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The Endangered Typewriter Repairman: A Photo Essay

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RALEIGH — March 15, 1996 - 6:11 p.m. EST

Photos by WRAL-TV 5's Rick ArmstrongAutomobiles came and the buggy-whip industry went. The invention of the telephone virtually put the telegraph business,outof business. So it would follow that, in this age of computers, typewriter repairmen would be looking for new careers, right?.


Fortunately for Phil Johnson and others in his trade there are still some people who refuse to get on the computer bandwagon.

Johnson is a second-generation typewriter repairman, having joined his father in the family business in 1976 when they were far more likely to see one of thesethan one of these.

Johnson says he and fellow repairmen were less than thrilled to see computers come on so strong, but that there are still enough typewriters around with keys that stick and space bars that won't space to keep him going.

Ironically, it was another new invention that saved his typewriter repair business. Johnson's shop survives by repairing fax machines that break down pretty frequently, in addition a trickle of typewriters it still services.

He says he and his father used to average about 20 typewriter-problem calls per day. Now, it's down to four or five.

Most of the work is done in the shop, but occasionally, Johnson is asked to make a house (or television station) call.

Enter "The Legend": WRAL-TV 5's Sports Announcer,Tom Suiter, one of only a very few media members who still refuse to trade the clickety-clatter of typewriter keys for the whispery tap of an enhanced, ergonomic computer keyboard.

He says he's used the same typewriter for at least 25 years and has no idea how hold it is. He actually has two relics in the Sports Center.

"I say if you can show me how the computer can make my job easier, I'll use it," says Suiter. "And nobody has yet shown how it can make my job easier, so I still bang it out on this one."

Johnson says he's glad Suiter is a hold-out.

"Tom Suiter is about the only one that uses these machines now," says Johnson. "He's the last of a dying breed."

That must be why Suiter says he likes the larger type he gets on the typewriter because it's easier to read on-air.

Perhaps someone should tell Tom about the teleprompter.

It hasreallybig type.

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