Old School Can Be New Again

Screen shot of Hanx Writer in Use - errors and all! 

Writing Wednesdays: Old School Can Be New Again, or Have you lost that lovin' feeling?

I'm not that old, but when I first went to college in 1985 I had a manual typewriter. The first word processors, on the first computers, were just coming out. Not many kids had a computer with one (and a printer) to bring to school at the time. Although better than 50% of the girls in my dorm had electric typewriters, some with very beginning word processing abilities (i.e. you could backspace and make a correction or change a couple of words on a small screen, BEFORE it typed out your line for you).

When I went to college I had a choice between two manual typewriters (I wish I could tell you the names, but it has been a while). The older one was my dad or mom's and the newer one was in slimmer, white case, lined with blue. It had been my grandfather's. I took the newer one. It was not only a bit less bulky and more stylish, but the keys pushed down just a bit smoother and easier.

Ok, I didn't find typing up 20-page plus papers, filled with Wite-out and eraser marks, to be super-fun or interesting at the time.  But, I still loved that manual typewriter and it gave me a huge advantage that first year- no one in the dorm EVER asked to borrow my manual typewriter. I didn't have to feel mean for not wanting to share and I never had to fight for a machine whilst writing term papers!

So, why do I wax nostalgic? I just came across a new app for my iPad and I thought I'd share.  It’s called Hanx Writer and was created by Tom Hanks – actor, director, writer, all-around nifty and creative fun guy. It gives you the opportunity to enjoy some of the feel and sense of using an old school typewriter, right on your iPad.  I think it would be more satisfying if I had a keyboard with my iPad, but regardless, I found myself happily clicking away on my iPad with the new app.

Hanx Writer gives you the sound effects of typing on an old school typewriter, where there is a rhythm and flow that you get when you hear the sound of keys clicking in place.  I still prefer a “clicker” type keyboard on my computer, rather than a mushy soft-touch one for this reason. You can even mimic pulling the paper up to check a line or yanking it out of the machine.  The only thing you don't get is that super-satisfying return bar on the right to slap the carriage back over for another line of awesome.  I also have yet to find a “tab” option to set up tabbing for paragraphs and other indent-ables.  If you want to go really old-school you can turn off “modern delete” (Not me baby. Backspace and Delete are two of the greatest writing tools ever created!) . You also get options to turn off the cursor, the sound, and the animations. It will generate a .pdf printable of your work, so you can also enjoy the feel of your typewritten words in hard copy.

The basic Hanx Writer is a free app, but you can upgrade to get a couple of additional typewriter model options, different colored backgrounds and ribbons, multiple documents, text alignment, title page & picture, etc. (Still not bad at $4.99 for the “writer’s block bundle" of the two additional typewriters and features.)  Can you imagine how much fun you could have? And what a great tool for NaNoWriMo (especially if you turn off the modern delete option)! And a fun tool for creative, writerly types that want to have a more expansive sensory experience.

Of course I had to think about why Tom Hanks would create such an app, or why I would like to use it so much.  And it all goes back to the senses:  the feel of pushing the keys (of course THAT wouldn't be so much fun for me now as arthritis is beginning to nip at my knuckles), the rhythm of your written/typed words, the thrill of throwing the carriage back to the beginning of the line, that interesting touch and pressure of getting your shift key down far enough before hitting the other key, rolling the paper in and yanking it out when you're done, and that sniffer’s high you could get if you had to use to much Wite-out.  I would say there was no taste, but that wasn't necessarily true if you were trying to type duplicates or messing with the Wite-out, or heaven forbid duplicates with Wite-out!  It worked all of your senses.

If we long to “feel” a manual typewriter for the “experience”, then how much more do we have to remember to include those types of experiences in our writing?  Stories are brighter and more real with more feel.  Just because our more modern devices make things seem less “feely” don't forget to make sure your story characters and your audience walk away with that old school lovin’ feeling. Try some old school, nostalgic, typewritery goodness.  It might bring some of that writery lovin’ feeling back for you too.  Maybe the best way through writer’s block is to clicky-click-clack-slap, your way through it.  And it can't hurt to try – for free!

Now, go forth and write with FEELING!

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