Who Said Blogging Killed the Typewriter – My Cousin Tom Furrier – Typewriter Repair Featured in Boston Globe

My cousin Tom Furrier is featured in the Boston Globe today with his business as a typewriter repairman.  Who said blogging killed the typewriter.  Maybe he should go into blog repair 😉

Here is the link

There is still a demand for typewriter repairs, from those, young and old, who love the sound and feel of the machines to a number of businesses who keep them in regular use. Typewriter repairman Tom Furrier admits that he’s a dinosaur. He’s one of the few typewriter repairman in the Boston area who fixes typewriters only, and not those newfangled computers, faxes, and printers as well.

When Furrier first started fixing typewriters almost 30 years ago, no office was complete without the sound of clicking typewriters. The typewriter repairman was a common sight, making service calls to offices to fix gummy keys, broken springs, cracked rubber rollers, and busted return mechanisms.

Today? Furrier once went to a law office to fix a typewriter but the twentysomething receptionist didn’t know what a typewriter was. “She kept pointing to different boxes, saying, ‘Is that a typewriter?’ or ‘Is that one there?’ I told her ‘You’re standing right next to it.’ ”

But Furrier, who is also a typewriter collector and salesman, stays in business because typewriters are still used for forms, envelopes, and labels in law offices, town halls, hospitals, and funeral homes. “There are certain forms that still have to be typewritten and that are not computer-friendly, such as death and birth certificates,” says Furrier. “Every maternity ward has a typewriter, as well as funeral homes, which might seem strange in this day and age, but is good for me, of course.”

Furrier also fixes the typewriters of many writers who still tap out their drafts because they like the sound and the tactile experience.

“A lot of writers tell me that the sensory feedback from typing is different from the computer, and that typing slows down the thought process,” says Furrier, who also counts a local psychiatrist, physicians, and artists among his clientele. “Some doctors even recommend typewriters to their stroke victims, to help them build hand strength and eye coordination.”

It takes 30 minutes to an hour to fix most typewriters, and Furrier says a typewriter repairman can earn $40,000 to $50,000 a year. Furrier, who has a degree in forestry, says he wanted to work with his hands and finds great satisfaction from fixing a broken typewriter.

“I decided a long time ago that I was only going to fix typewriters – it’s typewriters or nothing,” says Furrier. “I like working with this old technology of motors, belts, pulleys, and levels.”

How does it feel to be a typewriter repairman in the age of computers? I get calls from all over the country, from people who want their typewriters fixed. Someone called me from Atlanta, which is a huge city with four million people, but not one typewriter repair shop. Another person was in Paris for the summer, and his Selectric broke, and he couldn’t find anyone in Paris to fix his typewriter, so he had to drive an hour and half outside the city to get it fixed. So we are a dying breed.

Up until the 1980s or so, there were millions of typewriters in offices all over the country. What happened to them all? Most are in landfills. Many offices just threw them in the Dumpsters. Some people did bring the machines home with them; a few workers told me that when they retired they were able to bring their typewriter home with them.

You have a lot of different typewriters in your shop, from portable electric Smith Coronas to IBM Selectrics. What’s your favorite typewriter? I like the older vintage manual typewriters, such as Royal, Olympia, Olivetti, Underwood, and Remington, and in particular, the really shiny, black lacquered machines from the 1930s. They have glass-topped keys with metal rings around them, which people love, because your fingers fit into them beautifully. They sell from $100 to $400.

Where do you get the typewriters that you sell at Cambridge Typewriters? The really nice, pristine stuff comes from collectors who pick up the machines at conventions. I also get typewriters from eBay and from people who are cleaning out their attic or homeowners who are downsizing.

And where do your typewriter parts come from? I have a graveyard in my basement, where I store tons and tons of old machines from every manufacturer. And there are supply houses that still make parts for newer machines, including ribbons.

What’s the oddest request you’ve ever gotten? One man used to come in every week and order a typewriter that could communicate with the dead. We’d tell him, “Yes, we ordered that, it’s on back order.”

I’ve seen earrings and necklaces that use typewriter keys for ornamentation. Do you sell typewriter parts to these jewelry artists? No. I don’t like to see nice machines cannibalized for jewelry. It bugs me.

People say they love the sound of a typewriter bell. Yes, the typewriter bell is a neat sound, and every brand has a different sound. When I do a repair, I always make sure the bell has a nice sustain to it. When the bell rings, it should fade out slowly. The Smith Corona has a loud distinctive bell, and the Royal has a nice pitch to it. But I don’t like the ring on a Remington machine.

Do you meet lots of people who don’t even know what a typewriter is? Surprisingly, typewriters are really popular now among teens and preteens who want to try typing on a typewriter. It’s a cool fad and they want to get that typewriter vibe.

Will typewriters ever make a comeback? No, I don’t think so, but I think there will always be a curiosity about typewriters. Typewriters will never go away completely – they’ll be around for a long, long time to come

Author: John

Entrepreneur living in Palo Alto California and the Founder of SiliconANGLE Media

13 thoughts on “Who Said Blogging Killed the Typewriter – My Cousin Tom Furrier – Typewriter Repair Featured in Boston Globe”

  1. Thanks Alan. I only know one person still using a typewriter my dad who also has a full setup of a computer and HD tv. He still bangs out his memos on the typewriter

  2. Hello – I have a typewriter for sale – could someone help me with Tom Furrier’s mailing addy – many thanks – Benjie Grant

  3. Hello,

    I was searching for informations about antique typewriters over internet and came upon your contact so I felt free to ask you few questions.

    I just bought the Ideal typewriter that has the body of machine from the following link

    but it has the top cover like the machine from the following link.

    It’s serial numbers are schratched by someone long time ago so I can’t really check them,
    but it has the “A.-G. Vorm. Seidel & Naumann – Dresden” signature with big (S & N) logo in front side.

    I got it for 25 EUR and it’s in great condition, except it’s full of home dust and few hairs on grease, so I would like to clean it and put it in my living room as an decoration.

    If you have some tips about cleaning such machine I would apreciate it. I wouldn’t want to destroy
    it’s original paint. I allready checked the paind by nail and it’s easily being turn to dust.

    If I touch the paint with diluent it will destroy the paint. How about medical alcohol?
    I wanted to lubricate the machine with weapon cleaning oil, would it be allright or is there somethign better that I sould work with?

    Also, could you please tell me your opinion on it’s real value?

    This typewriter has a movie on youtube:

    Thank you and best regards,
    Jurica Grčević from Rijeka, Croatia

  4. I have got nowhere trying to contact IBM in Paris France
    I have a Lexmark 1000 typewriter

    that I would like to purchase IBM cartridge 1380999
    and the correcting cartridge 1337765

    Does anybody know where in Paris France I can purchase these items
    DURIEZ on Blvd. St. Germaine De Pres has closed down,
    and two other shops I was told no longer stock these cartridges
    COULD SOMEBODY AT IBM please kindly
    let me know where to purchase these items….

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