November 2, 2011, by Jon McGregor

Can you still get ribbons for that thing?

Apparently, the last typewriter manufacturer recently closed down. So no more new typewriters. Luckily, if you’re interested in getting hold of one, the typewriters which were built throughout the 20th century were built to last: mine was made in 1945 and works a treat. Show me your MacBook Air in 2075 and let’s compare notes. 

Here’s what I know about buying and using typewriters:

The easiest place to buy a typewriter is on eBay, with caution. Look for typewriters which come with a case, and which the seller appears to know something about. Ask questions. Look at the information on this very informative site. Particularly nice typewriters to look for are the Olivetti 22 or 32, the Silver-Reed 100 or 150, and the Smith-Corona Silent or Silent-Super. These are all ‘portables’, although you probably wouldn’t want to take them to lectures. You can also look for a ‘desk-top’ or ‘office’ type: these are more upright, making for a more comfortable writing position, and heavier, meaning they won’t skid across the desk. They also weigh about a metric ton, so the shipping via eBay will be expensive. There’s a great gallery of classic typewriters here, so you can start making a wishlist.

Once you’ve got the typewriter, you’ll almost certainly need a new ribbon. Again, the easiest place to find ribbon suppliers is on eBay. The ribbon in the machine should have a DIN number stamped on it, which you can use to specify the correct spool. Otherwise you can usually go by make and model number. But if you can’t find the right spool, you can always remove the ribbon and wind it on to the spool which is already in the machine.

You’ll also probably need to give the typewriter a good clean, using something like a toothbrush and a hoover to get all the dust and grease out of it. If you come across any problems they’ll almost certainly be fixable: this site is a very good guide to maintenance and repair.

It helps to use proper typing paper, which is heavier and rougher than standard computer printing paper; this way, you’ll get a clearer and darker impression from the keys.

That’s about all I know. You’ll find a lot more on the internet. Which you’ll need a computer to access.

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