Quora.com: A public record of retrotech?

I’ve lately been fooling around with a web site called Quora.com, which is a trendy new social media question and answer portal (probably there are several ways to describe its functionality; that’s as close as I can come). Here is a Time Magazine article about it, and another on Mashable.

Quora is complicated. It incorporates aspects of different social media platforms (voting answers up and down like Digg, followers and following like Twitter, the ability to edit others’ entries like Wikipedia) and currently, in its early adoption phase, seems to favor social media hot shots who’ve brought a lot of acolytes with them onto the service. The nattering nabobs of interweb tech blogging are not sure whether it’s The Next Big Thing or A Terrible Idea, and they’re currently burning up the social media echo chamber with their bloviations on the topic.

As retrotechies, why should we care? Perhaps we shouldn’t. All I know is this: Quora has a ‘typewriter’ category. I’ve populated the five or so questions that have been posted there with my answers, as part of my ongoing attempt to evangelize the typecasting movement. To quote Speculator:

“Like Tom Furrier says, “all it takes is a reminder.” And that’s just it. People see how practical and instantaneous and portably efficient typewriters are- combined with the charm of the mechanisms, and ideas are born- such that more folks go looking for their own typewriters.”color>

I’d like to see all of us take opportunities, where they exist, to provide thorough, thoughtful information about typewriters and retrotech for this reason. The more typewriter users and fans we can create, the more hope there is for typewriter shops, ribbon manufacturing, snail mail, and typewriter social networks and events.

For some time, Wikipedia has had a definition of “typecasting” (I do not know the author, do you?) which is the only example I know of a reference to typecasting outside of the typosphere itself (although, recent stories in local newspapers about type-in events certainly qualify as such, now that I think about it). I’d like to see more. As a technical writer, I have long worked in organizations that think first to evangelize products within their own web sites, but the truth of the matter is, social media platforms are where people hang out. You have to bring the message to the platform if you want the word to get out.

And so, Quora provides one such opportunity to sign up, answer questions, and ask others, thereby building an official and high-quality external record of information about retrotech. I think it’s worth considering as an act of “typostolate,” a term coined by Speculator to describe the act of evangelizing retrotech.


  1. One of the first things I did after finding supporters for ITAM, was update Wikipedia to include it under the listing of Appreciation Months.

    Within just a couple days, I’ve seen Typewriter Appreciation Month pop up on blogs and other postings outside our typosphere.

    So, every little bit does count. I’m sure there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people that check that page at the beginning of each month, so its at least some extra exposure.

  2. There’s a lot of really smart stuff in here, and it’s making my head hurt. Sounds like you know what you’re doing, though, so – you know – have at it.

    I just know that I wasn’t ‘evangelized’ to retrotech. I came upon it in the normal way: stumbled upon typewriter pr0n centerfolds from Seaver and Polt and knew this was for me.

    I can certainly see the good that could result from typospherical evangelism, and will wholeheartedly support same.

  3. Hmm…you know, it may just be my inner snarky punk-rock teenager, but in a way I kind of prefer the typosphere’s current size. Sure, there is always room for folks who appreciate old-timey tech, but at the same time I think it would be a shame if it became “trendy.” Then again, this could just be a symprom of my over-arching dislike of the zeitgeist.

    Of course, coming from someone who hasn’t done a typecast in 74 years, maybe my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt so small that other grains of salt could take it with things.

  4. I wrote a brief definition on Wikipedia’s “typecasting” page a year or two ago. Now I’m delighted to see that some people have written a whole article on typecasting in our sense! Those of us who want to can add links to our blogs, too.

    Mike, I wouldn’t worry too much about typewriters becoming non-geeky anytime in the foreseeable future. I do think it’s good to get the attention of fellow geeks.

    Last comment, to Duffy Moon: typewriter pr0n is a form of evangelism!

  5. Greets… it’s mcget, not actually saying anything against the use of “retro tech” , BUT actually saying that we should correct anyone who calls typewriters “low-tech”, as they are very precise machines.

    And finally, am making a pitch to maybe use the terms “mid-tech” and “high-touch” when talking about typewriters, pencils, vinyl records, bicycles, etc…

    –if only to make people stop and think that “tech” can have different altitudes–it doesn’t always have to ascend up and up….

    And high-touch, to remind people that we still all have fingers and like to actually er, “interface” with physical stuff…..

  6. Bravo, Strikethru:

    These are the types of things that get the typewriter-preservation message out.
    But, as I contend over and again, there are the tools- and then- there are the uses of the tools!
    Instruments are the means; written creative expression (in infinite varieties) is the implementation.

    Part of the typostolate is to demonstrate how these wonderful tools can be used- and to use them. In this evangelical endeavor, I point people to Typosphere blogs. It’s a see? That’s what people are doing! moment. Often, if the machines themselves aren’t quite captivating enough, it’s our blogs that seal the deal.
    No two Typosphere blogs are alike; along with that are the ways we all use our typewriters.

    I recently showed our blogs to some video-production colleagues, and one of them- thoroughly charmed by what all of us do- said, “you’re not luddites at all! This is highly technical!

    Let’s use our work as testimonials.
    Amen, Sisters and Brothers?

  7. Amen!

    I will add that on the typecasting wiki page, I almost did just that (add all the know typecasting blogs out there) but I was greeted with a message in the edit menu to not add any more to the list, as it wasn’t supposed to be used as a link farm.

    Now, that could have been put there by someone to limit the links to just what was there, but either way, I ended up not adding them all to the wiki page.

    Speegle, I do admit to sharing some of that “size” caution, but then if this does because trendy, like all trends, it will pass. We’ll get some hype and then people will leave, but maybe some will stay and continue on. I know that I came on the “scene” less than a two years ago, and since then, I think the typosphere has close to doubled. And so far, that’s not a bad thing.

    McGet, I really like the nomenclature of mid-tech and high-touch. The latter, especially!

  8. deek: Yeah, the whole in-then-out-of-style thing is what I am leery of. I mean, I think it’s great when someone new discovers the joy of clatter and inky fingers. I just don’t weant these functional pieces of history to be bought on a whim, and then disposed of when the fad passes.