What is the laptop of manual typewriters?
July 31, 2009 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Are there manual portable typewriter that can fit in my bag for nomadic letter writing? The brands that seem available seem so unwieldy that I could not see carrying them around.

I have always envied those who send of handwritten or typed (typewritered?) correspondence. The permanence of the stroke always seemed more meaningful than a computerized letter. Because my handwriting is lacking (something I will ask for help with in another posting) I have finally decided to take the plunge and buy a typewriter.

Sadly I am semi-nomadic and frequently move and like to write away from my home in parks, playgrounds, libraries, and coffee shops. I need a portable manual typewriter that can accommodate my tendencies and my choice of outlet-less writing spots.

I saw the "Rooy" but a vintage beauty like that is far beyond my price range. Does anyone in the hive mind know of the latest generation of portable typewriters that are thin and portable enough to fit in my satchel (to replace the spot my laptop takes up)?
posted by elationfoundation to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
A bit of quick GoogleFu revealed:

posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 11:51 AM on July 31, 2009

Best answer: To address the issue of your handwriting: I was in the same boat for a long time. At around 23 or 24, I decided I wanted to change it, so I sucked it up, went to Staples, and bought one of those kindergarten-level handwriting books. You remember them - the top half has what the letters should look like, the bottom has that cheap brown paper with the top long, bottom line, and middle dashed line. Cartoon bunny rabbits and kittens and puppies are on every page offering you encouragement-via-single-syllable-words.

I'd get home from work, sit down on the couch with a drink and the TV on, and repeat letters and words over and over.

I probably looked like an idiot. I sure felt like an idiot. But five years later, my handwriting fucking rocks.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:57 AM on July 31, 2009 [8 favorites]

I have an old Smith-Corona portable. Even as a portable it's still pretty heavy and bulky even though it's got about as small a profile as the Rooy. It's made of metal and needs to be in its own case because it's also full of inky ribbon. The case is not as small as you'd like. I don't think I could easily fit it in my backpack. Plus, ymmv with stuff like this, but a typewriter is in a totally different family of noise machines from a laptop and you might wind up with some trouble if you brought it into a public library, depending on the library of course.
posted by jessamyn at 11:59 AM on July 31, 2009 [1 favorite]

You may want to look for something built in the '50s or '60s - that's sort of the tail end of manual typewriters and you might be able to find something made out of plastic instead of metal.

"Portable" typewriters are really anything but. I have a Royal (probably from the '30s) that weighs about 25 pounds and came with its own (sadly mangled) carrying case about the size of a hat box. Makes a lot of noise. I also have a non-portable Remington that weighs about 50 pounds, and honestly the weight helps - there's so much force and linear movement from the keys striking the paper that the relatively lightweight portable tends to jitter across the table when I use it.

I also have my uncle's Brother word processor (from the '80s) which is, ironically, larger and heavier than both typewriters - he kept it in a small suitcase. I would recommend against one of these for portability.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:07 PM on July 31, 2009

Echoing the above, I found my atrophied handprinting improved tremendously after having to write out ~40 pages of Chinese characters over and over and over over the course of 11 weeks for school last year.
posted by @troy at 12:15 PM on July 31, 2009

Smith Corona did indeed make a few good solid, comparatively small and thus lightweight portable manual typewriters. But I don't think you're going to find anything worth owning (ie: sturdy, well made, able to withstand travel) that weighs less than say, 15-20 pounds.

And yes, it's going to be noisy. Typing is noisy. Unavoidably so. But it's a beautiful noise if the words are good.
posted by philip-random at 12:19 PM on July 31, 2009

Best answer: I own a late-1950's Smith Corona Skyriter.

Skyriters were marketed for the businessman (or his travelling secretary) to use on an airplane, and so it's pretty much the smallest and quietest typewriter you're likely to find. At a guess, it's about twice as thick and twice as heavy as my (2005?) 12" iBook, which is pretty damn thin and light for a manual typewriter, and it fits easily in my bag (a Chrome Metro.)

You can usually find them on ebay for anywhere from $50 - $200 depending on condition.

I love it, but I have unfortunately been expressly forbidden to ever bring it to a bar, coffee shop or other public place, on pain of being-broken-up-with-for-being-a-big-fat-pretentious-dork.
posted by dersins at 12:36 PM on July 31, 2009

Don't ever bring a typewriter into a coffeeshop. I worked at one once where someone did that. It was so loud and annoying we asked him to leave.
posted by yesno at 12:57 PM on July 31, 2009

I would like to also add to the comments that fixing your handwriting is the most portable way that you can correspond on the go. When I noticed my handwriting suffering I found that a book by Fred Eager was very straightforward and very quickly I was lettering legibly. The Italic Handwriting for Young People was the one I used but i wouldn't let the title put you off as it was very serviceable for adults, and didn't have the little cartoons you would find if looking at a childs book. The main goal regardless of what system you use is repetition, and then regular use so you don't lose your new found skill.
posted by [this is good] at 12:58 PM on July 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

I have always envied those who send off handwritten or typed (typewritered?) correspondence.

I think typewritten could work here.

Many years ago I used to have a "portable" plastic/metal combo Smith Corona, which IIRC was just like this one. I think it weighed about 20 pounds. Here's another Corsair Deluxe.
posted by chez shoes at 1:08 PM on July 31, 2009

This one looks like a really good deal. They also have it in black, at 40 bucks more.
posted by theperfectcrime at 1:49 PM on July 31, 2009

Remington portables.
posted by zoinks at 3:19 PM on July 31, 2009

Smith-Corona made some small, plastic typewriters in the 60s and 70s -- they weigh very little, ~5-10# I think, but they're not as robust as earlier ones. Here's an example of one I own. As long as you're not dropping them on a regular basis, they are a good, serviceable small typewriter. The Hermes Baby is a similarly small, light portable. They might also be listed on eBay as children's typewriters, since they look like toys, but they're full-fledged working machines.
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:31 PM on July 31, 2009

Re the handwriting, practice is good advice, but I would also suggest taking a calligraphy class. (Heck, even Steve Jobs recommends it.) In my area, you can find adult education or extension classes in calligraphy fairly easily, or ask at a shop that sells nice stationary or pens. They would probably know.
posted by gudrun at 2:04 AM on August 1, 2009

This one looks like a really good deal. They also have it in black, at 40 bucks more.

Apparently, these days you'll have to look under MEDIA & MUSIC -> ELECTRONICS -> COMPUTER ACCESSORIES if you want to find a decent manual typewriter. Bloody moron hipsters.
posted by effbot at 3:49 AM on August 1, 2009

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