but recognize instantly when they hear it. YouTube has a recording [youtube.com], not the same recording (and incorrectly identified--it's by F. W. Meachum, not Sousa). The typing records were, of course, played with a very heavy, steady, square beat. To this day I can't hear this piece of music without thinking "F-R-F-space-J-U-J."

      Quite seriously, though, all touch-typing classes--not just in my high-school days, but in my mother's high school days--drilled into you the importance of maintaining an absolutely steady, even rhythm. You didn't slow down, even when stretching with the left pinky to hit the exclamation point, and you didn't speed up, even when you're typing T-H-E.

      I'm not sure how this particular bit of lore got lost. As nearly as I can tell, the generation that has learned to "key" on computer keyboards is not being taught to keep a steady rhythm. I don't know if the importance of the steady rhythm is real or just tradition or superstition; we were taught it and I believed it and still do.

      Incidentally, typing on a high-quality, properly maintained office manual typewriter had a distinctly sensuous pleasure to it. The inertia of the typebars and the force profile of the keyboard had apparently evolved to feel good. In my high school days they had a mix of manual and electric typewriters. I could type faster on the electrics, and of course they produced better-looking typing, but they weren't as pleasant to use. Cheap portables were, of course, no fun, but a good full-size office Royal or Remington... mmmmmmmm.

      • by julesh (229690)

        Quite seriously, though, all touch-typing classes--not just in my high-school days, but in my mother's high school days--drilled into you the importance of maintaining an absolutely steady, even rhythm. You didn't slow down, even when stretching with the left pinky to hit the exclamation point, and you didn't speed up, even when you're typing T-H-E.

        I'm not sure how this particular bit of lore got lost. As nearly as I can tell, the generation that has learned to "key" on computer keyboards is not being taught to keep a steady rhythm. I don't know if the importance of the steady rhythm is real or just tradition or superstition; we were taught it and I believed it and still do.

        It's interesting, and although I have never had formal touch typing lessons I do find I tend to fall into a rhythm when typing long words, but unless I'm copy typing I have to pause between words to be sure I know where I'm going with my sentence, and as I spend very little time copy typing I guess that rhythm isn't very useful to me. I could see how it would be if I were copy typing though. So, what I guess I'm saying is: the way you were taught is probably the best way to copy type, but as copy typing i

    • by sconeu (64226)

      [AOL]
      Me too!
      [/AOL]

      In 1977, I learned on ancient (probably late '50s/early '60s) Royal manuals with the long travel, and you also needed a crapload of force on them to make sure the key actually *hit* the paper.

      I also can do over 100 on a PC keyboard for the same reason (I joke that I do 100wpm forwards and 40 wpm backwards *cough*backspace*cough*). The only problem I have is the muscle memory from that early training, and I still *pound* the keyboard.

  • Don't worry i have two typewriters in my old office.
  • by b4upoo (166390) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:45PM (#35945090)

    Anyone that ever had to prepare formal documents on an old fashioned, manual typewriter should enjoy their extinction. In strict academics white-out was not allowed and carbon copies were also limited by the stern, old guard. One wrong space or mark and one had to start the entire page again. Entire forests were probably struck down just from spelling errors by students or professors. We went through a lot of paper and the time needed to complete a report could be in several days rather than an hour or so.

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      been there done that, but there are tricks of the trade for correcting without a casually visible trace (solvents such as benzene also used by crooks for "check-washing")
  • how would you type up a commendation, award recommendation, or promotion order in the field (at war)?

    Or is the modern Army just totally predicated on having power, and can't function without it?

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Why would you need to do that in the field?
      You can't fail back to handwriting if you absolutely have to?

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @02:58PM (#35945306) Journal
    As others have pointed out, there are other companies still making and selling manual typewriters. But Godrej is probably the last major English manual typewriter maker. I have used this typewriter, and it is almost ubiquitous in India. Almost every village or a hamlet in India would have a "typewriting" institute. Tiny private trade schools. It was almost a rite of passage in South India to join one of these institutes and pass the "lower" (60 wpm) or the "higher" (90wpm) certificate examns. If you could get a higher certificate in typewriting or shorthand (90 wpm and 120 wpm respectively in shorthand) you are sure to find a job. One of the most surefire tickets out of poverty for the rural folks. I remember seeing a magazine story about a steno-typist who built a temple for Pitman, the originator of English shorthand long time ago.

    Now a days all these "typewriting institutes" are teaching Java/Oracle/Dcom/PeopleSoft/Ansys and all kinds of assorted often unrelated software packages.

  • Is this what it takes to work for the Atlantic? Seriously? The clown gets the basic story wrong because he was too lazy to do five minutes of research, then waxes nostalgic over typewriters while calling the ribbon "tape"? TAPE? What a maroon.

    • Is this what it takes to work for the Atlantic? Seriously? The clown gets the basic story wrong because he was too lazy to do five minutes of research, then waxes nostalgic over typewriters while calling the ribbon "tape"? TAPE? What a maroon.

      Both of my electrics had carbon-film-on-plastic ribbons that could reasonably called "tape". I have never seen a manual with such a ribbon, though.

  • Think of it like a keyboard . . . attached directly to a printer . . . without all of the computer shenanigans . . .

    • I see a future apple product!
    • by femtoguy (751223)

      I don't know about that, but I remember many years ago writing a simple assembly language program on a TRS-80 model 3 that accepted keyboard input, and streamed it directly to a daisy wheel printer. Made for a very expensive typewriter, but it was easier to get stuff done in the computer lab than in the typing teacher's room.

      Oh, the old days.

    • Oh, like a DECwriter?
  • Poor reporting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Neanderthal Ninny (1153369) on Tuesday April 26, 2011 @04:07PM (#35946284)

    I assume no one really checked their sources before they printed this (what a dated word "printed") or out on the net. A manual typewriter is still good if the power goes out and you need to make a standardized letter for some reason. We nearly needed to use one this year because our accounting software developer made a mistake in creating 1099 forms this year. Yes, Royal and Olivetti still manufactures manual typewriters so this story is incorrect. There are still are several manufactures of electric typewriters that double as printer for computers .

  • Just the other day I was in a thrift store and saw an old Smith Corona manual typewriter and wondered if they were still being made... I see from the comments here that they are still being made and used... Interesting.

I'd rather just believe that it's done by little elves running around.

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