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Op-Ed

Patt Morrison Asks: Two from the 'typosphere'

Don and David Anderson of Anderson Business Technology, nee Anderson Typewriter Co., talk about taking their business from typewriters to the digital age.

December 31, 2011|Patt Morrison

David: We still sell typewriters. We don't do very many and we couldn't survive if that's all we did, but we still get orders occasionally.

At one point, someone was buying old manual typewriters and I asked what they were doing with all of them and he said, "We're shipping them to the Philippines because they go through brownouts every day and they can keep going in business if they have these manual typewriters."

I have a nice little manual typewriter at home; I don't think I've used it, but it's there if I want it.

Don: Banks will quite often have at least one typewriter for doing envelopes and little account cards.

A lot of things, they make them so cheap -- you don't repair things anymore, you just throw it away and get a new one. These little calculators, when we first started selling them, they sold for like $109. I bought this [one] the other day for $4.95.

For about 100 years, it seemed typing was what women did. Now with computers, everyone does it.

Don: Remington [Typewriter Co.] was the first one to have a typing school. Up till that time everyone who used a typewriter was a man.

There's this Betty Grable movie, "The Shocking Miss Pilgrim" -- it's really fun, the story of the first typing school that women attended. In those days, the typists were called typewriters and the machines were called the writing machines.

David: At one of our profit-sharing dinners, Dad showed part of that movie.

You have this enormous collection of almost every brand of typewriter ever made, some of them on display next to digital copiers.

David: It wasn't like we worked to collect them. We cleaned out the basement and found a lot of them and we'd put [them] in display cases. Of course before something is interesting and valuable, it's junk.

Does it bother you to see old typewriters turned into decorative objects like planters?

Don: We have an old Blickensderfer typewriter we made into a lamp!

Is there going to be a fourth generation on Colorado Boulevard?

David: I have four kids, so we'll see. [My son Eric] uses the computer at home, but one Saturday I had to work and to keep him occupied, I put him in front of a typewriter. He came running up the stairs: "Dad, you have to see this! You type the letter and it prints it right away!"

patt.morrison@latimes.com

This interview was edited and excerpted from a longer taped transcript. Interview archive: latimes.com/pattasks.

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