The man who is everybody’s type
With over 40 years of work under his belt that is dedicated to a tool that doesn’t seem to have much of a target audience anymore, Café chats with Erasmo Joao Coutinho, a member of a slowly dying breed – the typewriter technician
There was a time, a time not too long ago in fact, that most towns (because back then, cities were non-existent) had their go-to typewriter man – that shop that would either sell and/or repair typewriters. However, in more modern times, when even the verb ‘to type’ is being replaced with the verb ‘to keyboard’, typewriter repair is an endangered if not extinct trade. However, fortunately for some, nothing compares to the sound of beating out a series of keys with Morse code-like precision on an old-school typewriter keyboard. It is in that elite company that we classify Erasmo Joao Coutinho. To Erasmo, who is now 69 years of age, typewriter fixing is more of a hobby than a profession. For the last 40 years since he has been a part of the family enterprise – Rosmos Typwriters – Erasmo has been repairing typewriters. To this technician par excellence, the age/brand of the machine makes no difference. He’ll prop up his glasses on his nose, and using his minute tools, dig into the machine before him; many twirls of spring hooks and many sways of wire brushes later, he’ll have restored the typewriter to its formerly glorious form. “I knew right from the time that I was a child that I wanted to grow up to be a mechanic of some sort. Working with automobiles was one option, and this was another. My brother, Rosario, was already in the line of work, when this little shop opened its doors in the late 1970s. I joined him in the trade, and after he passed away in 1989, if my memory serves me well, I have soldiered on, on my own,” Erasmo reminisces. Set in Corte de Oitero in Panjim, the bulk of Erasmo’s workspace at Rosmos Typewriters is a graveyard of machines beyond repair. These are stored, and used for spares, as and when needed. From ribbon spools to drawers loaded with other parts including replacement draw-bands (the fabric strip that pulls the carriage). After decades at the bench, the job still satisfies and challenges him. “I never get tired of going to work. It’s like a hobby for me even though now there are just 4-5 machines to be fixed in a month. But it is what I know to do, and don’t see myself ever doing anything else,” he says, with pride. Old typewriters inevitably need attention, but there can be no doubt about how well they were made at the time. There can be no doubt that over the years, Erasmo has probably seen the lot – E Remington and Sons, IBM, Imperial Typewriters, Oliver Typewriter Company, Olivetti, Royal Typewriter Company, Smith Corona, Underwood Typewriter Company, Adler Typewriter Company and Olympia Werke. Maybe he hasn’t, but one can rest assured that if that machine is in need of some TLC, then Erasmo is the man to go to, the veritable ‘typewriter whisperer’. And while we constantly turn to the future for validation, and give up physical products for virtual counterparts (think CDs and DVDs for streaming), nostalgia may be driving many back to things of comfort. And there is much of that to be found in the printed page, rolled straight off a typewriter, and that’s when men like Erasmo shine.
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