Dubai: How this 13-year-old keeps the legacy of typewriting alive

Whether for writing recreationally, finishing homework, or even crafting grocery lists, Ali employs his vintage 1973 Brother Valiant typewriter at every chance

By Dhyay Ghaghda

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Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied

Published: Thu 7 Sep 2023, 3:56 PM

Last updated: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 1:18 PM

For many children today, the function of modern smart devices is essentially identical to that of a pacifier. Things are different, however, for 13-year-old Dubai student Ali Baig. His interests are old school, finding antique artifacts and trinkets to be extraordinarily fascinating. Among his fixation with retrograde coins and stamps, his collection also includes a vintage 1973 typewriter: the Valiant from Brother.

“I really think that I was born in the wrong generation,” says Ali from Pakistan, who claims he wanted a typewriter since he was barely old enough to write, at the tender age of six years old.

Ali's enthusiasm for the charm of antiquity becomes evident every time he discusses his cherished typewriter. This passion is a significant reason why he strongly prefers the traditional typewriter over a modern keyboard. He explains, “I just love how it feels; everything about it is so much better.”

In fact, Ali's affinity for the typewriter is so profound that he dedicates around 30 minutes to meticulously disassembling, vacuuming, dusting, wiping, and reassembling it before each use, which is essentially a daily occurrence. Whether it's for recreational writing, completing homework assignments, or even the simplest of tasks like composing grocery lists, Ali eagerly seizes any opportunity to put his vintage 1973 Brother Valiant typewriter to good use.

When Ali first presented his typewritten homework to his teachers, their reactions were quite surprising. “They were baffled, especially my history teacher,” Ali recalls. “He said it's a work of art.” However, among his classmates, the typewriter's historical significance is often overlooked.

Some of Ali's friends have doubts about whether he even uses a typewriter. “They don't believe me,” he remarks. Ali aspires to dispel this scepticism and, with any luck, kindle a spark of appreciation for vintage paraphernalia among his peers.

“There are things we are not taught at school; we are focused more on the now and present... we forget about the past.” The young history buff, who has repeatedly deconstructed and dissected the archaic device, knows its inner mechanics like the back of his hand. When explaining its process, he articulates with confidence and hardly stutters when presenting to others.

From the second a key is pushed, a typebar presses letter-shaped ridges against an ink-soaked ribbon, mounted between two spools, onto paper. The platen, propping up the paper, then allows the text to be securely printed, and rolls further to advance the page. Modern technology loses out on this factor, where children cannot simply pick apart their computers or laptops to learn how they work.

You may be wondering how someone even comes across a technological relic like the Valiant. Ali said it took him years of relentless searching on Dubizzle to find one that truly appealed to him and fit his budget.

While Ali's parents have always supported his passions, they initially had doubts about whether he would make good use of the machine. Such concerns are not typically raised when purchasing iPhones or iPads, after all. The Valiant's previous owner had allowed it to gather dust, but fortunately, its new owner was determined to undo those years of neglect.


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