96-year old typewriter Repairman Never Wanted Computer “To Own Him”

September 8th, 2013

Fascinating words from a man who for eight decades dedicated himself to the classic Luddite cliche–typewriter repairmen:

“I don’t even know what a computer is,” Mr. Whitlock told The Yale Daily News, the student paper, in 2010. “I’ve heard about them a lot, but I don’t own one, and I don’t want one to own me.”

I think he’s right there. My devices own me just as much, if not more, than I own them.

I remember using typewriters in my parents’ office when I was quite young. Granted, it was a snazzy IBM Selectric that had (gasp) backspace. At that point, I was already used to typing on a word processor, and the fact that if I typed a full line, and I reached the end of the paper, where the automatic carriage return would drop down, fascinated me. On a computer, you never get to the end of the page. And, when you reach the end of the paper, you need to put a new piece of paper in! Can you imagine, I thought as a toddler.

I have never considered writing anything substantive on a typewrite. As a law review editor, I think I saw one type-written manuscript submitted. The author didn’t have an electric file to speak of. It was a pain. I don’t know if I could write a full-length law review article on actual paper. It’s a fact that during the entire process of writing my 300+ page book, I did not rely on a single sheet of paper. Not when drafting outlines, or doing research, or even conducting interviews. Everything was digital. I don’t think I would have been a very good customer for Mr. Whitlock, may he rest in peace.