Typewriter repairmen in photos

Wired's Matthew Shechmeister visited three of the Bay Area's last typewriter repairmen and photographed them in their workshops, practising their arcane and dying art.

Meet the Last Generation of Typewriter Repairmen


  1. My grandfather repaired typewriters at IBM for years and years. He remains one of the most technically minded people I know. His big hobby in his old age is to obsessively bootleg and catalog TV shows and movies. He’s like my private netflix.

  2. I used to have an Olivetti portable, it was for road trips, typing on park benches and such, but even though small and portable it was still mostly metal and a laptop and solar panel were lighter and easier to put in a pack. I still miss it and it makes me sad to see the typewriter a mostly user serviceable analog data recording device passing on.

  3. I just bought a royal portable typewriter recently, and it worked fine, just needed a new ribbon. I turned over and opened it up to give it a dusting, and when I put it back together, it stopped working! the keys won’t depress all the way. it’s as if I triggered some sort of lock mechanism… but unfortunately I can’t delve into myself right now to try to figure it out, and there really are no typewriter repair people in my area. it sucks! I need help with it~!

    1. This also concerns me, loss of these retired skills. While you can still find people experienced with the most primitive skills like ox breeding and plow smithing a typewriter takes a specialized assembly line, it is actually harder to make and maintain than say tube tech radio transceiver.

  4. When I was in the Navy in the late 70s I learned to repair teletypes. Now *that’s* a useless skill to have on your resume!

  5. My graduation project on my product design course in the late 70s was a daisy wheel typewriter. I then got a job designing 35mm cameras and VHS tapes. I guess I should have paid more attention to that guy on my course who had some weird thing called an Apple II…

  6. When I joined my brother’s family underwater robotics team last year, we called it The Typewriter Repairmen because his website is at selectric.org, due to the purchase of a pallet of surplus Selectrics at a school auction in ~1998.

    I think it confused the heck out of the judges, even though our team video showed our robot changing the type ball on a Selectric at the bottom of a swimming pool.

    I don’t see what’s so hard about typewriter repair. It’s mostly a matter of degreasing and lubrication, like fixing any other old mechanical thing.

  7. Why don’t any of these guys look like Jesse White?

    In NYC, I’ve used Gramercy Typewriter repair for my 16+ machines ranging from an old Corona 3 to a Remington Rand Noiseless. Been too nervous to take in the Franklin.

  8. Used to work with one of these guys at a repair shop. What a wealth of knowledge and just uncanny mechanical knowhow. Could pick a lock in seconds and knew every glue and lubricant.

    He was the one technician was hounded by customers who didnt like how much they paid for the repair of a 20 year old IBM ball/hammer typewriter. They would point out how much a new typewriter would cost (yes you can still find them). He would point out that the 20 year old IBM typewriter had more life left in it and the case was dropped. Mostly ppl seem to use typewriters for triplicate legal papers and such. Some even keep 9 point lineprinters for it.

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