Advantages & Disadvantages of a Manual Typewriter

By Dennis Hartman
Some vintage typewriters are valuable antiques.

For decades the most sophisticated word processing machine and printer was the manual typewriter. With the advent of the digital age, personal computers largely replaced typewriters in homes and offices around the world. However, despite some obvious disadvantages, there are still reasons to own and use a typewriter.

Lack of Memory

One of the biggest disadvantages to a manual typewriter is its lack of any kind of memory. Because users can't store what they write, they must retype a document every time they make a revision or need another copy. Typewriters also fail to offer any way to archive old work, other than keeping the printed pages in a file elsewhere.

Difficulty Revising

Because they print one letter at a time as users type documents, typewriters make it difficult to make any corrections. In some cases a writer can make small corrections using correction fluid, but more major errors, such as misspellings or improper punctuation, may require them to retype an entire page or document.

Physical Form

Typewriters are also inconvenient in terms of their form. Most models, even compact "portable" models, are heavy and bulky. Typewriters are also often very noisy, especially in settings like large offices where several are in use at the same time.

Collectible

One of the biggest advantages of typewriters is the nostalgia they elicit. For people who can remember a time before personal computers, typewriters may symbolize a simpler era or an idealized past. Typewriters are also sometimes valued for their appearance, with older and more ornate models taking on a collectible status.

Permanence

Another advantage of typewriters is the fact that whatever is written is permanent and instantly available as a hard copy. Without the need to save a digital document or use a printer, there is no delay for printing or risk of unintended file deletion. Typewriters also allow writers to compile drafts of a document for reference without the added step of making a separate printout.

Cost

Small portable typewriters are generally inexpensive, both as used models today and at the time when they were new. Besides costing little initially, typewriters use inexpensive ink ribbons that cost far less than toner or ink cartridges for modern computer printers.

Independence

One advantage of a manual typewriter is its independence from electrical and digital networks. Unlike computers, which need to be plugged in for electricity and are susceptible to hackers, typewriters work manually and function just about anywhere. This makes typewriters the tool of choice for working in remote locations or less-than-ideal conditions where electrical service is intermittent.