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Click, Clack, Ding! A Look Back at the Typewriter

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Click, Clack, Ding! A Look Back at the Typewriter

Books

Click, Clack, Ding! A Look Back at the Typewriter

Click, Clack, Ding! A Look Back at the Typewriter

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/12900006/12900023" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Setting Type to Music

The sound of the typewriter has been used in many compositions.

'The Typewriter' by Leroy Anderson features a typewriter as percussive support as well as concerto soloist.

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'The Girl at the Typewriter' by Raymond Scott mimics the rhythms and rings of the machine.

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'Trouble in Mind' by Janis Joplin includes a guest typewriter improvising and coloring this recording.

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'Locked in a Basement' by indie-jazz band Heernt uses a typewriter as a percussive effect.

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From Henry James to Jack Kerouac, the familiar clickity clack of the typewriter was like a love song that accompanied many writers' works.

In fact, James became so used to dictating his novels to a typist that he needed to have a typewriter near him before he could even begin composing. In his book The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting Darren Wershler-Henry captures this love affair with a writing machine that's largely confined to history.

Wershler-Henry, a communications professor at Wilfrid Laurier University, traces the typewriter's history, highlighting unusual typewritten texts, the creation of Kerouac's On the Road, and even the exploits of typewriting animals. Throughout history, the typewriter's unique sound has been one of its most lasting features. Indeed, a 1940s-era soundless typewriter failed, a fact Wershler-Henry attributes to the unsatisfying "thud" sound the keys made, as well as its unconventional keyboard.

Liane Hansen spoke with Wershler-Henry about the typewriter's varied history and its unique sounds.

Books Featured In This Story

The Iron Whim

A Fragmented History of Typewriting

by Darren Wershler-Henry

Hardcover, 331 pages |

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The Iron Whim
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A Fragmented History of Typewriting
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