Why the hell do you need a typewriter?

A couple of months back while rambling along the cobbled streets of Rome I remember coming across an old lady walking down the other side of the street. The first thing I noticed about her was the red dress peeking underneath her camel trench. There she waltzed down in her black stilettos, her eyes thinly veiled inside an expensive frame, the blonde strands fading away like will o’ d wisp and in her lips, the darkest shade of blood I had ever set my eyes on. But the one accessory that outshone everything else was her perfect gait in those killer heels….. I was hurting while wearing trainers. I realized I have a long way to go.

Olivetti Dora typewriter, typewriter, vintage typewriter, olivetti typewriter

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Italians have always been famous for their perception of beauty. From their sculptures & paintings, their shoes & clothes, to their streets & cars, their wine and their infamous passion –  each of them is something to be lusted after – to be coveted and prized and held dear. Their creations also manifest a strong lust for life and a certain devil-may-care attitude – almost like the grand master is grabbing life by the balls and winking at it. So I decided that if Shakespeare could dare to fancy their sonnets so brazenly, I too can ditch the guilt trip today and indulge in my red-blooded Italian muse – The Olivetti Dora.

olivetti dora, vintage typewriter, olivetti typewriter

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To cut a long story short by several inches, this Valentine I finally decided to show some long deserving self-love, and pampered myself with this audacious piece of vintage beauty. Of course I didn’t set out to buy an “Olivetti” typewriter; infact when I started looking for one, what I liked was a rare green Hermes baby. But by the time I got around to making the deal, it went to someone else. That’s when I came across Dora: circa 1969. So far, I was familiar with Lettera 32 and the Valentine. Dora came somewhere in between these two pièce de résistance; I did some research until I convinced myself that it should prove to be a good bargain. And so far, it’s been keeping all the promises.

type written page, olivetti dora, type sample

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The first time I saw this exquisite creature, I was somehow reminded of that old lady I mentioned earlier – the one impeccably attired in a red dress and killer shoes. The original topcoat was a dull gray but I think the paint job killed it. It makes you sit up and take notice. Honestly speaking, I was not that impressed with the Valentine’s design (though admittedly I liked the colour) which was supposedly the sexiest kitten available in the market at that time. It was too much of a tart for my taste. But with this specimen, somehow, the more I saw it, the more I started admiring the clean, no nonsense lines, the minimalist keyboard (without the “1” and the “!!!!”) and the bursting pop of a colour. Right now, I am cruising the Cannaregio – I can see the bridges and narrow lanes ahead that I have to cross, but the prospect around me is getting more promising by the minute (as is evident from the pictures above). As you can see, I’ve made minor edits on the digital version, which works fine for me, as long as I can complete a first draft on the machine itself.

typed sample, olivetti dora

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So, why a typewriter? Why indeed, when the world’s most sophisticated technology is already at my fingertips? To illustrate that, I have to tell you another story. This one is a fairy tale: Once upon a time there used to be a little girl called Thumbelina, who was kidnapped from her garden by a frog and kept prisoner. However she escaped somehow, aided by friends, and tried to find her way back home. Along that journey, she met with many distractions clamoring for her attention. They all made false promises to help her, but in the end, it was a swallow whom she nursed back to health, that came to her rescue and helped her fly away to la la land.

typed sample, olivetti dora

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Well, admittedly I have been feeling a lot like little Thumbelina lately. So I decided to try and cut down the distractions as far as possible. Of course, distraction free writing is not the only redeemable characteristic of a serious writer. One must also have perseverance and discipline. And mind you, I am not proclaiming it as the saviour of a doomed writing career. In fact it does take a lot of work to complete even a tiny piece of prose – you can’t delete or edit the text and you will be forced to flex your writing muscle – both literally and figuratively. There’s no auto correct, and pretty soon you will come to value the advantages of being brusque. But, having said all that, I will freely confess that this is a cheap machine and it does the work quite thoroughly – once you sit with the machine, you are left with no other option but to type. The keys are working exactly as they should (I have already typed out a short story on it); it’s not too bulky – I can carry it along in the portable leather case that came with it; it will last for atleast a couple of years, though I would need some time to get my bearings of it entirely; and it is 1/10th of the price of a laptop. Moreover, in the unlikely case I decide to take the highway, it can still hang around my library shelf as a collector’s item. That looks pretty much a win-win to me.


An ad cover created by the designer of Olivetti Dora: Ettore Sotsass. Confirms my sixties hypothesis. You need to be high on life. Courtesy: The Guardian

Final verdict:

For me all of it boils down to one single purpose – writing; and honestly, it’s not easy to ignore the ease and comfort of newer technology. But if you’re someone like me whose work is still evolving and needs a thousand edits before it can be allowed even the tiniest peek, then switching to an older, slower mechanism will sculpt you into a better writer. The type writer was meant to be a faster way of communication, held together by the mechanical genious of its time. Today, progressive technology is considered evolution and it is rushing towards the future with an uncanny speed. But all this mental agility & and our proclivity towards multi – tasking and speed, all these “social” distractions, it does make you think: is it at all helping us communicate better?

In other words, is technology turning to be a Fool, clever witted and adventurous, running towards self knowledge but unaware of the cliff beneath his feet? Or is it the confident and arrogant Wizard we all assume it to be?