type

These typewriters will mess with your mind

This is an article about typewriters, but let’s start by discussing the difference between taste and flavour. Taste describes the five senses inside your mouth: sweet, sour, salt, bitter, and umami. Flavour, on the other hand, connotes a more holistic sensory experience. It combines taste with your sense of smell (more appetizingly known as aroma) to describe much of what you sensed while eating a given meal. People suffering through colds often claim that they cannot taste food when, in fact, the problem is that they have lost their sense of smell. Their tastebuds are largely fine, but the loss of aroma has robbed all food of its flavour.

OverType is billed as a “typewriting simulator,” but it is really a digital project concerned with a difference akin to that between flavour and taste. It is, as the name implies, a way to relive the experience of writing on a typewriter without actually having to buy every hipster’s favourite writing device. There is no backspace key, so try not to make too many mistakes. You have to hit enter at the end of every line or else letter simply overlap at the margin. Only press one key at a time. All of these points are rather obvious, but OverType is not trying to reinvent the wheel. It is simply reintroducing audiences to the joys and challenges of writing on a typewriter.

a lesson in the power of under-appreciated senses. 

This is not really a game. If it is, it’s not a particularly compelling one. There is the obvious challenge of seeing how well you can type on this typewriter sim, but that is more of a novelty-cum-nuissance than it is a game. To the extent that it is a competitive activity, so is just about everything that you do. And that’s fine. A sim can be interesting even if the experience is largely meandering.

The OverType experience, like eating when you have a cold, is a lesson in the power of under-appreciated senses. If typing is normally about feedback from the screen, OverType is overwhelmingly contingent on what you hear. You can only learn how to pace yourself by listening to the keys and figuring out their rhythm. Modern keyboards and, particularly, touchscreens produce far less sound but noise is less necessary because they offer their users considerable amounts of affordance. Typewriters are not that unforgiving. You stand no chance of using OverType without headphones or speakers. Similarly, you stand no chance of typing effectively while listening to music. (I learned this lesson the hard way.) OverType presents itself as exercise for your fingers, but is actually a test for your ears.