Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Last Typewriter

It was a simple enough story: News that the world's last typewriter manufacturer, Godrej & Boyce of Mumbai, India, had ceased production of the once ubiquitous office appliance, but sadly it turned into yet another example of today's sloppy journalism. I saw the story last night on NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams. As the owner of a 1940's-vintage manual typewriter (which needs a new ribbon), the story struck me as another example of good, historic technology being surpassed by something more modern, yet perhaps not as good (and here see the recent demise of Kodachrome film for a prime example).

Williams' piece was a brief drop-in near the end of the newscast, so I went looking for more information and found this story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and that's where the sloppy reporting comes in. Godrej & Boyce were in fact the last manufacturers of typewriters in the world and did halt production of their last model – in 2009. But Williams, and others who picked up the story, portrayed it as though Godrej & Boyce just stopped production, the Nightly News even featured an obituary-style graphic that listed the typewriter's death date as “2011”. How this information hit the news now, and not two years ago, is that Godrej & Boyce announced they only had 500 typewriters left in inventory - from the stock they stopped producing in 2009.

It only took me about three minutes on the Internet to glean this particular piece of information. One would hope that with their vast resources, NBC could exercise the same level of due diligence. As for Godrej & Boyce – which as recently as the mid-2000's still cranked out 10,000 typewrites per year – one of the last “new” typewriters can be had for 12,000 rupees, about $270, shipping not included. And as for me, I think I'll try to scare up a new ribbon for my Remington.
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