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Writers, hipsters finding old machines are just their type (w/video)

TAMPA — Who needs control-alt-delete or copy-cut-paste when you can have the satisfying rhythm of click-clack, click-click-clack, ding?

This seems to be the mind-set of a growing subculture of typewriter enthusiasts who are scouring the country for the manual machines, renting them for weddings and baby showers and taking part in "type-ins."

For you typewriter veterans shaking your heads and feeling like you're 120 years old, just accept it. There are now generations raised on computers who find typewriters as old fashioned as their elders once viewed party lines or telegrams.

Independent bookstores, coffee houses and other hip spots recognized Tuesday as World Typewriter Day. It marks the anniversary of Christopher Latham Sholes receiving the U.S. patent for the typewriter in 1868.

Customers at Inkwood Books in South Tampa typed postcards and letters on eight typewriters from the 1920s to 1970s. Tampa Type, a new business that sells and rents typewriters, provided the machines.

"With a computer, I am distracted because there are five million things I could do on it," said Zhenya Sheynkman, 35, who writes comedy and creative nonfiction. "With a typewriter, it's just my head and my words."

Sheynkman took "test types" on several machines and may soon buy a 1930s Remington Rand. Tampa Type's inventory ranges from $300 to $600. It rents typewriters for $50 to $150.

Megan Kemmerer plans to have two at her January wedding in Tampa.

"I thought, how cool would it be to have people type a quote or piece of advice on a little card and then we could save them and display them all together in an old Rolodex," the bride-to-be said. "I think there's something very nostalgic and real about a typewriter. You really have to think about what you are going to write."

Yes, there's no delete button. No spell-checker, either.

"I come from the age before auto-correct. I come from the past to spell for you," Inkwood Books owner Stefani Beddingfield teased 17-year-old Dory Rosenthal, who helped with the typing event. Her uncle, Randy Rosenthal, owns Tampa Type, which sprang out of the Paper Seahorse, founded by his wife, Tona Bell. Both started this year at 211 S Howard Ave.

"I wanted to have a typewriter bar where people could come in and type, and then we found people really wanted to buy them and have them at their own events," Bell said. They've sold a dozen since February.

Typewriter collector Jack Knarr was thrilled to hear about a type-in at the Paper Seahorse in April. The 72-year-old former newspaper reporter estimates he has 100 typewriters.

"I grew up with an Underwood No. 5 when I was a little kid. Typewriters are a part of me," he said. "I like the feeling of hitting of the keys and banging out a story or a letter. You have to get it all right, or you have to knock out the mistakes and make things messy."

Katherine Snow Smith can be contacted at (727) 893-8785 or kssmith@tampabay.com. Follow @snowsmith.

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