Opened just last November, Type8ar is a space dedicated to everything-typewriter. It is also the first of its kind in Singapore. Enter the space and you'll find over 50 different typewriters, all made in different eras for various purposes, with the oldest one dating back all the way to the 1920s. There’s even one that was formerly used in the U.S prison and is completely transparent to ensure nothing was being smuggled or hidden. This typewriter is so rare that it does not have an official name and is often just referred to as the Transparent Royal Portable Typewriter.
Typewriters were first invented in the year 1868 and became an essential tool for all sorts of writing, except personal ones. As technology advanced, typewriting slowly became a dying trade, both as a tool and as a career. However, this family-founded business had other plans.
Type8ar features the personal collection of Claudia's, and is run by her parents, Adeline and Lionel. “I’m part of the Antique Typewriter Collectors Facebook group, an international community where people from all over the world connect over our passion for typewriters. However, in Singapore, the community is small and I do wish to change that. In the near future, I’ll love to organise a Type-In and gathering of fellow typewriter appreciators!” says Claudia.
We speak to Claudia about what got her into collecting typewriters, her personal favourite, how typewriting can help us get away from our busy schedules and slow down, and more.
When did Type8ar open and what made you decide to share your personal collection with the public?
Type8ar opened at 7A Haji Lane on November 18, 2022. It was a fast decision, there was not much contemplation. My collection of typewriters had been stored in their cases in the storeroom at home, and it truly felt like a pity not having them properly displayed, used and appreciated. So, when we chanced upon this space for rent, it seemed like the perfect place and opportunity to spread our love for these antique mechanical marvels. After some discussion with the family, everyone was on board, and Dad and Mum began their post-retirement entrepreneurial journey!
There were some initial hesitations on my part about whether the machines may get damaged along the way, but it was worth the risk if the returns meant that more people, both young and old, from all walks of life, could come together to discover, learn and enjoy the experience of using a functional antique typewriter.
Actually, the initial idea was to have a typewriter café, but that was slightly far-fetched so we started with something simpler instead. And here, we also provide complimentary beverages, so I guess it is kind of like a café as well!
Also, we believe that space and community matters too. Somehow owning and collecting typewriters at home as a ‘personal collection’ isn’t as fun and rewarding as coming together to discuss, use and discover these machines together. We want to offer a space for those who may not necessarily want to ‘collect’ typewriters but enjoy discovering and using them in a cosy space.
Typewriters also do not require electricity, so it was really convenient to bring it around. I also see it as a way to slow down in this world where we are constantly on our smartphones.
What first got you into typewriting and collecting typewriters?
I’ve been collecting typewriters for more than 15 years. I think my fascination with them is an extension of my love for the written word. Also, I kind of have bad handwriting so when I found something that could help with that, I was really happy! When I was in university, I would often cycle to cafés with my typewriter just to typewrite on my own. People would stare sometimes, but mostly just out of fascination. Typewriters also do not require electricity, so it was really convenient to bring it around. I also see it as a way to slow down in this world where we are constantly on our smartphones.
As an English Major, I thought it would be lovely (romantic almost) to journal and create poetry using a typewriter. My first machine, Royal Fleet Wood, was acquired at Sungei Road Thieves Market for under $20 over 15 years ago. Once I brought it home, I started tinkering around with it and doing more research. That was when my passion for typewriters truly sparked. I also started to connect with other local and international collectors and enthusiasts and that got me really excited. It has truly been an enriching and rewarding hobby. There continues to be so much to learn and explore.
Which is a personal favourite, and why?
This is a commonly asked question but so tough to answer as each machine has particular features that make them special. It’s like choosing your favourite kid – almost impossible!
Perhaps one with the most sentimental value and is also one-of-a-kind is my blue “Frankenstein” Olympia SF De Luxe typewriter featuring a pin-point typeface. At first look, it appears to be nothing out of the ordinary. However, it was actually ‘custom made’ some years ago by a retired typewriter technician uncle who I got to know through this hobby. The name “Frankenstein” also came about due to the fact it was taken apart and customised. Uncle knew my fascination with typewriter typography and special typefaces and fonts, and so he salvaged the special pin-point type segment from a spoilt desktop machine and transplanted it into a working portable Olympia typewriter. This feat requires precise technical knowledge, as well as time and patience. Uncle did it as a surprise for me and I still cherish it very dearly today.
Using a typewriter, there is no pressure to be speedy, efficient or perfect. In fact, we always assure and encourage our guests to embrace any mistakes and imperfections since that is also part of the charm of using a mechanical typewriter.
What do you think is the significance of typewriting in our current era where everything is going digital?
I think it’s exactly because everything is becoming digital – how everything has become so convenient, quick and easy (what more now with ChatGPT) – that there is a need to sometimes slow down, pause and just enjoy being in a state of mindful flow. Using a typewriter, there is no pressure to be speedy, efficient or perfect. In fact, we always assure and encourage our guests to embrace any mistakes and imperfections since that is also part of the charm of using a mechanical typewriter. There is no spell check, cut, copy, paste, or delete options like on our mobile devices and computers. And definitely no distractions like pop-up notifications and social media apps to toggle in between. One just has to commit their attention to what they’re creating. A lot of the fun is just in savouring the tactile experience of using a typewriter.
The feedback you receive with each press of the key that triggers that type-bar which in turn strikes the ribbon and leaves an imprint on the paper. There is something so satisfying in seeing how everything works together to materialise your thoughts on the blank sheet of paper.
We were actually tempted to implement a “phone confiscation” rule just to truly encourage people to be present in the moment. There are even customers who come in for this very purpose – to get away from their busy schedules and practise mindfulness. [We’ve also had] many guests who chanced upon this space, used our machines, and commented on how it’s made their day or that it was so ‘therapeutic’, and then returned for more sessions. Such interactions have really given us the boost to keep going!
We even had a gentleman breaking out in sweat typing a proposal note that he was going to present to his girlfriend on their flight later on the very same day! Another even asked if they could do their wedding photoshoot here. Some of them fell so hard in love with typewriters that they went on to acquire one of their own.
What do you hope people can take away from the workshops and hands-on experience made available at Type8ar?
More than anything, we hope for all who visit Type8ar to have a delightful and fun experience discovering our wide collection of typewriters – something that might be considered ‘old junk’ and ‘obsolete’ in this day and age – and thoroughly enjoy themselves in this unique space. We hope that we continue to be a community space for both the young and young at heart. We welcome guests from all walks of life to come and create something on our machines and learn more about typewriters. Our workshop is also one for all, whether they are on a solo date, hanging out with friends, partners or family.
Our guests can indulge in various activities – from creating typewritten cards, letters to their loved ones, personal meaningful quotes, journal entries, letters to their future selves, and even wedding vows. We even had a gentleman breaking out in sweat typing a proposal note that he was going to present to his girlfriend on their flight later on the very same day! Another even asked if they could do their wedding photoshoot here. Some of them fell so hard in love with typewriters that they went on to acquire one of their own.
There have been so many serendipitous connections made at Type8ar and we are so grateful for them. We hope for more special memories to be created in and through Type8ar. Many of our guests have become friends and have offered kind feedback, words of encouragement and support. We even have guests making special trips down to shoot IG reels for us because they want to help us reach out to more people! We are so thankful! Ultimately, we hope Type8ar is a space that people can find joy in visiting, staying and returning.
Find out more about their workshops here.