Gizmo Geek: Recreating the Romance of Typewriters
The keyboards have a USB interface to plug into computers, a dock for tablets and iPads, and bluetooth to pair with smartphones

Nowhere does the adage about old being gold ring truer than in the luxury gadgets market. From jukeboxes and turntables refurbished with modern tweaks, to keyboards and iPad cases fashioned to look old-world, the retro seems to have a particular attraction for high-end customers. We have for you today another keyboard that harkens back to the old days, this one manufactured out of a real-life classic typewriter.

Calling it a “groundbreaking advancement in the field of obsolescence”, USB Typewriter gives new life to old, forgotten and often defunct typewriters. These old machines are repaired, rewired and transformed into beautifully retro, authentic functional keyboards for use with modern devices, including Macs and PCs as well as mobile phones or tablets. Non-standard keys, such as the function keys, Esc, Ctrl, etc. are available with special toggle keys.

Like the name hints, these keyboards have a USB interface to plug into computers, feature a dock for tablets and iPads, as well as offer Bluetooth connectivity to pair with smartphones. And if you’re truly yearning for an authentic trip down memory lane, these refurbished machines will allow to type the old-fashioned ink-on-paper way, while your words will be electronically recorded to an SD card.

USB Typewriter is a one-man show. It all began when Jack Zylkin found an old Royal typewriter languishing by the roadside back in 2009. He took it home and gave it some love and spit and polish, and was astounded to see that this machine—more than a century old—still worked. And thence came the idea of restoring these glorious and timeless machines into something that could be put to use on modern desktops, and USB Typewriter was born. Zylkin continues to “rescue” forgotten vintage typewriters from storerooms and garages, and convert them into keyboards. He also accepts old typewriters from customers to work on.

Zylkin’s virtual storefront is at USBtypewriters.com and Etsy.com, and the machines ship around the world. There is already a catalogue of USB typewriters for sale, ranging from Royals to Smith Coronas to Underwoods, but he takes custom orders as well.

Most of the converted typewriters cost $1,299, while shipping to India adds another $65 to your bill. If you want an engraving or a custom paint job, that can be arranged as well.

If the idea of dishing out almost a lakh for a keyboard that looks like it is (literally!) from centuries ago is unpalatable, but the thought of a having a vintage typewriter as a keyboard seems irresistible, you could always opt for the do-it-yourself conversion kit and get your hands dirty.

This comes for a more reasonable $99, plus $30 to ship (about Rs 8,500), and is perfect if you have an antique typewriter lying around; otherwise, you are left with the little matter of sourcing one. Be that as it may, it has to be said that the romance of feeling each key press and hearing the ching of the return carriage at each line end is rather priceless.

Columnist: 
Payal Dhar