Garage Sale purchase

The Hanx Writer, actor Tom Hanks’ typewriter app for the iPad, was the number one free download in the Apple iTunes Store upon its release late last month. With the app, one can type on a virtual typewriter, accompanied by sounds of a vintage keyboard.

The default typewriter model is one chosen from the extensive personal collection of typewriters owned by Mr. Hanks. For a modest purchase, one can download additional vintage typewriter keyboards, using the Hanx 707 app. The Hanx 707 also includes added functionality, such as the ability to work on multiple documents simultaneously, change ribbon and background colors, and more.

CNN’s Jarrett Bellini took a gentle poke at the Hanx Writer in the program Apparently This Matters. “As for me,” he said, “it’s just too much trouble. I’m simply not hipster enough to fully appreciate a device that somehow makes it more difficult to write 700 words about not wearing pants.” Still, it is difficult to make fun of such a generous person as Hanks. “Dammit, Tom Hanks. Why do you have to be so charming?” he added.

Tom Hanks clearly loves typewriters. In his 2013 opinion piece in the New York Times, I Am TOM. I Like to TYPE. Hear That?, he said, “I use a manual typewriter – and the United States Postal Service – almost every day.” The number of typewriters in his personal collection varies from 150 – 200, depending on the news source.

It somehow seems fitting that the star of Nora Ephron‘s 1998 film, You’ve Got Mail, loves the sound of a typewriter. In the film, Hanks and co-star Meg Ryan exchange emails, with the sound effects echoing that of the email service provider, AOL.

According to a 2012 story in Collector’s Weekly, Hanks once agreed to do an interview with when the typed invitation was delivered in a 1934 Smith Corona. At the time the story was written, he already owned models of most of the world’s most unique typewriters, including a 1930s sterling silver Smith Corona. This gem was a limited edition item, with only 184 of the machines produced. Many of those were melted down for the silver during the Depression.

As hobbies go, as cool as this one is, finding a way to maintain these typewriters, not to mention finding space to display them, is tough. Nevertheless, Wired Magazine’s “Meet the Last Generation of Typewriter Repairmen,“ by Matthew Shechmeister, reports that there is an increasing market for typewriters in “the apartments of hip young people who have a fetish for the retro.”

Shechmeister profiles a number of stores specializing in typewriter repair, including Berkeley Typewriter and California Typewriter Repair, both located in Berkeley, Calif. California Typewriter Repair reported an increase in sales of vintage typewriters to those under 35, including girls under the age of 12. Perhaps typewriter repair is not a dying industry, after all.

In a different profile of Berkeley Typewriter and California Typewriter Repair, Edward Derbes, a guest columnist for Berkeleyside, also writes that typewriter sales have been increasing in Berkeley. Typewriter Sales, in fact, have been rising for the past five years nationwide, with the New York Times calling it a growing movement.” Berkeley Typewriter dates back to the 1930s, and California Typewriter Company first opened in 1949.

Recently, at a garage sale in the Mission District of San Francisco, I succumbed to the lure of the typewriter. My new acquisition is an Underwood Noiseless Portable typewriter. Judging from online photos, the vintage appears to be 1930 – 1941. It needs a new ribbon, possibly a new roller, a good cleaning, and lots of TLC. And while I realize that the cost of repairing it will far exceed the price I paid for it, I haven’t had much luck finding typewriter repair help here in San Francisco.

But now I know which direction to head for the typewriter specialists – across the Bay to Berkeley.


Berkeleyside. Typewriters Are Making a Comeback in Berkeley. June 22, 2011

CNN: Apparently This Matters. Aug. 23, 2014

Collector’s Weekly. Dear Tom Hanks: Have We Got a Typewriter for You. Oct. 15, 2012 Tom Hanks Typewriter App Rocks. Aug. 18, 2014 Tom Hanks Typewriter Collection Grows. June 29, 2011

NPR All Tech Considered. Typewriters Make Triumphant Return. Sept. 2, 2014 Podcast Tom Hanks. Oct. 8, 2012

The New York Times Sunday Review. I am Tom. I Like to Type. Aug. 4, 2013

The New Yorker. What Makes the Hanx Writer Click? August 23, 2014 Tom Hanks Typewriter App Shoots to Top, Aug. 18, 2014

USA Today. Tom Hanks Hanx Typewriter App. Aug. 14, 2014 Typewriters –Gallery. May 31, 2010

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I remember being very proud to submit a paper in Junior High and High School that was typed and also had a carbon copy. I also remember taking “Typing-Business Machines 101” in college and working on a Teletype to support myself in college! Wow! Now I wonder what I did with my portable Smith Corona?

    1. I wonder also: whatever happened to that Smith Corona that I had in college? Donated, most likely, long ago!

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