Sunday, 17 February 2013

1960s Underwood typewriter

Vintage typewriter - Underwood 315
My dad got me this little typewriter – it’s an Underwood 315, made in the 1960s. I think it’s got a very 60s look to it, with the bright blue coloured panel and modern lettering, and you can switch between black and red inks for extra added fun.

It came in a little carry case, but carrying it around isn’t something I’d be keen on. Strange how much heavy and bulky mechanical hardware goes into producing neatly typed documents. My mum and dad told me they used to have ‘study dates’ in university and one of them would have to lug round their typewriter to the other’s house. My mum had a portable one like this, but dad had a big old massive typewriter that probably weighed a tonne.

Machines like this would have been part of daily life; offices, schools, homes, they were everywhere just like computers are today. Of course our relationship with computers is different, they’re multi-purpose and flexible and documents are digitally stored. Typewriters are completely analogue, no spell check, no way of rearranging paragraphs, or changing font or size.

The first typewriter was made by Remington in 1873. Underwood began producing typewriters in 1895 in New York, and went on to become the biggest typewriter company in the world. The Underwood number 5 from 1900 is probably the most famous and recognisable, and is also a beautiful machine. Underwood merged with Olivetti in the 1960s, around the time when mine was produced. IBM started getting adventurous in the 70s and 80s, before electronic word processors began replacing typewriters in the 90s.

My little Underwood needs a new ribbon, but then I fully intend to start writing stuff on it, and pretend I’m in Mad Men.