Clattering typewriters

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Saturday 6th September 2014

TypewriterMy favourite story of the week was the news that old-fashioned typewriters have returned to The Times newspaper.

The sound of fingers frantically bashing away at manual typewriters is like music to the ears of old hacks like me. The memory of it transports me straight back to Fleet Street in the 1980s.

But this time round the typewriters will only be heard at The Times, not seen. The sound of clattering typewriter keys is being piped through the news room by loudspeaker. Journalists at the paper were utterly bemused when they first heard it but the ruse has apparently been introduced to increase energy levels and help reporters to hit deadlines.

It seems like a weird idea but it got me thinking about my early days in journalism. The Evening Standard was based in the old Express building in Fleet Street, down a long narrow corridor, past the library (where the lovely librarians handed out pink envelopes stuffed with newspaper cuttings) and into the vast and very rundown editorial floor. The reporters sat either side of a long bank of tin desks. Each desk had an ancient typewriter, a phone and an alarming looking spike.

We typed our stories on carbon paper and with edition deadlines fast approaching we had to walk round the news room distributing a copy to the news desk, picture desk, subs’ desk and back bench in turn. The idea that in the future we’d simply hit a button and send the story to everyone at once was inconceivable.

Even so, it seems apt that clanking typewriters keys are being heard again. Actor Tom Hanks recently revealed he has devised an app to recreate the nostalgic sense of typing on a typewriter and with my old machine long gone I’m definitely going to download it.

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