In praise of…

The typewriter.  Probably not all of them, but certainly the one I bought off Ebay a couple of years ago for a tenner. It’s a lovely little machine. I only use it for writing letters to my sisters, on the basis that:

a) writing letters to friends who are clearly available on email, facebook and msn seems a bit longwinded and would probably be regarded as ‘odd’ at best (my sisters regard me as odd at best anyway.)

(b) any other type-written missive would immediately and understandably render me a total nutter in the eyes of the recipient.

But I love the simplicity of it. No paper jams, or little flashing lights I don’t understand, or emails/instant messages popping up in adjacent windows to distract me from what I’m doing. You just type, and up come the words, and there you are, job done.

Of course if you make a mistake, you’re absolutely shafted, because there’s no such thing as a delete key (not on this one, at any rate) and once you get into the realms of electric typewriters, or even manual ones with clever ways of deleting mistakes, you might as well just use a computer and be done with it.

I love the clunking noises, and the way it smells sort of old and dusty.

Even the name of the thing is genius – ‘Empire – Aristocrat’, and to top it all, there’s a picture of a trafalgar-esque lion printed on the case.

The ribbon is running low and I’ll probably never find a replacement, but I’ll soak it in ink if necessary, just to keep the thing ticking over for a few more years.

Author: Rachel Wheeley

Comedian, podcaster, based in London, UK

12 thoughts on “In praise of…”

  1. bet you could get one on ebay with amke and identity of typewriter someone will have a load in a box under the stairs!

  2. i used to love my dads old typewriter, i agree completely with the use of typewriters, i wish i still had one.

    i wouldn’t regard you as odd for using one, well no odder than already!

  3. I love my typewriter. You wouldn’t believe it, seeing as I’ve used it about twice since I found it at a car boot sale, but I do. And I wouldn’t think you were a complete nutjob; eccentric, perhaps.

  4. I have an Empire Aristocrat and can suggest how to get ribbons if you’re still interested … ?

  5. My pleasure. The real issue is the spools, not the ribbon, so first question: do you have spools that fit? (Not insuperable if you don’t, but it’s cheaper and easier if you do)

  6. Excellent. Don’t ever let anyone bin those spools (are they the original metal ones?). Spools came in all shapes and sizes but the ribbons are standard – they’re all 13mm wide. So you can buy any ribbon, even for a cash register, wind it onto your spools and bin the spools it came on. If you need black only, go to Ryman – some branches actually still stock ribbons, but you can order them from any branch. Ask them for Pelikan 1001FN black ribbon – try asking them if item number 1330012060 makes sense (that’s on the receipt from the last Ryman ribbon I bought, in May). Before you remove the old spools from the typewriter, note the way the ribbon feeds from them – hard to describe, but the ribbon feeds off the far side of the spool from you, not the one near you. Remove your old spools and take the ribbon off them. Then yank one end of the new ribbon off its spool (warning – the ends of these ribbons are wedged to the core of the spool with a little ball bearing, so cup your hands round it as you pull it off to stop the ball bearing shooting into the toaster and burning the house down). One minor snag – the Empire Aristocrat needs metal eyelets near the end of the ribbon to trip the automatic ribbon reverse, and this ribbon has none. So before you attach the new ribbon to your old spool, tie a knot in the ribbon about three inches from the end. Then attach the end of the new ribbon to the spike on the core of your old spool, put the spool on the machine, and wind the whole ribbon on. Do the same ball bearing/knot routine with the second spool. Wind the second spool back a bit so that the knot is on the spool. Then fit the ribbon to the machine and type.

    If I have made that utterly baffling, feel free to complain. If you need red/black, or would like a few more possible sources apart from Ryman, let me know.

    Also, sources of ribbon are getting scarce – have you found any since you posted this in March last year?

    In your original post you said you might try re-inking the ribbon. I’ve heard of people doing that, but never tried it – did you actually try it?

    1. Wow – thanks!! I didn’t ever try re-inking, too lazy basically, but thanks very much for this, I will definitely give it a go!

  7. When my kindly in-house critic read my explanation above she told me it was “long and complicated”. So here’s a discovery that eliminates one of the complications: I’ve found out where to get ribbons that have the metal eyelets, which eliminates the faff of tying knots in the ribbon. Search for “1009” on and you should get a seller called rollssmco, selling Group 1009FN ribbons for £3.50 plus £1 p&p (avoid the guy trying to flog exactly the same ribbons for £6.75 plus £2.49 p&p). My kindly in-house critic tells me I should get out more.

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