Typewriters Are Back – to Protect Privacy and Avoid Hackers

In an ultimately digital generation, the typewriter is back – and we have the likes of Tom Hanks and the Russian government to thank for that.

For most of us (if you’re old enough to remember), typewriters were devices that we used long ago to manually type words onto paper. However, since then the majority of our typewriters have been donated to museums or are collecting dust in our attics. Is it because of the nostalgic feeling we may experience from seeing words compressed to paper or is there a reason much deeper than that?
With Tom Hanks going public about his collection of over 250 typewriters, some of the most vintage ones are surging to popularity again. Similarly to the vintage vinyl craze that is still occurring, most collectors value the retro, novelty appeal of an old fashioned typewriter and appreciate how it can disconnect them from a mainstream technological era.

Typewriters in Politics

However, the revival is not exclusive to hipster culture but is now shared with politics. According to The Daily Mail, typewriter sales in Germany have boomed over the past couple of years due to revelations that the US is spying on German politicians. These allegations surfaced after the NSA leaked that Chancellor Merkel’s phone was hacked by Washington on numerous occasions, which subsequently led to the dismissal of the CIA station chief from Berlin in 2014. Later that year, German politician Patrick Sensburg predicted that Germany’s government officials might start using typewriters in future, as they are considered as “unhackable” technology.

However, the idea to switch to typewriters as a bid to protect security and avoid hacking was firstly adopted by the Russian government, who invested heavily in new typewriter equipment in 2014 due to the NSA leaks. Nikolai Kovalev, former head of the Federal Security Service, said in 2013: “From the point of view of keeping secrets, the most primitive method is preferred: a human hand with a pen or a typewriter.”

Typewriter Revival

It’s certainly good news for typewriter companies, with Olympia and Bandermann both reporting a huge increase in sales following the NSA security scandals in 2013. “We sell about 10,000 typewriters each year… the company’s sales jumped by one-third over last year since 2012” stated Bandermann manager Rolf Bonnen in 2014. Since then, the Bandermann have took advantage of the spying revelations by advertising its typewriters as “Bug proof. NSA proof” in order to entice more consumers.