Tom Hanks has a new app out. You read that correctly, not a movie, but an app. It's called the Hanx Writer, and it is a technological testament to a serious disease that afflicts the poor man. Call it typewriter-itis.
Hanx Writer turns your iPad into an old-school manual typewriter. It replicates the thwack-thwack sound of metal stamping on paper and the ding-clunk-fripp of reaching the end of one line and starting a new one. The app is free in Apple's App Store, though additional typewriter fonts and sounds cost $2.99 each.
If you're puzzled about all this, you can, depending on your age, ask your father or grandfather about the hulking mobile printing presses that once dominated desks. Or just ask Hanks. He is, in a word, obsessed.
"What's pleasing to my sensibilities is when you have the report of the key being struck; it allows for clear thinking," the actor tells USA TODAY, noting that his collection of typewriters once numbered 200. No telling what Mrs. Hanks, Rita Wilson, thought of that.
"I suppose some people who get the app may just be looking for a different sound, but really, it's for people searching for a more personalized experience when writing on an iPad," he says. "There's also the opportunity here to take your iPad to a coffee house and be really obnoxious with all the clickety-clacking."
Hanks says he uses typewriters daily, usually to type notes to friends or make comments on a screenplay. He loves the characteristics inherent in different machines and their distinctive fonts and quirks, whether it be a Hermes 2000 or a Brother De Luxe 895.
The names alone sing of nostalgia, such as his favored midcentury Smith Corona Skyriter, whose compact size and hushed operation he says was meant for reporters hammering away on plane flights.
Hanks is quick to add that his vision for Hanx Writer wasn't to create a toy but rather a functional tool. So there's a delete key and auto correct, and, of course, the ability to forward the masterpiece you've created.
The app's designer, Stuart Westphal of Hitcents, the folks behind the Draw A Stickman game, says the double Oscar-winner's mandate was simple.
"He mainly said, 'Don't make it gimmicky,' so it had to work with a Bluetooth keyboard, which is really where you get the full effect of seeing a blank white page slowly fill with black type," says Westphal, noting that the partnership with Hanks was spearheaded through a connection with Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles. "Tom wanted people to want to sit down and write a poem or screenplay with it."
When Hanks is asked if he can ever imagine the masses falling back in love with typewriters, the one-time stand-up comedian can't resist a joke.
"Well, I think Germany just said their government was all going back to typewriters, so they can't be spied on by us," he says with a laugh. "But really, Hanx Writer is just my little gift to the future Luddite hipsters of the world."