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How The Closure Of The Last Typewriter Factory May Relate To You

April 27, 2011 · 24 comments

in Personal Finance, Work

I was born in the late 1960s.  I grew up watching a TV that required you to get off the couch to turn the channel (the few you had to choose from), I rode in a car that took ‘regular’ gas as opposed to unleaded, and I learned how to type on a manual typewriter. 

By the time I graduated high school, cable TV was the norm, almost everyone used a microwave oven, and my high school typing class was taught on electric typewriters.  Technology was advancing all around me, but I never thought that things I used everyday could become totally obsolete one day.

However, obsolescence is exactly what happened to the typewriter.  This was proven this past week when the last factory in the world to produce typewriters closed its doors. 

Typewriter Demand Is All But Gone…

Godrej and Boyce is the name of the company that owned and operated the typewriter factory.  This company had been manufacturing typewriters for the last 60 years.  However, just about anyone alive today can see why it would be hard to economically keep a typewriter factory in operation.  Since so many people have access to personal computers, a typewriter really serves no general-use purpose anymore.  Even as recently as the early 1990’s, Godrej and Boyce sold 50,000 typewriters/year.  By the year 2010, sales were down to 800 units/year.  Considering technology has left the functionality of the typewriter in the dust, the sales numbers were never going to get any better.   Economically, the company really had no choice other than to shut down production.

Fortunately for the company, the typewriter segment was just a small piece of their overall business.  However, think of how many businesses do not adapt to change, be it technological, economical, etc.  Even more, think of the people out there that refuse to try new ideas and technology.  Both businesses and people that refuse to adapt most likely will eventually end up either out of business or out of a job.   Employers can’t tolerate employees that are ‘stuck in their ways’ because technology will pass these workers by and their skills will become archaeic and inefficient.

How The Story of the Typewriter May Relate To You:

Don’t feel like your learning is over just because you have a ‘secure’ job.  Change happens quickly, and you can’t just plan to perform your current job forever.   You must always do what you can to ensure your skills are marketable, no matter how old you are.  If you see that your talents are becoming antiquated, then it is up to you to find something new to excel at.  It might mean that you have to step out of your comfort zone and take a college class or get certified in a new discipline.  However, if you are proactive and act now, there is much less chance that the demand for your skill set will be as low as the current demand for the typewriter.

So, have you had to adapt to keep up with changes in your job?  Have you seen employees be let go because they did not keep their skills up to date or were unwilling to change?

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

101 Centavos April 27, 2011 at 6:52 am

The typewriter seems to have gone the way of the buggy whip. I presume all the other manufacturers that produced accessories for typewriters such as refill ribbons, correction films, etc., also either adapted or died.
Was that the only factory left in North America, or are there others overseas?

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Kris April 27, 2011 at 9:55 am

101- I completely forgot about the ribbons until you mentioned it. I remember having a ribbon that was both blue and red I think. I remember how excited I was when liquid paper came on those little strips instead of using the liquid form, I thought that was a great invention.

That was the only factory left in the entire world, and it was in India.

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Money Reasons April 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm

I would guess that the businesses that supply the ribbons would be around for a bit long (at least 10 years or more?)

I know I inherited an old bell and howell movie projector and I was still able to order a replacement light for it.

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Nicole April 27, 2011 at 7:46 am

That’s actually one of my areas of study. I won’t go into more detail though. 🙂

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Kris April 27, 2011 at 9:54 am

Come on Nicole- give us some free thoughts! 🙂

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The Biz of Life April 27, 2011 at 8:31 am

I used to write my college papers on a typewriter and I always got dinged for typos and misspellings since I tend to be a phonetic speller. I don’t miss it one bit. Spell checker is a great tool for me.

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Kris April 27, 2011 at 9:53 am

Biz- I used a typewriter for my last high school paper, but used a computer in college. (But still used a typewriter at my secretarial job in college.) I don’t miss liquid paper and those weird erasers with the brush at the end. But I just love the sound of a manual typewriter.

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Moneycone April 27, 2011 at 8:53 am

I would so love to own a typewriter! I’ve used one in the past – no keyboard comes close to the feel of a real typewriter!

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Kris April 27, 2011 at 9:51 am

I love typewriters. We had one that was so old when I was growing up. The carriage didn’t move, but I would just type away on it for fun and practice. It had those big circular keys and weighed a million pounds. I then bought an electric typewriter with Christmas money one year, but I threw it out years ago. Now I wish I kept it!

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The Biz of Life April 28, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I have a couple of old typewriters I’ll sell you.

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krantcents April 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm

I remember being at my daughter’s college orientation (21 yrs ago) and the Chancellor said that they were preparing them for multiple careers. We stop learning when we are dead! If you voluntarily stop learning, you are unemployed. We are constantly changing due to technology as well almost everything else. Either adapt or be left behind!

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Kris April 28, 2011 at 12:21 am

Couldn’t agree more Krantcents. People don’t have the choice to resist change like they may have many years ago.

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Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager April 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Not around me right now. But I have heard stories from my parents and grandparents about people around them refusing to learn how to use computers and thus loosing their jobs or just retiring.

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Kris April 28, 2011 at 12:20 am

Jenna, I know several people that jumped at early retirement because they didn’t want to have to learn all the new technology. They had hit the same buttons in the same order for the last 20 years, and they didn’t want to follow a new process. I don’t think that will happen to my generation, but who knows. Maybe one year before retirement someone will tell me I need to use a keyboard with a different layout or something and I will just say ‘forget it, give me a buyout!’.

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Money Reasons April 27, 2011 at 8:21 pm

At where I work at, I personally don’t know of any such people.

But working in technology, we constantly need to update our skill set. In technology think we all learned that learning new stuff it part of the job. My biggest problem is figuring out with version of the new technology will be the prevailing standard (VHS vs Beta), (JAVA vs .net framework), (Wordperfect vs Microsoft Word), (Lotus 123 vs Excel), (Novell vs Microsoft)…

I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about…

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Kris April 28, 2011 at 12:17 am

Oh I do understand MR! What I found ironic when I wrote this post is I keep coming back to my current job because they need PL/1 programmers- can you believe that? I do a lot of work with java testing, but not writing. My antiquated skills keep me employed, for now…

I imagine you are constantly learning. Keep updating that resume as you go along so you don’t forget to capture what you learned along the way!

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CreditDonkey April 28, 2011 at 1:39 am

Learning and education must be on a continuous basis. Learning new technology is not limited to a college degree or a short course – the internet itself offers a lot of information on a lot of things that can make you ahead of your career.

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Kris April 29, 2011 at 12:11 am

Creditdonkey- very true. I know that a lot of people can take advantage of company sponsored training courses too. That is the best of both worlds because you can get trained during work, and it is free.

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Squirrelers April 28, 2011 at 6:38 pm

This post reminds me of a discussion I had with someone 17 years ago. Perhaps tangential to the topic a bit, but related to the notion of change being a reality and how we must continually learn……

I recall talking to the mother of one of a younger guy in my college fraternity way back then. She had asked me about my new job, and I said it was fine. She followed up by asking if my undergrad degree in accounting (her son was a just a sophomore at the time, wanting to major in accounting) prepared me well, I said that it did – but I’m not using most of the specific accounting skills I learned.

Perplexed, she asked me how I can feel like I got a good education if I’m not using what I learned? I told her that we were taught quite a lot of things that were not directly applicable at all to “real life”, but that’s ok. Again perplexed, she asked me why get an accounting degree at all if you won’t use the skills? I told her that you did need an accouting degree and the classes, and she should expect that he son will apply very little of it directly anyway.

She was mystified.

I told her that the degree was just paper, and we were really taught to think. That’s the value, learning how to learn, and learning how to critically think and be adaptable. It doesn’t matter if your son actually applies anything specific that they teach him.

She looked at me like I was crazy.

17 years later, I still stand by my position in that conversation. Learn how to learn, learn how to quickly adapt, learn how to add value. If anyone thinks that learning stops as formal education ends, and you’re taught all you need to know forever and never, they’re so wrong. The world is always changing…..which can get harder to adjust to as we get older, but we have to keep trying.

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Kris April 29, 2011 at 12:02 am

I totally agree with you Squirrel, and I think many employers do too (or at least they used to). Actually, my first employer hired people of all different types of degrees. They then sent new hires for 10 weeks of intensive training to learn what they wanted you to in computer programming. They were looking for people that could complete a degree program, which in their eyes, meant you could follow through and be a good performer. There is no way you can learn everything in college specific to any job.

My husband is an accountant too, and there were many, many things he learned that were never applicable to his job.

Thanks for sharing your story! (You should make it a post Squirrel!)

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Kevin@InvestItWisely May 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I remember using a electric typewriter in high school because I didn’t have a printer. I was able to type up to 4000 words on the thing, then I could “print” it out via the typer.

Amazing how much technology has advanced and how even the rate of advancement is accelerating…

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Kris May 12, 2011 at 11:08 pm

Kevin, that is a funky typewriter, I have never seen one like that. Now I guess I never will.

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