Tom Hanks and His Love for Typewriters: “Nothing Is More Permanent Than Words on Paper”

First posted on October 23, 2017
Tom Hanks was in Washington this weekend talking about his new book, Uncommon Type: Some Stories. It’s a collection of short stories and in each story Hanks sneaks in something about one of his obsessions—the typewriter. In an NPR interview, he said of his love for typewriters:

“There’s something about–I don’t know, it’s a hex in my brain–there is something I find reassuring, comforting, dazzling in that here is a very specific apparatus that is meant to do one thing, and it does it perfectly. And that one thing is to translate the thoughts in your head down to paper. Now that means everything from a shopping list to James Joyce’s Ulysses. Short of carving words into stone with a hammer and chisel, not much is more permanent than a paragraph or a sentence or a love letter or a story typed on paper.”

It is equal to a wooden chest that your great-grandfather carved, or the perfect set of doilies that your grandmother hand-stitched themselves, or a quilt that your mom passed down to you, that she made for you when you were 5 years old. A typewriter is—you can carry it around, it can go with you anywhere in the world. Even the biggest one you can put in a box and lug if you’re dumb enough to try to get through airport security with something like that.


  1. Barnard Collier says

    Dear Jack,

    Tom Hanks is a man who truly knows the romantic secrets of the typewriter.

    I loved my Olivetti.

    She was a faithful and adorable friend.

    In her Carolina blue Italian leather case, she was well dressed anywhere She cost about $8 a year for black ribbons.

    In all the time I knew her, she never contradicted me.

    Her font was namelessly beautiful and the well proportioned looks of the letters she printed on paper made me happy and made me money.

    She was pure Roman without italics. She was without a zero. She used O instead.

    She was slim, strong, durable, tough, undemanding, with a fine tuned voice when her key heads touched the paper.

    Writers who have never composed on a typewriter are missing a pure and worthwhile experience.

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