In California Typewriter, a Berkeley Repair Shop Trades Technology for Tradition

Famous fans celebrate a classic in a new film documentary.

In the new documentary California Typewriter, director Doug Nichol pays homage to the iconic writing machine that grandfathered our laptops and smart phone keyboards. As an owner of one of these beautiful machines myself, a German model called Olympia from the ’60s with a light yellow body and beautiful scripted font, I relate to Nichol’s famous, and not so famous, cast of typewriter enthusiasts. There’s just nothing like tapping a note with ribbon and that precious ping of the scroll bar. Classic. Tactile. Oh so cool. So much so I wish I were typing this story on mine right now.

According to a piece on the film in Time, “Nichol has sought out people who cherish and use these marvelous machines regularly, including the late, great Sam Shepard (who loved his Swiss-made 1960s Hermes, which his son found at a swap meet) and Tom Hanks (who makes the case—upper and lower—for the typewritten thank-you note over the facile, dashed-off email). But the movie’s true star is Ken Alexander, ace repairman at the 68-year-old Berkeley, Calif., shop from which the film takes its name. Here Alexander explains why, if forced to choose, Smith Corona would be his favorite make: ‘I like ’em because they got a cool, nice touch on ’em. I think a Smith Corona is like a good version of a Chevy. It holds up.’ Now that’s poetry. Exclamation mark.”

You can view the trailer for the film here.

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