My Millennial Impression of the Typewriter

Oh how naive I’ve been.

About two years ago I declared that I needed a typewriter so I can write more. I told my wife (then girlfriend) that if she really wanted to—but nope, she didn’t have to, of course—buy me a birthday gift, let it be a typewriter.

Like many others born in the 90s, I’ve never used a typewriter. Ever. But that has never stopped me from wanting one. They look so old school, so “simple”, so… built for one thing.

Best of all, I imagine there’s really no way to get distracted when typing on one. No Youtube, Gmail, or photos sitting on the virtual desktop to detract me. That would be pure awesome.

But the OverType web app blew my impression to smithereens. Boy was I wrong about the typewriter.

OverType is an ingenious web app whose code must have been very difficult to write. It is true to its bones on its mission, which is to simulate a typewriter true and true on a digital computer. It comes complete with the following (unbearable) features that most traditional typewriters came with:

  • Ding! carriage bar ending sound
  • Diminishing ribbon ink
  • Misalignment of text
  • Backspace that does shit (it merely moves the paper one notch to the right, letting you type over your mistake — hence the name OverType)
  • One letter at a time typing

OverType is outrageous. It’s insufferable for a millennial like me. I now know how ridiculously backward real typewriters are, and can’t help but wonder how authors in the past could stand writing seminal works with them. Seriously…

But OverType is at the same time oddly delightful. Right after trying it out (I only managed to muster the patience to write half a page), I started writing this post, and guess what? I continued to type one letter at a time. My writing style is noticeably more deliberate, a change I welcome wholeheartedly. Backspacing and N-key rollover? Such luxuries!

I don’t know what else to say about the app at this point, but my mind is blown. Ben meshed modern technology with the old and gave the result to us as a gift (it’s free to use, and you can export your written work as-is in PDF format).

Thanks, Ben, for writing this app and giving people like me an education about typewriters. I’ll be looking at typewriters with a different expression the next time I see one. Can’t promise I won’t end up buying one just for fun. You know, the kind where you’ll high-five yourself for just because you managed to do something with it.