• Tom Boyd

The typewriter is back

Tom Hanks: actor, director, producer–and re-inventor of the typewriter.

TechCrunch reports that Mr. Hanks created an iPad app that embodies the vintage look, feel, and sounds of an old-school typewriter. Just one week after its launch, the almost-eponymously titled “Hanx Writer” is already the number one ranked app in the iTunes Store.

Why would a movie star venture into inventing? To start, Mr. Hanks is a self-professed typewriter aficionado who owns hundreds of old typing machines, using them for daily tasks ranging from to-do lists to story drafts. Indeed, he loves typewriters so much that he penned an opinion article for The New York Times lauding the musicality and physical pleasure of typewriters.

TechCrunch questions whether that op-ed was a clever marketing ploy to tease the Hanx Writer’s market entry. If that’s true–as a former PR guy–I say, “Well played, Mr. Hanks.” After all, not every celebrity inventor can conjure a credible editorial theme around his or her creation.

For example, director Francis Ford Coppola holds a patent for a t-shirt emblazoned with a large cartoon turtle whose hand-drawn shell is divided into dozens of numbered quadrants so you can tell a friend which area to scratch if your back itches.

I’m not sure what type of societal need Coppola’s invention was designed to solve, but I’m betting the Times would reject an op-ed about it.

Promotional tactics aside, as a writer, I like Mr. Hanks’ idea of reviving a vintage tool of expression for the digital age.

Today’s word processing software feels stifling at times; effective, but designed for work documents, such as TPS reports.

Conversely, Hanks’ typewriter app–complete with the authentic clicks, clacks, and bell rings you’d find in a physical device–offers a platform more conducive to the creative process.

Still, clicking and clacking away on an iPad app that replicates old-school typing isn’t enough to set the full mood for unbridled creativity–not for this author.

If I’m ever going to get past chapter two of my never-to-be-finished novel, I need an app that serves as a multisensory muse–one that transports authors to what I deem the perfect writing environment: A dimly-lit attic office in a 19th century New England farmhouse, lit by candlelight and surrounded by trees, snow, deer, perhaps a little bit of mystery, some owls, and a constantly-running air freshener that embodies the smell of a classic Robert Frost poem.

That shouldn’t be too difficult to create.

Mr. Hanks, if you’d like to partner on bringing said technology to market, please send me a typewritten note. In the meantime, I’ll be procrastinating from my novel-writing–most likely on eBay, searching for Mr. Coppola’s elusive itchy turtle t-shirt.

John D. Natale Staff Writer Wells Fargo Daily Advantage 8/21/14

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