| At the Corner of Technology and Culture

Technological Hangovers

I passed a billboard the other day and noticed, as I’ve noticed before, the use of the signature font of iconoclastic rebellion: the shaky manual typewriter font. You know, uneven print, letters occasionally lifted. It’s North American commercial code for ‘alternative’ ‘rebellious’ ‘urban’ ’20-30something oriented’. The funny thing is, though, who in this target market has ever used a manual typewriter, an electric typewriter, even? Do people who are 22 even know what it’s referring to, or have they just absorbed the sense of what it signifies from the context? And why should a font tripping on the cachet associated with Beats or Punks tapping out poetry and underground papers a generation, two, or three ago, still have resonance?

I think it’s the physicality of the typewriter. It’s real and sensual in a way that a keyboard never will be.

I work in radio a lot, and although it’s been almost a decade since people used reel-to-reel tape, the lingo of tape persists: are you rolling? we say, even though nothing is ‘rolling’ at all….Or we might say we’ll ‘cut’ a piece as a synomym for editing it. It implies a kind of phyiscal act that somehow saying ‘did you press play’ doesn’t quite match.

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