Everybody wants to know: What’s the best typewriter for me? After test-typing almost 700 typewriters in the last 2 years, you think I’d be a fairly decent typewriter matchmaker. When we first started our business, it never occurred to me that typewriters and people need to “fit”. But they do! I’m quickly discovering all the interesting personalities of typewriters. And with that, it really does enhance the enjoyment of using these machines when writer and typewriter are compatible.
Each typewriter handles differently. From how much pressure to apply to the keys, the distance between each letter, how fast to type, the smoothness of the carriage, the overall design of the machine, and even the tiniest idiosyncrasies that are hard to explain.
When people ask me what typewriter is best for their situation, it’s honestly hard to know without having them touch the machine. Sometimes, one look is all you need: you just KNOW that’s the one for you.
In an effort to answer this most pressing question of what kind of typewriter is suitable for certain types of individuals, I thought I’d make an attempt to describe a few types of personalities I come across most. (Your feedback and personal experience is genuinely welcome and appreciated!)
The categories of typewriter personalities that I list below are a few of the ones that I mention in my typewriter demo videos. I do hope they are of use to you in your search for the perfect typewriter. But one note: The personalities of typewriters does not limit a person to a particular typewriter. In fact, you’ll find that often you’ll want a variety of typewriters to match your mood in the moment. Many writers keep a selection of typewriters in their collection so that they can choose one based on their project or mood for the day.
COFFEESHOP TYPER: Think hip, thoughtful, vintage modern. Something you would get lost in your thoughts over while slowly sipping a creamy latte and twirling a stir stick. Dreamy but persuasive. It’s unique and captivating. It draws enough attention to be admired but not so much to ruin a good day of writing. I’d suggest any Smith Coronas from the 1950s. The mid-century modern vibe is perfect. Possibly the swanky look of a green Voss, or the edgy attraction of an Olympia SM7 fits well. Of course, The Royal Model O, flat top Sterlings, and even a classic Royal Companion or Heritage are great choices.
EXPLORATION: Most of the people who come to us are new at typing and want to explore the typosphere. Unsure of what they really want or for what purpose, they are much more open to discovering new and unique typewriters. They enjoy writing but more for a hobby. However, with the right typewriter, they may dive head-first into poetry or other prose as the typewriter taps into new talents and creativity. Also, I find that authors are often in this category as they want to try their hand at writing on a typewriter versus the computer. Therefore they need something dependable. Typewriters in this category have gentle but spontaneous personalities. Can be counted on for an impromptu days-long writing marathon. They encourage us to tap into something new. I recommend: Olympia SM series, Underwood Studio 44 or 21, Voss, Adler J4, or Smith Corona Electric (1950s).
PRACTICAL: “Just the fact, ma’am”. Decisive, purposeful, ordinary, conservative, and casual. But reliable and affordable. This kind of typewriter is wonderful for kids, beginners, or to have around because when you need it, you need it. Ideal for homeschooling, college students, or the random person that gets a hankering for something old-school every once in awhile. They’re not purchased for the looks necessarily, but to get the job done and get it done well. (For a bit of fun, some like a pop of color added!). Smith Corona typewriters from the 1960s and 70s clear the field in this category. Both the manual and electrics.
SERIOUS: These typewriters and their type WRITERS mean business. Envision deep thinkers, introverts. Someone who is debonair, elegant, brilliant, logical, and articulate. Writing is serious work that requires a smooth flow and the least amount of distraction. You’ll find them tucked away in a study, a corner in a library, or in a cabin with a vista to die for. Classical music, slow jazz, and the click click of the keys call these writers into another realm of thoughtful prose. Their typewriters mustn’t have any quirks or distractions. Smooth keystrokes are a must so that they can get into a flow. You’ll find these writers hunched over the black high gloss typewriters from the 30s and 40s. Maybe even an old upright that requires a heavier hand. Think Underwood, Smith Corona Sterling flat top, or a Royal 10.
ADVENTURER: These writers think nothing of throwing a typewriter in their bag and plopping down in a park, rock outcropping, or floating down a river. Long flights are no problem – pull out a little travel typewriter and record the many thoughts and dreams swirling in their imagination or to capture the adventures of the day. They never know when inspiration will strike so they want something to have that’s always ready and can keep up with their active lifestyle. Think Royal Royalite, Smith Corona Skyriter, Olympia SF Deluxe, or a vintage Cole Steel.
FUN & NOSTALGIC: Perhaps one of my favorite personalities. These typewriters make your heart skip a beat. They give you all the feels and appeals to your emotions. Think 40s & 50s retro, pinup, or yellow flower wallpaper. Bright colors, interesting shapes and fonts. They are a break from the normal and they make a splash for anyone who walks in your room. These are the typewriters you want to share in your social media feed. Every time you sit down to write, it makes you smile. These typewriters are sweet, passionate, romantic, whimsical, and dreamy. High on this list would be the many colors of a 1950s Royal Quiet Deluxe. Also, the Seafoam Green and Alpine Blue Smith Corona Silent (1950s). Also, the Olympia SM5 that has been perfected yellowed by the sun is top of my list here. Even a brightly painted Royal Safari.
As you search for just the right typewriter, remember, unlike finding true love, there are many suitable typewriters for you. Start out with your initial impression of what you want to do with your machine. The personalities of typewriters can easily adapt to you, but it will be important to consider the most important element of writing with a typewriter when contemplating the right one. It can make a difference if you choose something that really isn’t suited to your personality. But with the right choice, the right connection, you’ll find an enjoyment factor that can take your writing to the next level. And remember…different types of writing projects can be influenced by different kinds of typewriters. Start with one and then build outward. Sometimes it takes a bit of trial and error. I found that writing on my 1958 Smith Corona Electric was very enjoyable and easy, but when I switched to writing on a 1957 Royal Quiet Deluxe in pastel blue, I hit another gear and started pumping out pages faster than ever. There was something about how pretty my typewriter was that made me want to keep typing and not stop!
You’ll have to imagine what kind of typewriter is going to speak to you most based on what motivates you and inspires you.
Let me know what kind of typewriter you have and what you love most about it and why!
6 thoughts on “The Personalities Of Typewriters”
We have a typwriter store/museum in our neighborhood. I once had a chance to type on a bunch of his machines, and I was very impressed by how varied the experience was on different (all manual) machines. I used an electric typewriter in the 1970s for homework and poetry. Now it’s all on my MacBook Pro laptop…
I have numerous vintage typewriters(Manual/Electric)
From the Corona 4 that has been restored (except for the margin relase) to an old Olympia (I read that Woody Allen types on an Olympia) ..I agree that the machine must match the mood. The Olympia insists on being out of the case, while the old gray Royal portable allows me to remove the top and away we go.
I really need a case for an older green portable Royal Quiet De Luxe. It has no number one, so probably older than the beautiful red RoyalI just saw demonstrated.
I bought the gray Royal thinking that the case would work for the green guy, but .. alas..no.. I guess I’m just bragging on my little collection.. but really do need a right hand roller knob for this big Royal 10 and a case for the Royal portable.
Meanwhile, I have 41,518 words all typed in a little museum in Pomona, California. This is to invite typewriter enthusiasts to visit: 300 Thomas Street. Sasse Museum of Art. Pomona, California
Can you help with the case and the roller knob?
Good insights and thanks for the info on the museum! As far as case and roller knob…I’m not sure. I’ll check with the hubby to see what he has in the shop.
If only our manual typewriters could share with us what they’ve seen and done.
For thirty years, my oldest daughter has worked as the warrantee liaison between a North Texas Honda Store and American Honda. She has grown weary of machines with keys. Still, when she discovered a Hermes 3000 that was for sale asked me about it..
She met with the owner in a supermarket parking lot one Sunday morning. He was an old man, stooped and gray. He gave only his first name. She finally pried out of him that he’d bought it new because the reporters on Air Force Two used Hermes.
“So you were a reporter?”
“No, I was something else.”
We’ve discussed the old man a few times, Wondering what his Hermes has seen and done. But this old man who must be crowding eighty years left us with only questions.
He still takes his oath seriously.
Typewriter personally: I can only compare it to a SM-9 I found in a Tucson Goodwill Store in the mid-‘90s for $6. The Hermes keys seem to be in the right places for my stubby fingers. Other than that single feather they are both winners and keepers.
Wow. Thanks for sharing this! This would be a great story on our typeWRITERS group on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/groups/typewriterwriting
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