Darren Wershler-Henry: The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting (2005)

25 March 2015, dusan

The Iron Whim is a history of writing culture and technology. It covers the early history and evolution of the typewriter as well as the various attempts over the years to change the keyboard configuration, but it is primarily about the role played by this marvel in the writer’s life. Darren Wershler-Henry populates his book with figures as disparate as Bram Stoker, Mark Twain, Franz Kafka, Norman Mailer, Alger Hiss, William Burroughs, J. G. Ballard, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S. Thompson, Northrop Frye, David Cronenberg, and David Letterman; the soundtrack ranges from the industrial clatter of a newsroom full of Underwoods to the more muted tapping and hum of the Selectric. Wershler-Henry casts a bemused eye on the odd history of early writing machines, important and unusual typewritten texts, the creation of On the Road, and the exploits of a typewriting cockroach named Archy, numerous monkeys, poets, and even a couple of vampires. And by broadening his focus to look at typewriting as a social system as well as the typewriter as a technological form, he examines the way that the tool has shaped the creative process.”

Publisher McClelland and Stewart, Toronto, 2005
ISBN 0771089252
331 pages

Reviews: Joshua Glenn (New York Times, 2007), Christine Mitchell (Canadian Journal of Communication, 2009), Karl Jirgens (Canadian Literature, 2011).


PDF (3 MB)

Friedrich Kittler: The Truth of the Technological World: Essays on the Genealogy of Presence (2013–) [DE, EN]

15 December 2014, dusan

“Few German scholars in the past 50 years have had such a lasting impact on the cultural situation of our time, including its academic institutions, as Friedrich Kittler. It is in large part due to his writings that the radio, the gramophone, and the computer are not just objects of cultural fascination, but also of philosophical reflection.

This volume contains a collection of essays written by Kittler over the course of 40 years which serve as a testament to the enormous breadth, intensity, and the singular creativity of his thought.”

German edition
Edited and with an Afterword by Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht
Publisher Suhrkamp, Berlin, 2013
ISBN 9783518732984
432 pages

English edition
Translated by Erik Butler
Publisher Stanford University Press, 2014
ISBN 9780804792622
400 pages

Reviews: Oliver Jahraus (zfm, 2014), Stavros Arabatzis (Weimarer Beiträge, 2014).

Publisher (DE)
Publisher (EN)
Worldcat (DE)
Worldcat (EN)

Die Wahrheit der technischen Welt (German, EPUB, updated on 2019-11-2)
The Truth of the Technological World (English, updated on 2019-11-2)

Juan García Castillejo: Fast Telegraphy, the Trikeyboard and Electric Music (1944) [Spanish]

8 July 2014, dusan

In this curious book, a Spanish priest proposes to combine the developments in telegraphy, teleprinter keyboards, typewriters and “electric music”. He describes how in the 1930s he built and perfected an ”electro-composition device”, equipped with lamps, transformers, capacitors, resistors, dozens of speakers and several engines.

He intended to cause the perforations in the telegraphic tape to be automatically selected by different engines that would trigger the various sound tracks recorded, and thus cause each of the “books on the perforated tape” to become an “audio book”. The purpose behind this idea was to enable the future creation of “spoken libraries” and “speech archives” in which the item being searched for could be instantly found. He performed practical experiments by means of a radio station where he managed to make the radio transmitter “speak automatically”, repeatedly broadcasting random announcements without anyone being present. He also intended this “talking device” to become an electric orchestra that composed “a music of chance configurations that was subjected to a number of panels governing its harmonic possibilities”, as well as bearing in mind the multiple possibilities that it offered in the field of improvisation.

Castillejo wrote several essays for a humour section of a radio magazine, which would imply that a concert was going to be broadcasted, when in fact it was the electro-composer instrument. In 1933, the director of Unión Radio, in Valencia paid him a visit him in order to evaluate how feasible its implementation in the radio station would be, although, due to the cost and difficulty in “providing a constant voltage for an electric demand that varied according to the use of a greater or lesser number of musical notes”, the project was shelved and fell into oblivion, and, with it, the contribution of the author. (from a summary by Miguel Molina Alarcón, 2006, pp 16-17)

Since 2008, Premio Cura Castillejo, a major Spanish award for sound art and experimental music is named in his honor.

La telegrafía rápida: el triteclado y la música eléctrica
Published in Valencia, 1944
347 pages
via Anna / Ràdio Web MACBA, via Ccapitalia.net

Commentary (Miguel Molina Alarcón, 2006, in English, pp 16-17)
Commentary (Miguel Molina Alarcón, 2006, in Spanish)
Commentary (Adolfo García Yagüe, 2014, in Spanish)
Tribute concert announcement (2013)