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Typewriters, Computers, and Creating?

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the no-country-for-old-typewriters dept.

Input Devices 227

saddleupsancho writes "Today's NY Times reports that Cormac McCarthy is auctioning the 45-year-old Olivetti manual typewriter on which all his novels, screenplays, plays, short stories, and much of his correspondence were written, to benefit the Sante Fe Institute where he is a Research Fellow. What would happen decades from now if, say, Richard Powers or Neal Stephenson attempted to auction their desktops or laptops? Setting aside completely any comparison among the three authors, is there something more intrinsically interesting and valuable, less ephemeral and interchangeable, about a typewriter vs. a computer as an instrument of literary creation? Or is the current generation just as sentimental about their computer-based devices as McCarthy's generation is about his Olivetti? Would you offer as much for McCarthy's input device if it were a generic PC, Mac, or Linux box as you would for his Olivetti?"

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227 comments

Cormac (2, Insightful)

PHPNerd (1039992) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291614)

The link goes to "Cormac McCarthyl" whereas it should go to Cormac McCarthy [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Cormac (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30291776)

Yeah, that's what you get when he's a substituent instead of the main chain. trans-2,3-diCormac McCarthyl-1-butanol.

What would happen in Neal S. try to auction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292058)

his machine? Nothing. Nobody gives a damn about it. This mode of thinking is from the pre-electronic information era.

Re:What would happen in Neal S. try to auction (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292364)

his machine? Nothing.

... because Neil Stephenson writes with a fountain pen.

Re:Cormac (5, Funny)

Larryish (1215510) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292788)

I would buy the typewriter before I would buy an Interwebs-capable machine because there would be a smaller chance of finding someone else's semen in the keyboard.

Let's put this in perspective (5, Insightful)

coppro (1143801) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291616)

How much would you pay for the computer Linus used?

I rest my case.

Re:Let's put this in perspective (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291634)

Well since he lost his MINIX disks, not much.

Re:Let's put this in perspective (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292682)

Bah. Tell Linus to put in on eBay. It's easy to find out how much he would get rather than posturing about it.

Re:Let's put this in perspective (1)

overbaud (964858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291674)

Ummm... given that he has used numerous machines compared to a single typewriter nothing. Further a greater awareness of Cormac McCarthys work exists within the general public.

Re:Let's put this in perspective (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292084)

The BeBox from Neal Stephenson would also be worse something ... if only for being a BeBox :)

Re:Let's put this in perspective (1)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292286)

Or, How much was raised whrn Slashdot auctioned off one of its original servers a few years ago?

The REAL perspective on value (0, Redundant)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292758)

How much would you pay for the computer Linus used? I rest my case.

How much would I pay? That's easy. What I am willing to pay for it. Value is relative to the individual, not the object. If you want to pay $10,000 for the shit-stained underwear of Steve-O, then so be it.

Anything is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.

'Nuff said.

I have too many computers already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30291646)

But no typewriters.

Plus, wouldn't the keyboard be what you would want from someone famous? Not the box (assuredly wiped) that stored the bits.

Yes (5, Insightful)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291648)

Yes, there is something different. A typewriter is a durable device that lasts many years. It will build character as it wears. On the other hand, a computer grows viruses as it ages. In addition, they aren't very durable at all (I've had 7 computers/laptops. Only one of them still works... the one I'm using now) and they don't last very many years at all. In 45 years, Neil Gaiman's last 12 computers are going to be sitting in a dump or recycled into new computers.

Also, typewriters are very classy. A lot of writers still use them for many reasons I've heard. They like the satisfying sounds it makes. You can't go back and edit things you've just written. It separates you from technology. It separates you from office work. You can haul it anywhere it work without worrying about battery life. You can't get distracted and browse slashdot...

speaking of which, I should get back to my writing.

Re:Yes (5, Interesting)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291804)

But in the proud words of Burkowski from the Captain is out to lunch and the sailors have taken over the ship...

I walked up and sat at the computer. It's my new consoler. My writing has doubled in power and output since I have gotten it. It's a magic thing. I sit in front of it like most people sit in front of their tv sets.
"It's only a glorified typewriter," my son-in-law told me once.
But he isn't a writer. He doesn't know what it is when words bite into space, flash into light, when the thoughts that come into the head can be followed at once by words, which encourages more thoughts and more words to follow. With a typewriter it's like walking through mud. With a computer, it's ice skating. It's a blazing blast. Of course, if there's nothing inside you, it doesn't matter. And then there's the clean-up work, the corrections. Hell, I used to have to write everyhing twice. The first time to get it down and the second time to correct the errors and fuckups. This way, it's one run for the fun, the glory and the escape.

You sound like a wanna be poet living in his mothers basement.

Re:Yes (3, Interesting)

Potor (658520) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291944)

I actually write (words, not code), partially for a living. I do all of my writing longhand at first. Then when I fire up the computer, I am already in my second of countless drafts, all edited on paper first by hand.

I actually remember having to use a typewriter in middle school. There's no way you could drag me back to those days. They jam, run out of ink, are unforgiving, etc. Plus the obvious - once a letter is typed, it's typed.

There's no point in idealizing the creative process, or in claiming typewriters - pure technology, if only mechanical - are superior. They're tools, and in good hands, good things result. In bad hands, bad things result.

That said, I'd buy one of Burroughs's typewriters.

Re:Yes (2, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292216)

I find for technical writing (manuals, reports), I work well enough in a word processor, but for creative output, the pen and paper just seems to fit better. I don't know why, and my handwriting is so atrocious after 25 years of typing that it's hard to read, but I can't get in the same creative mood on a computer. I'm sure it's completely psychosomatic, but still kind of weird.

Re:Yes (1)

zach_the_lizard (1317619) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292382)

I don't know why, and my handwriting is so atrocious

I haven't even been alive for 25 years, and my handwriting, I can guarantee, is worse than yours. At least you may have had a time where you wrote by hand extensively; I never did.

And 100 years ago (2, Interesting)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292052)

A real writing instrument isn't mechanical. It requires the human hand to function, it lives and breathes the soul of a person, revealing their character and mood with every stroke.

Typewriters are machines. They separate you from the page, making each letter exactly the same. They jam. They're too heavy. Sometimes they break. /postmodern wit

But for real, use what works for you. Writers fall in love with the tools that let them write, not matter how new or old.

I'd like something in between -- an e-ink screen with a super basic word processor and a USB port for my clicky keyboard, as God intended. Hook up the flash drive, dump it to a laptop to do the final drafts. No distractions, and few limitations for moving text around. I don't care who says what, I can write far faster on a computer than I can with any other method. There's just no comparison.

Re:And 100 years ago (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292638)

A real writing instrument isn't mechanical. It requires the human hand to function, it lives and breathes the soul of a person

Postmodern wit aside, there's something very satisfying about writing with a fountain pen, or even a goose-quill for that matter. I still do so for my own purposes. But one would have to be a very well-established author to get away with only submitting a manuscript or typescript for publication these days. Most publishers aren't interested in having to transcribe from the author's pages, and I honestly can't blame them.

Re:Yes (3, Insightful)

Raptor851 (1557585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292232)

Hmm, I'd say that's more of a recent phenomena though. While it's true the working life of my recent computers is 4-5 years at most. (lower if it ever had HP, Compaq, or Sony, written on it), my Commodore, one of my friend's mac classics, and other older machines never died, just stopped being used as much. (mostly brought out just to mess with now), hell, as a more recent example, my Thinkpad was built in 2000 and is still my primary laptop today, and gets used more than any other computer I own. Works as well as the day it was built. (though thinkpads were a long standing exception, most everything was cheap throwaway junk by around 1995). This is irrelevant to my main point however :)

Junk or not though, whether it works is generally irrelevant for a collector of such things. Your points about a typewriter are just as valid to a well built computer, and the durability issue pointed out just as relevant to a cheap typewriter. (I'm old enough to have written school papers on typewriters, and yes, a lot of them were junk that broke after 3-4 years). The only real value is who owned it previously, it doesn't matter if it's a $0.02 BIC pen used to write a popular book, it still gains that perceived value.

just my 0.02 cents

Re:Yes (2, Informative)

Raptor851 (1557585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292304)

I hate to reply to myself, but good god I left a lot of extra commas in the top paragraph...sorry. It was re-edited many times and broken up and re-structured. Just read it in William Shatner's voice and it'll sound fine.

Re:Yes (1)

RedWizzard (192002) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292350)

Yes, there is something different. A typewriter is a durable device that lasts many years. It will build character as it wears. On the other hand, a computer grows viruses as it ages. In addition, they aren't very durable at all (I've had 7 computers/laptops. Only one of them still works... the one I'm using now) and they don't last very many years at all.

I see your anecdote and raise you an anecdote: I have two Amigas from the early 90s that both still work fine (or at least did the last time I tried them a couple of years ago). I keep them purely for sentimental reasons.

Re:Yes (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292362)

On the other hand, a computer grows viruses as it ages.

Figuratively speaking, turn in your geek card on your way out.

You can haul it anywhere without worrying about battery life.

Yeah, "haul" is a fitting word. Carrying a years worth of exra ink is moot compared to the typewriter's weight.

Personally, I've never seen the appeal of any modern writing methods. I'd rather use a quill pen. I can go anywhere, pluck a bird, skin some animal, make ink and I'm all set to write the sequel to the Necronomicon. Do you get that experience with your Buck Rogers typing machines?!

You're thinking too materialistic (was Re:Yes) (1)

fedxone-v86 (1080801) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292588)

When I'm famous I'll be auctioning my /. account. See how well it fares:

Yes, there is something different. A /. account is a durable device that lasts many years. It will build character as it wears.

[rambling about computers redacted]

Also, /. accounts are very classy. A lot of writers still use them for many reasons I've heard. They like the satisfying sounds it makes. You can't go back and edit things you've just written. It separates you from technology. It separates you from office work. You can haul it anywhere it work without worrying about battery life. You can't get distracted and browse slashdot...

Sorry about the last sentence, I was browsing slashdot while typing.

Neal Stephenson uses a fountain pen (2, Interesting)

habbakuk (112920) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291662)

As per the interview below, he did at one point use a word processor, but Neal Stephenson's recent work comes via fountain pen. http://bnreview.barnesandnoble.com/t5/Interview/Neal-Stephenson-Anathem/ba-p/678 [barnesandnoble.com]

Re:Neal Stephenson uses a fountain pen (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291698)

My hands hurt just thinking about it. Then again, I wonder how much the baroque cycle would have weighed if he had used a work processor.

Re:Neal Stephenson uses a fountain pen (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292088)

Fountain pens are among the easiest writing instruments to use. If your hands hurt, you're doing it wrong. The nib should glide on the page, similar in feel to a "gel" pen.

Re:Neal Stephenson uses a fountain pen (2, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292096)

Fountain pens are actually rather easy on the hands - no pressure on the paper at all, just contact, and capillary action.

Re:Neal Stephenson uses a fountain pen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292156)

I don't care how comfortable they are. If you hold a pen in your hand, writing for hours a day, then your hand is going to ache to some degree or other.

Does longevity matter? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30291684)

It would be plausible that his typewriter is still functioning, and possibly still as usable as the day it was made. Thus the reason he was able to use it for "all" of his works, which arguably is the main reason it achieves such high value.

Most computers, on the other hand, last at most 10 years or so, after which the writer necessarily has to purchase another computer, on which they continue producing their works. The fact that the works are split amongst machines, some of which may have produced more popular works, might contribute to lessening their respective intrinsic values.

typewriter $$$ PC (1)

jfb2252 (1172123) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291686)

I would offer more for the typewriter simply because it can be kept functional longer than any PC/OS.

What will happen is plastic in landfill (2, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291688)

A 45 year old typewriter looks good on display and most probably still types perfectly well. A 45 year old Dell will be a pile of plastic dust with an exploded lithium battery.

Re:What will happen is plastic in landfill (1)

voss (52565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292810)

"A 45 year old typewriter looks good on display and most probably still types perfectly well. A 4 or 5 year old Dell will be a pile of plastic dust with an exploded lithium battery"

There now fixed it for ya ;-)

don't think it's mechanical v. digital (3, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291692)

I think the distinguishing characteristics are more a matter of interesting v. cookie-cutter device, and durable v. throw-away. I would pay money for an interesting, well-designed, durable computer with historical value. But I'm not going to shell out for a generic PC with an expected lifespan of less than 10 years, just because someone famous used it.

In short, the Olivetti has some style, and it will likely continue to work, or can be serviced if not. That may be true of some computers, also--- older Apple products, especially the Apple ][ line and classic Macs, are already becoming collectors' items to some extent. But nobody is going to be shelling out for a 1996 Packard Bell.

Re:don't think it's mechanical v. digital (1)

Marxist Hacker 42 (638312) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291790)

Hey, I'm still using a 1996 Packard Bell in my living room for the daycare kids! It runs just fine, as long as I reinstall Windows 95 every couple of months or so.

Re:don't think it's mechanical v. digital (4, Funny)

TropicalCoder (898500) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292392)

THAT'S NOTHING STOP I AM TYPING THIS COMMENT ON A 1950'S TELETYPE MACHINE HOOKED UP TO A 256 BAUD MODEM THE SIZE OF A SHOE BOX CRADLING THE TELEPHONE IN AN ACOUSTIC COUPLER STOP

Re:don't think it's mechanical v. digital (1)

asaz989 (901134) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292706)

Oooooooooh - will Linux run on that?

Re:don't think it's mechanical v. digital (1)

notarockstar1979 (1521239) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292342)

But no one wants my TI-99/4a

Mechanical things die from neglect (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292690)

It will keep working as long as it's used regularly. A typewriter will seize up if left alone a few years as the oil/grease dries out - especially the 45-year-old oil this machine has (according to the letter of authenticity the author wrote on it, it has never been serviced).

Decades from now... (1)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291712)

The McCarthy typewriter will still be a functional typewriter (assuming it's taken care of by the auction winner)

A PC or laptop decades later would be more useful as a paperweight and would have only nostalgic value, and only to those to whom it held meaning.

Perhaps the typewriter auction winner will author something that gains acclaim. Decades later, the PC or laptop auction winner would be lucky to get the device to do anything worthwhile compared to modern systems.

Re:Decades from now... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291734)

You took the words right out of my mouth. Heck, who knows what stuff we'll be using every day even ten years from now? A single large leap could render today's whole model of personal computing obsolete.

Re:Decades from now... (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292172)

I don't know, I have a power book that some of GW Bush's gubernatorial run speeches were written on. It's still got value even if I can't find the power supply

Re:Decades from now... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292436)

A power book without its power supply. Like Greenland it is named after its principle deficiency.

(apologies to DNA).

Re:Decades from now... (2, Insightful)

the phantom (107624) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292196)

I find it interesting that you implicitly assume that the winner of the auction might intend to use the typewriter to produce something. I'm sorry, but you don't shell out the kind of money that this typewriter might be expected to go for in order to buy a tool for writing. You shell out that money in order to have an object whose value is greater than its utility because it has been involved in some kind of event or process of significance. If a person wanted to buy a typewriter for typing, there are many of them still running around, and they can often be found relatively cheaply at estate sales, or on eBay (they seem to be going for $50-$500).

In the same way, there are plenty of collectors out there who would almost certainly be willing to spend a fair chunk of change to get their hands on an Apple 1, a signed Mac II, or something similar. They don't want a tool---they want a piece of history. The functionality of the object is secondary.

Re:Decades from now... (1)

turbidostato (878842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292306)

"I find it interesting that you implicitly assume that the winner of the auction might intend to use the typewriter to produce something."

There's a common on all usable devices: you want them to be usable. It really doesn't matter if it's a sword, a motorcycle or a typewritter; they *must* be ready to go. A very different thing is in fact using them.

Re:Decades from now... (1)

Draek (916851) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292406)

Decades later, the PC or laptop auction winner would be lucky to get the device to do anything worthwhile compared to modern systems.

Compared to modern systems, Typewritters suck even moreso. That's why we stopped using them, remember?

Still valuable... (1)

w0mprat (1317953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291752)

Just as a typewriter's mechanism is kind of worn uniquely by the Author's use having bashed the words tangibly into the paper, I suppose the laptop hinge would be worn, or the power button the PC chassis.

Maybe just sell me the the hard drive, I can marvel the was authors work briefly held by the platters as they spun.

How does that not hold the same romance as the type writer? What? No, I dont need to get out more..

No obligatory Pattern Recognition reference? (2, Informative)

Finni (23475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291764)

Nothing about Steven King's Wang?

Re:No obligatory Pattern Recognition reference? (2, Funny)

ciaohound (118419) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292546)

What, did he use it to write something in the snow?

Roddenberry's Mac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30291766)

Everyone remembers this right?

Link [slashdot.org]

So I think the digital material will go well in the future, but I would agree that the typewrite is timeless. it will always work, so it has a bit of intrinsic value in addition to being a machine that produced wonderful things.

Personally? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30291778)

I have no use for a typewriter, even if it was owned by a famous person. If you gave me his computer, I'd probably throw away the keyboard and mouse. And since it's probably an old piece of shit computer, it's probably not worth more than ten dollars to me.

So let's see: Typewriter: $0.00. Computer: $10.00. Computer wins.

Roddenberry’s Mac (1)

stressclq (881842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291786)

Considering Gene Roddenberry’s Mac was auctioned for $8,260 back in October which was also discussed here [slashdot.org] , I'll have to say yes, it would make some money, though the number would probably depend on the owners popularity. For example I am no crazy fan of Cormac McCarthy, but just imagine what the Ubuntu box of someone in the likes of Elvis or Marilyn Monroe or Linus Torvalds (as mentioned above) would fetch if it was to be auctioned.

Mechanical Marvels (3, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291822)

I've heard quite a few reasons for using typewriters, especially manual. You have to think our your sentences first, since there is no real correction. On my computer I can type and type and type and edit later, but you can't do that on a typewriter (unless you want to retype everything 40 times). This forces you to put much more thought into your words and thoughts.

The force required on the keys (if you have a manual) makes the words feel... costlier... and the sound really is great. I'd imagine that when you really get going the noise helps keep you in the groove. Actually, a good IBM Model M day do the same.

Then there is the fiddle factor. If you gave a 12 or 14 year old a typewriter and say "write a story", all they can do is write the story. Give them a copy of Word (or any other word processor) and they can write, choose a font, a color, edit the spacing.... With a typewriter, you get words and nothing else. No fonts to change. No sizes. All the decisions are made for you.

I'm not much of a writer. I don't own a typewriter (although my brother has beautiful one from the 40s). I can easily say that the thing I like most about this is something that probably resonates with other /.ers: they're really mechanically complex. They weigh a ton and are crammed with tons of little levers and cams and such. A seemingly almost solid block of metal articulates 30 (or so) little hammers and moves the type head perfectly, even at 120 WPM. They are little mechanical marvels. Imagine what seeing the Frank McGurrin [wikipedia.org] type 90 WPM must have been like for people, raised on writing longhand.

Re:Mechanical Marvels (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292358)

These days I would be lost without spell check, Often I just make a bad guess at the spelling of a word, then rely on the context menu to fix it for me.

A PC has no soul (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291828)

Its just a box, as bland as the next guys.

Now, real honest to god typewriter has character, every one is unique.

Re:A PC has no soul (3, Funny)

harmonise (1484057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292024)

Now, real honest to god typewriter has character, every one is unique.

Yes, as unique as the next one that came off the assembly line, identical in every way as the former save the serial number.

Re:A PC has no soul (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292186)

Dissidents behind the iron curtain were found by the unique features of the typewriters they used.

Re:A PC has no soul (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292400)

But the actual physical materials are unique to that machine. The software in a computer is generally not, hence the difference in material value, unless you want to pay for Steven Kings MS Office serial number. If a large demand for writer's office-suite serial numbers arises on Ebay, my shortsightedness shall be duly noted.

Re:A PC has no soul (1)

harmonise (1484057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292458)

But the actual physical materials are unique to that machine.

As they are for each computer.

Re:A PC has no soul (2, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292502)

but in a typewriter, it is that unique hardware that gives a signature output, whereas in the computer the software used for creation is largely homogeneous, hence the appreciation differences between the two overall technologies.

In 40 years I plan on donating... (1)

tw45 (522481) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291832)

... my google docs login and my direct neural interface.

typewriter still works? (1)

SteveWoz (152247) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291872)

if you could get the ink ribbons...

Re:typewriter still works? (2, Interesting)

fabioalcor (1663783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292120)

But you can easily remanufacture an existing ink ribbon, OTOH, you cant do the same with a dead hard disk.
Another advantage of the typewriter over the PC: even if both works, a vintage typewriter will always be compatible with today's office supplements (paper), and its easy to extract the data inserted (read the paper with your eyeballs, or OCR it). A 20+ years old PC uses physical media that aren't produced anymore, and its far more difficult to extract the data (old media, connections).

Symbolism for Writing (3, Insightful)

Taur0 (1634625) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291884)

Note that a typewriter is synonymous with writing, there is nothing else you can do on it. A type writer which has written a great piece of writing is like a sword used at a famous battle or the hockey stick that belonged to a famous hockey player. It is symbolic. A computer is not so in the same way, because it is not exclusive to writing. While you can write on a computer, it's not just limited to that. In fact there are almost infinite uses for a computer. However they are especially associated with coding and programming. So while you might expect that Linus's original computer would fetch a handsome price, you would not, for example, expect his telephone too. It's just not symbolic of what he does.

Re:Symbolism for Writing (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292272)

I beg to differ here, any object owned by a person you revere has been imbued with a value beyond it's intrinsic value. Hence the Cookie's comb, the car once owned by Hitler has value beyond the moldering heap of leather interior and rusty camshafts. Even some computers have enough character to gain that value, they merely need to be capable of being displayed. I have a powerbook with a asset tag that proudly claims that it belongs to the gubernatorial campaign of one George Bush. I think I'm going to smash it out of spite some day but it definitely has been attached to a character of some merit.

Re:Symbolism for Writing (1)

unitron (5733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292812)

Hence the Cookie's comb...

Do you mean Edd "Kookie" Byrnes, of "77 Sunset Strip"?

Generic? (1)

perko (923358) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291904)

...a generic PC, Mac, or Linux box..

I am defined by my .emacs and .bashrc, so the computer might be generic in the sense that it is mass produced, but you can find out more about me than you can about Macarthy from his Olivetti.

"Settling aside"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30291912)

You know what would be valuable? Less asking stupid questions on slashdot, more learning English.

Re:"Settling aside"? (1)

sbeckstead (555647) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292284)

Perhaps you should start on that english education yourself and get a grammar primer.

Just FYI (1)

peacefinder (469349) | more than 4 years ago | (#30291934)

Neal Stephenson's laptop is not really relevant, because the last several books from him were written with a fountain pen.

Re:Just FYI (1)

Fez (468752) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292090)

And if you've read "In the beginning was the command line", he comments about how he has changed computers quite a bit, DOS/Windows, Mac, Linux, and so on. I wonder if even he knows which computers his various works were written upon.

Probably not (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30291968)

But I wouldn't be offering much for the type-writer, either.

Writing has gone downhill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292008)

Since we stopped using the stylus on clay tablets.

I blame those quill users.

if i were famous (1)

Ruede (824831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292050)

i would collect old used condoms and sell them on ebay.

just to laugh at the stupid masses that think they have some sort connection to me with the help of said condoms...

ridiculous this world is.

Difference is a matter of perspective (1)

dogbertsd (251551) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292054)

Typewriters have a leg up on computers in that some are used for the entire career of an author, but the sentiment is not for the thing, but the person who owned it. For example, I'm not a Apple fan per se (they make good stuff--I just don't have the bug), but I would appreciate the chance to see and fiddle with any Apple computer used by Douglas Adams to write a HHGTTG novel.

We don't use typewriters anymore (2, Insightful)

Garble Snarky (715674) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292082)

If we still used typewriters every day, nobody would pay anywhere near as much for this. Similarly, when we eventually stop using what we now know as PCs, people will pay much more for a famous PC.

obligatory reference (1)

DavMz (1652411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292092)

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

...

I have one of RMS's old laptops (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292124)

in my storage locker, a 386-based piece of crap from the 1990's if I remember correctly. Maybe I'll ask him if I should auction it off to benefit the FSF. I wonder if anyone would bid more than a couple of bucks.

Re:I have one of RMS's old laptops (1)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292228)

It won't. "Nerds" are pathologically cheap.

Physicality (3, Interesting)

adoarns (718596) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292138)

The Olivetti has worth because of its link to a physical product. I wouldn't value the PC or Mac of an author as much because it was only a general-purpose machine that happened to be used as a literary tool by virtue of the software on it. And I wouldn't pay anything for a decades-old binary image of Emacs. When writing on computer, the text becomes its own thing, it transcends the physical. In some ways, I dislike it because of that. I really enjoy the physical link with the text I get when writing with pen, when clacking on a manual typewriter, or otherwise. The advantages of text sublimated from the physical are great--better storage and search, versioning, editing, independent control of presentation, logical layout, etc. But it makes the tool used to make it less interesting, more mundane, more merely processing. The Olivetti, like my Pelikan, are precision tools purposely made for writing. In this way they become the paraphernalia of the writer, the adjutants of his talent. You pay for that connection. With stuff like this it's always the connection that's important. Beige boxes--even flashy Macs--don't have it.

Santa Fe Institute (1, Offtopic)

Jennifer3000 (921441) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292160)

It's Santa Fe, not "Sante" Fe! Here in Santa Fe, we mock idiots who can't type properly, but that commonplace error is beyond my understanding... The letters "a" and "e" aren't even next to each other on a qwerty keyboard, so I can't figure out why that error occurs at least one out of 20 times when someone types "Santa Fe". I must see it once a day... credit card receipts from the ultra-crappy Best Buy here have stated "Sante Fe" since they opened -- eight years ago!

Not less valuable; possibly more. (4, Informative)

nathan s (719490) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292204)

I am a writer (or at least, I've written a couple of novels and a few hundred thousand spare words that are lying around waiting to be turned into novels, plus assorted other writing), and I have always written exclusively on a computer.

I should be clear that I'm not trying to compare myself with Stephenson or McCarthy; I'm fully in the amateur rank, but I would say that this is mostly a personal aesthetic thing. It's sort of related to the reverence people who hate "digital books" hold for paper copies; they'll give you loads of ultimately irrational excuses down to the smell of the paper as to why they prefer to read a "real book." I've been reading novels on a screen for years, and I've discovered that I quite like the ability to zoom in on small-font text or to hold thousands of books in the footprint of one on my desk (it's really a coffee table but shhh!).

Anyway, as for writing, it's like anything else on a computer. I don't think of it as "using a computer" - it's just a tool that lets me do what I want. Personally, I'd think that the ability to get a peek into how these guys organized their lives would be quite interesting (stumbling over their porn stashes, probably not so much, but undoubtedly revealing (hah!)). Think about all of the incidental stuff you could learn; art preferences (screensavers and so on), unfinished and aborted works, etc... I'd buy one from an author I liked, if I wasn't guaranteed to die poor by virtue of trying to be an artist myself. ;)

Re:Not less valuable; possibly more. (1)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292430)

Sorry to go off-topic here, but what software do you use? What file formats do you use? .txt .rtf
???

I have lost access to more copies of my writing over the years due to changing formats. (I will not repeat the loss of dozens of stories/ideas that happened with my C64.)

Modern software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292214)

It's harder when a computer is only 7 or less years old to you, as it may feel slow or "old" and you may be sick of it wanting a new device. But if you were to take what you have now, and board it up for 10 years, your opinion will change.
What you have now, won't be able to run programs created 10 years from now. You won't feel like you HAVE to update the device, and in fact because of this you may look at what it's still GOOD at rather than what it may be POOR at.

I have an Atari portfolio. It only has a serial connection, and a telephone connection. The text editor is no more fancy than notepad. The entire thing runs on a mini version of DOS. However it easier to type on than modern devices of it's size. The 3AAA batteries can really last. It fits right in my pocket, with a full keyboard. Between this and my Palm Centro, I don't need a laptop for road trips.

OOO320_m6 (1)

Ragica (552891) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292234)

Someday, when my literary genius is finally recognized, they'll auction off my OpenOffice 3.2 Milestone 6. Fans will cherish my toolbar.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292236)

I'd put my built-from-scratch multi-core steam machine, with a translucent RaidMax case with cool blue lights, development platform up against any dusty relic any day of the week.

Its about the mechanical system. (1)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292282)

From a purely utilitarian standpoint, both devices serve their purpose, but rarity is a key factor in determining value. The line of delineation between using a computer to generate content versus using a typewriter to generate content falls in a distinct areas. Computers run facsimile copies of software used for utilitarian output. Typewriters 'run' a unique hardware, the hardware defining the output, not the software. It is the uniqueness in the typewritter's 'software', the individual nuts and bolds and keys and whatnot that make it unique. You can reformat a computer, change its keyboard, mouse, monitor, practically everything, and the essence of that computer is lost much more easily through this ease of replacement. The typewriter is generally more impervious to this component interchangeability conformism.

Also creative process dynamics come into play, the fact that you can produce a literary classic with a purely mechanical system is almost whimsical, while computers lose their uniqueness factor with most software just being a literal copy.

Pedants will mod me down saying that this is just the progression of technology, but would you rather own a Ford Taurus owned by Richard Stallman or a horse carriage owned by a lesser known person of history?

Then again, people offered thousands of dollars for Michael Jackson's white glove, nullifying my argument perhaps.

Analog (2, Interesting)

His Nastiness (542696) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292296)

Though mechanical, typewriters are also analog and as such have character. From the hammers to the action of the keys there is something unique about each typewriter and there is an appeal. Some typewriters have very smooth action on the keys, some are like typing with a mallet. A letter is askew, the ribbon is running out. It all marks a unique moment in time. A Word file has a date stamp. Maybe built in history but no handwritten note or edit. No XXXX through a word. No inherent mistakes. A computer doesn't age well. I am not sure how many of these machines will be working in 50 years. There is also something definite about a typewriter. You sit down to it and there you are; no playing solitaire for hours while procrastinating. You write. You can XXXX something out or throw it away, but it can't be undone. I can see how a keyboard might be a collectible in future years but whether it is a model M or a Das Keyboard it probably wont have the inherent appeal either aesthetic or historical that a typewriter will have.

It's all about the personal value (3, Interesting)

adosch (1397357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292316)

I think regardless of it's a typewriter, computer, laptop or whatever tool was used to create some literary genius's art simply comes down to obsession, personal value and inspiration at limitless cost. It's kind of a no-brainer that if there's enough followers to anyone's beloved work, regardless of what it is, there's always going to be the biggest fan with the deepest pocket book that is going to snatch it up because it fills some void in them, aspires them to do something similar, goes along with with their fanatic obsession of other collected items to or it's just a good damn conversation piece.

other equipment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292348)

Hmm... I have assorted computer equipment known to have been used by Jerry Pournelle...

This one's easy (1)

shovas (1605685) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292354)

Think about the 80s generation growing up with computers and especially their experience with IBM Model M Clicky keyboards [wikipedia.org] (still available here [clickykeyboards.com] and here [pckeyboard.com] !).

So many people already feel so sentimental of our clicky keyboards that we're buying them up on ebay and stock piling a couple "just in case".

So, yeah, you better believe 20, 30, 40 years from now people will look at certain iconic computer products and think real nostalgically about them. They already do and like a good wine age makes them only more desirable.

My two cents worth. (1)

Nabeel_co (1045054) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292368)

I think the big difference between a computer and a typewriter is that a typewriter is much closer to handwriting. With a typewriter you are actually physically placing the characters on the page, where as on a computer you are simply interfacing with an electronic device.
A typewriter is much more natural, and the user is physically connected to each character typed.

It's also, IMHO much more satisfying to use, from a tactile perspective.

So what's the question? (2, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292416)

Is it "Cormac McCarthy [link to article on author and his work] is auctioning the 45-year-old Olivetti manual typewriter, on which all his novels, screenplays, plays, short stories, and much of his correspondence were written; is there something ... intrinsically interesting and valuable", based on the entirety or on a portion thereof?

Or is it "a guy is selling a thing he wrote stuff with; think it's worth something"?

I'd buy Isaac Asimov's word processor, typewriter or chalk board. I wouldn't buy kdawson's Beowulf cluster of Soviet Russian Overlords running 6 flavors of *nix, and a direct neural-to-keyboard port interface.

I think it's safe to assume the guy is selling his history, not the tech. And certainly not the brand, because (speaking as a past office equipment repairer) Vettis suck.

For writers, typewriters have advantages (1)

Xamusk (702162) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292516)

The biggest advantage of the typewriter over a computer is exactly for writers: it makes him/her think much more before writing.

--
PS: this post was writtent without thinking

Kerouac's typewriter (1)

jkj5301 (660159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292548)

As I understand it, Jack Kerouac typed "On the Road" on a continuous roll of paper, without page and paragraph breaks. Because of that innovative way he used it, I think his typewriter would be a little more interesting than most.

Underwood and Jar Jar Binks (2, Interesting)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292646)

One of my ex-girlfriends had this gorgeous Underwood typewriter which she was given as a gift and she displays in her livingroom. It has a nice aesthetic quality which engages the imagination. --If it had been owned by a famous writer from its age, then it would send thrill-chills down my spine just being near it. --Imagine Mark Twain's fountain pen (or whatever he used) on your desk.

Perhaps when enough time has passed that computers and keyboards are irrelevant, out-moded technology, where few enough still exist that they are museum pieces from a past age, then I imagine they will hold a similar aesthetic quality for people. Especially if you happened to own one which belonged to a famous, culture-shaping individual.

But I suspect we'll have to wait another century or so before we know who will be remembered and revered and who will be lost in time.

Roddenberry? Maybe. I'd place my bets on Charles Schultz and Bill Waterson more than I do on Neal Stephenson. -George Lucas, too, if he'd had the good grace to die before Phantom Menace. (Sorry, George, but it's true.)

-FL

Re:Underwood and Jar Jar Binks (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292674)

Just remembered this with reference to Star Wars. . .

http://radioactivepanda.com/comic/30 [radioactivepanda.com]

Cheers!

-FL

Re:Underwood and Jar Jar Binks (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 4 years ago | (#30292730)

Just as a side note: Twain was the first known writer to submit a work typewritten... Life on the Mississippi. 1883.

Maybe (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30292680)

maybe now he'll in complete sentences

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