Snubbed by a generation that prefers cutting and pasting in cyberspace to XXXXing out inky errors, the last big-name American typewriter manufacturer has waved a white-out flag of defeat.
Smith Corona filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Wednesday, saying competition from personal computers has eroded demand for typewriters and personal word processors.
Not only is the bankruptcy a likely death knell for the 127-year-old typewriter, but it also completes a chapter in America’s technological evolution. Ensuing chapters likely will be written on personal computers.
Ironically, Smith Corona declared bankruptcy the same week that Forbes magazine declared Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates - whose software gave birth to the personal computer industry - the world’s richest person.
Tina and Kenneth York are typical computer converts. The Ritzville, Wash., couple, shopping for printers at Costco, said they would never think of trading Windows for a rusty manual and case of Liquid Paper.
“God, the last time I used one was in high school,” 35-year-old Kenneth York said.
“The computer is a lot more complicated, but once you get it, the uses are almost unlimited.”
All of this represents a lamentable passage for
“There was a romance about the typewriter - the clattering keys, the yellow Western Union paper on which traveling reporters would crank out a story and have it telegraphed home,” wrote a teary Associated Press correspondent.
But Spokane typewriter servicers shed nary a tear over Smith Corona’s bankruptcy. Most have waiting lists to fix machines, but none makes his living by selling typewriters exclusively.
“We sell more word processors. They’ve got the convenience of a printer and typewriter wrapped up in one,” said Fred Ramirez, service manager at Abacus Office Machine Co., 2928 N. Nevada.
Smith Corona itself ceded to the computer revolution in 1983 when it stopped producing manual typewriters in favor of the “electro-mechanical” variety - outdated gems with silver hammers stamping alphabet-soup disco balls.
Don Inman of Empire Office Machines, 1427 N. Monroe, had a succinct answer to why Smith Corona had to file for bankruptcy:
“Along comes Bill Gates,” said Inman, a typewriter representative since 1977. “With the advent of the computer and word processor, the need for multiple-function typewriters ended.”
“If you have an envelope sitting beside your desk, what are you going to do with it? You put it into a typewriter,” Inman said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Rachel Konrad Staff writer The Associated Press contributed to this report.