Back to the Typewriter

Put aside, for a moment, the iPad, and contemplate the typewriter. Is it an objet d’art or a utilitarian typing machine?

By Kristin Belz July 19, 2011


The view through the window not of a museum, but of a shop in St. Johns, Ace Typewriter, that keeps an ancient craft alive.

Even while there is an endless string of new gadgets to covet (you do have an I-Pad by now, right?), the old time typing machine is not quite ready to retire. It keeps popping up at Portland cafes, on display in store windows, even at people’s weddings.

What is it about typewriters? Perhaps the rickety, slightly irregular shapes of an old typewriter’s letters give a menu or a package label an aura of age and authenticity. In the era of Photoshopped pictures and push-a-single-button font changes of entire documents, the typewriter reminds us of the tactile qualities our communication used to include. Wite-out. Ribbons. Carbon copies. Actual paper.

But beyond the qualities of what it produces – the typed invitation or letter or menu – there is the beauty of the object itself. The bulky desktop machines – even the portables seem to use a different definition of that word than we do now – are so physical, so clearly mechanical compared to the sleek silver of our light laptops and tablets of today.

Looking at typewriters from different eras of the 20th century is like taking a quick class in design history. A New York company, KasbahMod is even transforming old typewriters into gleaming, candy-colored typing machines by refurbishing and sometimes painting them amazing colors. They would look good on any desk today.

You can come across working (and non-working) typewriters at thrift and vintage stores around town, but for a reliable selection of fully functioning, refurbished typewriters, Blue Moon Camera in downtown St. Johns is the place to go. They sell the ageless machines from a small room in their shop and have more available online. For service of the machines, they team with Ace Typewriter a few blocks down North Lombard Street – in business since 1961, when the world of Don Draper and company was real, not retro.

Ace Typewriter
7433 N Lombard Street
Open Weekdays 9am-4:30pm

Blue Moon Camera and Machine, LLC
8417 N Lombard St

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