What form the newspaper of the future would take, has always been a topic of speculation. In the 1930s, it was widely believed that the radio—the trendy technology of its day—would kill the print medium.
That concern manifested itself in a piece titled, “Radio to Print News Right in Your Home,” which appeared in the May, 1938, issue of Hugo Gernsback’s Short Wave and Television magazine. It described a method of delivering newspapers through radio waves.
These so-called “radio newspapers” would be printed overnight, at home, when everyone was asleep. The family would wake up to a freshly printed newspaper, without a paperboy ever having to get his hands stained with ink.
The typewriter has now become a metonym for the experience of newswriting—and writing at large—in the 20th century.
But nearly 30 years after typewriters disappeared from newsrooms in the late 1980s, The Times—now headquartered in Wapping—is bringing back a strain from old Fleet Street: the clatter of the old-fashioned typewriter.
A tall speaker, on a stand, has been erected in the newsroom to pump out typewriter sounds, to increase energy levels, and help reporters to hit deadlines. The audio begins with the gentle patter of a single typewriter, and slowly builds to a crescendo, with the keys of ranks of machines hammering down as the paper’s print edition is due to go to press.
The initiative coincides with a revival of interest in the typewriter, a trend reflected in the development of a bestselling app by Tom Hanks—the Hanx Writer—which simulates the sound of ancient typewriters: an Olivetti, a Remington, a Royal.