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July 30, 2007

22 Pop — Use an ordinary typewriter to send email


"Coolest typewriter ever" is how Adam P. Knave described this invention in an email earlier today.

I concur.

Aparna Rao, in collaboration with Mathias Dahlström, brought this wonderful tool into being.

From its creator's website:

22 Pop

Project description:

This project is inspired by my mother's frustration with email and using a computer. She simply cannot relate to scroll bars, the mouse, control keys and so on. To explain to her that emailing can be as easy as writing a letter, I decided to make for her a typewriter that sends email. It is a regular portable typewriter with concealed electronics that automatically sends the typed letter as an email to the intended person when the letter is finished and pulled out of the machine's carriage.

The context and situation:

In collaboration with Mathias Dalhström, 22 Pop was inspired by my mother’s own fruitless attempts to imbibe the practices and conventions of the "connected" world, and her growing sense of despair and exclusion from all social exchanges that take place exclusively over email. To her, instant electronic communication is a fascinating idea and so close at hand; yet any attempt to use a computer leaves her feeling flustered and inadequate. A simple email operation is a daunting task. She is not alone in her misgivings and inability to keep abreast with digital technologies constantly in flux. In India, typewriters were a commonplace object in the home, and associated with popular street culture to this day. With the influx of communication dissemination systems in India in the 80’s, and the sprouting of little kiosks with phone, fax and photocopy facilities on every street; the typewriter still has its much cherished corner. Outside many buildings, a portable office and typewriter is seen.

22 Pop ("22" because of the Olivetti classic typewriter Lettera 22 it is modeled on; "Pop" as a reference to the email protocol used) is simply a portable typewriter that sends and receives email. An ordinary Lettera 22 is embedded with electronics, which enables any letter that is typed to be sent as an email. Through the use of various sensors concealed in the body, a small chip interprets all the mechanical operations of letter writing. When the letter is completed and the paper pulled out of the typewriter’s carriage, the email is sent to its addressee via a telephone cable that fits into the back of the machine.


This project directly responds to the monopoly of electronic interfaces for email access. While the sudden proliferation of the Internet enables dynamic, remote and instant electronic communication for a technocratic society, it ignores or even dismisses the needs and sentiments of a generation of people caught in the rift between redundant technologies and ungraspable modern interfaces. For them, emailing means reaching across all that is familiar into a befuddling way of engaging with the originally simple, intuitive task of writing or receiving a letter. Its interface — the computer — then becomes an discriminating device creating poignant new social cleavages between the "have" and "have-nots" of the digital realm.

On another level, 22 Pop finds an interesting position within the context of Ivrea, the land of Olivetti and its glorious history of calculating machines and portable typewriters. Since the company’s decline in the mid 80’s, only vestiges remain of its economic and cultural prominence. However, even today the people of Ivrea harbor a deep-rooted sentimental attachment to the Lettera 22 that stands out both as an icon of the company’s heritage and the ingenuity and finesse of Italian design. Every home in the region has one, many still in use. Ivreans who know of this project or have tried it are particularly excited by the idea of reappropriating the typewriter now, exactly as they know it with but with a new electronic, virtual function.

The key idea for the project is to create a seamless electronic intervention to enable email, preserving all the intuitive, elegant and aesthetic qualities of interacting with a purely mechanical object. Sending an email by this machine therefore does not require any extra cues; the system is designed to understand the intentions of the person who is using it.


Winner of the TechnoDolt™ Invention of the Year award.

[via Adam P. Knave's Stop Motion Verbosity at www.hellblazer.net]

July 30, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Sorry oh dag, but email did not evolve out of our desire to save paper. We like it because it's immediate. More important, this is a tool that helps older people feel at ease with an otherwise overwhelming technology and could alleviate potential isolation and loneliness. Hear hear!

Posted by: tamra | Jul 31, 2007 3:31:47 AM

Doesn't this device completely defeat the purpose of saving paper, trees, The Planet etc?

Posted by: Oh Dag | Jul 30, 2007 11:21:26 PM

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