A Royal Epoch portable typewriter (Photo:

The declining typewriter industry is undergoing a mini-revival, at least in high German government circles, thanks to distrust of the U.S. National Security Agency's policy of spying on pretty much every form of electronic communication taking place anywhere in the world.


Germany in particular has taken a dim view of the NSA ever since last year, when allegations surfaced that it bugged the private phone of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

German Bundestag member Patrick Sensburg is head of the parliamentary inquiry into NSA activities – equialent to an American senator chairing a Senate investigative committee. On Monday, July 14, Sensburg made a television appearance on a morning newsmagazine program and said his inquiry committee, in order to shield itself from NSA spying, was using typewriters in lieu of computers.

“In fact, we already have [a typewriter], and it’s even a non-electronic typewriter,” Sensburg said, after the interviewer of the Morgenmagazin show asked if he was considering the use of typewriters.

Germany isn't the first moden govenrment to acquire old-fashioned technology for security purposes; last July the Russian government reportedly bought 20 new electric typewriters for certain high-level government documentation, after learning the extent of NSA spying activities.

The Russians apparently prefer Triumph-Adler Twen-180 models to meet their typewriter needs. Those models are not easily available in America, however; a brief search of commonplace American retail sites yielded no hits (although some American websites, including Amazon, do sell generic typewriter ribbons advertised as “Triumph-compatible”).

The typewriter companies whose machines are most readily available in America include Brother, IBM and Nakajima. Of those three, Nakajima machines are the most expensive; a single mid-range Nakajima typewriter can cost more than a new laptop computer.

By contrast, an electric or electronic typewriter by Brother can be had for less than $100.

Using typewriters doesn't make you (or a foreign government) immune to spying, from the NSA or anyone else, but it does at least guarantee that a successful spy will have to make an actual effort, and perhaps even take some actual risks, in order to gain your secrets, rather than merely press some buttons on a computer keyboard, bring up the NSA file on you and monitor your communications to his heart's content. That's about the best you can hope for, these days.

Share your Comments