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Different Strokes at NYC’s 5th Annual Type-Off

Different Strokes at NYC’s 5th Annual Type-Off


New York City 5th Annual Type-Off Klughaus Gallery Chinatown Event

This is the nerd alert of all nerd alerts—a type off. Two people are sitting head-to-head, one at a pink typewriter; one at a black typewriter. Both are competing for speed and accuracy. The payoff? Cash prize. This is not a joke; this happened on a Saturday night in Chinatown/LES.

Pierre Greene and Elizabeth Suman, the originators of the 5th Annual Type-Off™ put me and the finest fingers in the city to the test at Klughaus Gallery. Anyone could enter; no prior experience required. According to their Facebook page, “The Type-Off is NOT just for hipsters; it is for every kind of person and all ages. It is not ironic or made up for attention; it is just for people who like to type, drink and have a good time.” Next time your Human Resources department wants to build camaraderie in the workplace, try hipping them to the Type-Off™.


This contest ain’t as easy as it sounds though. If you’ve spent your entire life typing at a computer, having never touched a typewriter from the Depression era (refurbished), expect to be the handicap. Plus you may have also set yourself up to lose $5 on the entry fee. The techniques of the digital word processor or mobile touch screen are checked at the door. Your home keys with the raised hash marks on “F” and “J” are nowhere to be found on the black Streamline model. The home keys, known to give typists a central place to reach the neighboring letters, all on the same flat surface is the most convenient way to type for extended periods of time. It’s a grueling challenge transcribing the given Walt Whitman paragraph, exactly how it’s stated below. Pay attention to the spacing. Each line has be typed the way it’s formatted.

“Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta’-stand up, beautiful
hills of Brooklyn!
Throb, baffled and curious brain! throw out questions
and answers!
Suspend here and everywhere, eternal float of solution!”

Klughaus was a sweatbox, not from all the lights shining on OBLVN‘s “100 Paintings” on display. It could have been from pounding complimentary cans of beer, or the toaster oven heating up puff pastry bites. The Type-Off™ is a real pressure cooker, on the level of other office athletics: finger football, paper toss, or desk office hurdles. On-lookers were shit-talking and motivating each other as if it were a cock fighting match, because the typists were working their claws, ya dig? The more nimble you are with your fingers the easier it is to punch each letter that needs to register with impact on the sheet of paper. It turns out the ladies had the most delicate touch on the keys. Back in the day, when women were unfairly relegated to being hired as Administrative Assistant, this was a field that required typing copy at high frequency. In the end, first and second place were taken by two females; in third place, a guy. It’s fair to say that the women were built for this true sport.

Check out more photos from the event here.