The (Virtual) Machine That Goes 'DING!'


I fondly remember my love/hate relationship with typewriters (I didn't always have an Apple device within my fingers' reach). I loved the feeling of putting in a fresh sheet of paper and aligning it just so, the smell of a fresh ribbon and the ink smears on my fingertips, and the triumphant "DING!" that signaled the end of another line of type. But I often typed so fast that I ended up jamming keys and I dreaded typos—at least until we got our IBM Selectric with correction ribbon! But I've wandered off down memory lane. Short story: I can relive all the good parts of my typewriter love affair thanks to, of all people, Tom Hanks!

Hanks—a lover and collector of typewriters—has created a free iPad app called Hanx Writer. It's a no-frills text application wrapped in a virtual typewriter interface. The app includes the Hanx Prime Select model, with two other models available for in-app purchase. A lone sheet of paper sits ready for you to fill it and you can use the virtual rollers to move the sheet up and down into desired position. As you tap on the keys and they respond with a familiar "shnk shnk", the animation almost perfectly simulates the slight lag from key press to printed character, and the hammer flies up from beneath the keyboard to strike the paper. With the caps lock on, there is a much deeper resonance to the keystrokes. You can choose to disable the flashing cursor and the modern backspace, opting instead for the x-ing through of your mistakes. You can also turn off the sound, inlcluding the "DING!" as the carriage is returned, but why would you? So satisfying.

I downloaded the free app so I could write about it and within about three minutes of using it, I had purchased the full "Writer's Block" bundle. The add-on costs $4.99 and includes the Hanx 707 and Golden Touch models, text alignment controls, and choice of ribbon color, and multiple and multi-page document options. The app is so fun and addictive that I completely forgot about having an article to write and I wasted enjoyed myself immensely for an hour with it.

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