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Contrary to Reports, Typewriter Industry "Far From Dead"

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UPDATE: Swintec's Ed Michael emphasizes that the "manufacturers making typewriters for us" are in fact Swintec-owned factories.

The Daily Mail reports that "Godrej and Boyce - the last company left in the world that was still manufacturing typewriters - has shut down its production plant in Mumbai, India with just a few hundred machines left in stock."

"Although typewriters became obsolete years ago in the west, they were still common in India  - until recently," the article continues. "Demand for the machines has sunk in the last ten years as consumers switch to computers."

However, as ubiquitous as iPads (and, to a lesser extent, Xooms and PlayBooks) may be, the typewriter is "far from dead," Ed Michael, General Manager of Sales at Moonachie, NJ-based Swintec, tells us. And he adds Godrei and Boyce is far from the last company in the world making the machines.

"We have manufacturers making typewriters for us in China, Japan, Indonesia," Michael says.

One of Swintec's most robust markets?

Prisons.

“We have contracts with correctional facilities in 43 states to supply clear typewriters for inmates so they can’t hide contraband inside them,” Michael explained back in January.

“We even make clear cassette ribbons for them."



Swintec makes slightly different typewriters for different facilities, depending on an institution’s specific regulations. The 2416DM CC models come in six versions, all with different memory capacities: 4K, 7K, 16K, 32K, 64K, and 128K, with 4K storing about 4,000 characters (the average business letter comes in at around 2,000).

New York State permits inmates 7K of memory, Washington State allows 64K, and Michigan lets prisoners have 128K machines. For the most restrictive institutions, Swintec manufactures typewriters with no memory at all.

So, what does the future hold for typewriters? Will the industry be able to hang on in the face of ever-more rapid technological change?

A fellow at New York City’s Afax Office Machines who gave his name as “Mariusz” thinks so.

“I don’t think typewriters will ever disappear, I don’t see them going out anytime soon,” he said.

However, the first chink in the typewriter’s armor may have now appeared, in the form of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer System (TRULINCS).

TRULINCS, which is currently being rolled out, lets inmates send and receive email (up to 13,000 characters) at dedicated kiosks without allowing them access to the Internet. It is expected to be fully up and running in all BOP facilities by June.

On the state level, Washington -- one of Swintec’s customers -- is also experimenting with email, which prisons director Dan Pacholke asserts “reduces smuggling threats and costs less to process and read than paper mail.”

"I would say that e-mail is more secure in the sense that we can translate it from a foreign language to English. You can read the handwriting. It doesn't lend itself to encryption. You can't use meth-soaked paper. You can't put white powder in the envelope," he says.

A threat? Perhaps. Though, remember -- vinyl was once "dead" too.
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