Friday, August 23, 2013
Law - "Death, Prisons Keep Typewriters Alive, Clacking "
Fascinating, lengthy story today in the WSJ ($$). A few quotes:
Swintec, a New Jersey typewriter company, is one of the last manufacturers standing in a dying industry. What has helped keep it alive? Funeral homes.
Funeral directors in a handful of states must tap out death certificates on a typewriter, relics of the days when the machines represented a modern improvement over an undertaker's handwriting. * * *
In an era of apps, tablets and Google Glass, typewriters are still clacking along with the help of an unusual coalition of customers. Police departments, law firms and government agencies still punch out forms on the machines. Some municipalities use them for marriage and birth certificates. And Swintec executives found a way to save their business a decade ago with a new client: prisons.
Swintec had long done a robust business with mortuaries that in many states—New York, West Virginia, Connecticut, to name a few—were required to issue death certificates typed out or handwritten on paper. * * *
Swintec still sells about 3,000 to 5,000 typewriters a year, to customers including universities, senior centers and state and federal prisons.
The company also sells other almost-obsolete office products. Its office contains a menagerie of endangered items such as hefty desktop calculators and portable cash registers. A secretary still uses a typewriter—hooked up to a computer monitor that allows her to print the full document later. Its typewriters aren't the elegant manuals favored by collectors and nostalgic writers. The electronic workhorses weigh up to 25 pounds, and cost between $200 to just under $1,000. * * *
Then the company stumbled on an idea: a clear typewriter for prisons. The company's owner, Dominic Vespia, says they were inspired by other transparent products designed to prevent smuggling of contraband, from televisions to toothpaste tubes.
"It's easier to hide things [in computers]," says Dan Pacholke, assistant secretary for the Washington State Department of Corrections.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 23, 2013 11:04 AM
Posted to General Law Related