I’m a lousy typist. Given that I spent six years of my life as a journalist, and that I’ve done a fair amount of writing (fiction, the diss, the blog, freelance stuff in grad school, and so on) since that time, I really should be better at it than I am, but I’m not. As I’ve often said, it’s rather like being a cowboy who can’t ride a horse.
Part of it, I think, is that I’m a big guy — my friends joke that I don’t text quickly because my fingers take up too much space on the phone’s touchscreen (“Hulk tweet at puny humans!”). But really, as much as anything I think it just goes to my general clumsiness; people who know me still can’t understand how I can play drums, given my astonishing klutziness in other aspects of my life.
I say all this by way of expressing how thankful I am to live in an era of word processing. Had I been forced to use a standard typewriter for my entire career, I’d probably still be working on my dissertation. I did use a typewriter early in my grad school and fiction writing career — my folks had bought me a used Smith-Corona portable electric, and while I managed to operate it through main strength and awkwardness, I was saved by the arrival of commercial word processing software, such as Displaywrite 3 and WordStar. At the magazine, I used Xywrite until I finally got an upgrade to Word in my later years. (One downside to all this is that a fair amount of my early writing — including 180 pages of an unfinished novel — was written in formats that are now pretty much inaccessible, or would be even if I could find the now-obsolete media on which they were stored. Actually, that may not be so bad after all…)
And in the pre-Internet days, when personal computing basically meant word processing and gaming, that worked well for me. In the Wifi era, however, it’s far too easy to get distracted by Facebook or any number of other online diversions. What to do, what to do…
Well, some entrepreneurial folks have decided the solution is essentially to reinvent the typewriter. Their product is called the Hemingwrite, and according to the company, it is:
a minimalist digital typewriter for distraction free writing composition. It combines the simplicity of a typewriter with modern technology like an electronic paper screen and cloud backups to create the best possible writing experience. It is designed to do one thing only but do it exceptionally well. Since there is no email, Facebook, browser, or menus, you are able to stay in your creative groove and finally get your writing done!
The product includes a mechanical keyboard for fans of that typewriter/80s keyboard “clicky” feel. (I used to have to pay extra for a clicky feel, but now I’m married.) The onboard software allows for backspace/deletions, but not copy/paste activity. This is a machine for quick-and-dirty drafting, I guess, with revision to take place at a regular computer later. The company claims it is both durable, and at four pounds, portable. It also looks pretty cool, especially if, like me, you’re a fan of the retro look.
Still, at $350 (rising to $450 on “official” release), it seems like a lot to spend on self-discipline. However, it’s nice to see people trying to do cool stuff, and I suspect the risk of liquid paper inhalation is probably much lower than it was with my Smith-Corona. Hey, I told you I was clumsy.
A tip of the Mondo Mortarboard to Bob Gusky, via Facebook.