Saturday, July 19, 2014

For Security (and Glamour), Go Back to Typewriters, Pens and In-Person Meetings

Andrew Martin writes:
A German politician called Patrick Sensburg announced this week that his country’s government was thinking about reverting to the use of an un-hackable technology: typewriters...
How many typewriters are being used by the German government is not known, which suggests their new policy could be working already. We do know that the Federal Guard Service of the Russian government, which protects VIP officials, ordered 20 typewriters last year in the wake of revelations about US surveillance from Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor...
I quote an article in this paper from 2011: “Anecdotal evidence suggests that in an age of heightened regulation, bankers are eschewing email in favour of less traceable forms of communication, such as handwritten notes.” Or typewritten ones?... 
My conversation was overheard by a man called Jack Row, who told me he makes “luxury pens”, priced from £1,000 to £29,000. If typewriters are not yet coming back as part of the technology backlash, then pens are. “I sell a lot to the Middle East, where the high-rollers will wear a pen as an item of jewellery with the clip facing outwards,” he told me. “There are usually a couple of diamonds on the clip.” Mr Row believes these pens are increasingly used not only to sign but actually to write commercial agreements...
This tied in with my own understanding of the super-rich, whose lifestyles I have been researching for a novel. The super-rich of Mayfair (the focus of my research) may not use typewriters, but their money has earned them the luxury of living in the past. They are always meeting face-to-face in their clubs, where carriage lanterns burn at the doorway and real fires burn inside. They do not subject themselves to the glare of fluorescent lights; they do not wear man-made fibres. The look they prize in their clothes, cars and watches is “classic”. (“Bentleys have been hideous for years,” I overheard a cigar-smoking stroller in Green Park say). If the super-rich want to encounter a famous person they do not log on to YouTube; they invite them round.
It all reminds me of something a theatre director once told me: “In the future, digital entertainment will be associated with the plebs.” The real glamour, he believed, would reside in face-to-face encounters, hence the popularity in my own profession of “meet-the-author” events.


  1. Pretty puny stance on Germany's part as they can't get their gold back.

  2. There's an entire world of pen collecting that can be entered at pretty much any budget level. It's really not something to be used as an example of old technology coming back for privacy. The pens are jewelry, art, etc beyond just being a pen. (no I'm not a collector, I just know of it)