I’m often asked, what’s your favorite typewriter? Unlike the father of many children who dodges this by saying, I love them all equally, but in different ways, I can honestly say there is a favorite. It has never been reviewed for fear that a detached inspection might reveal an undiscovered flaw that would cause a reevaluation of its top-tier status. Moreover, I’ve been cautious to reveal my pick, since what works for one writer, might not be the right typewriter for another. I didn’t want to take the blame if you found my pick not worthy. Plus, as we know, these wonderful writing machines often suffer various old age ailments. While mine is sweet cream butter, an identical model might be an insufferable crank.
I didn’t get this typewriter refurbished, but it came to me in nearly refurbished condition. The platen is supple. The carriage glide smooth. The keys nimble. Bottom line: it works. But beyond working, it satisfies my criteria that writing take center stage, rather than the machine. Many typewriters were made in the shadow of their office counterpart with a range of features that us writer types can do without. All we need are margin settings, line spacing and a paper holder to keep it from flopping over the back. If you write for screen or stage you might like a tab to center for dialogue. That’s it, amigo! Anything else is a distraction. Even devilish good looks can be a distraction. I’m talking about you Ms. Groma. But that doesn’t mean your muse should live in a dump, just something nice enough to call home.
OK, enough chit-chat, I’m beginning to sound like those infomercial guys who make you pony up at the end for their secret tip.
My Numero Uno is this 1947 Smith-Corona Sterling.
This post-war baby is a boomer. And like an All-American jazz impresario, the rounded glass top keys will make you feel like Miles Davis on trumpet. They’re super light and the Floating Shift is a heavenly delight. You won’t be banging away on this typewriter, but rather words will fly onto the page, beamed in from your creative cortex. You’ll forget you’re using a typewriter and remember what it’s like to write.
What I like about writing on a computer is the ability to eliminate the menu bar and other interface clutter. I want this same experience on a typewriter — see my words and little else. The blackness of the Sterling disappears against the stark white paper. And like a shadow, this typewriter is quiet. It’s the stealth typewriter. Sure, a good platen helps, but I’ve had others with hard rubber and they’re still super silent. Perhaps that’s why Smith-Corona also labelled them as such. The Royal Quiet Deluxe is another who prided itself on lowering the decibels. We Americans might have the reputation as a loud and brash bunch, but not our typewriters. By the 1950s dorms and homes were filling with them, imagine the feuds if they couldn’t be silenced!
But there was one grating sound that was not eliminated: that ratcheting when the carriage is returned. There’s nothing broken. Many typewriters make this sound. Unless it’s an Olympia SM3, where the carriage glide is like steel on glass. Or the Lettera 32 who is like a whisper. But, in the end, I’ve come to love that ratcheting like I love the sound of the wood framed screen door banging shut on our porch. It’s the sound of comfort and home. Familiar and reassuring.
What’s your favored one? Your desert island machine. Post in the comments!