In the wake of the Snowden "revelations" on the NSA's spying on virtually everyone (probably God, too... maybe that's what the remote viewing projects of American intelligence were all about), many of you emailed me that maybe the typewriter would stage a comeback.
Well, this one is interesting because maybe Russia was listening in:
Just in case you missed it:
"That appears to be the rationale behind the Russian government's decision to purchase new typewriter equipment. The country's Federal Guard Agency has placed an order for 486,000 roubles worth of electric typewriters, according to the Russian procurement service website.
"Granted, that's only about $15,000 worth, an estimated 20 typewriters, but this is just one order. More important is the revelation given by a source at the agency to Russia's Izvestiya newspaper: the Defense ministry, the Emergencies ministry and the "special services" are already creating documents on non-electronic devices. President Putin is already receiving some of his correspondence this way, Izvestiya said.
"'After scandals with the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks and the exposes by Edward Snowden,' the anonymous source explained, 'it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents' — especially because each document can be traced back to its unique typewriter signature."
This is, in a way, an intriguing backhanded admission on Russia's part - if the story is true - that their computer industry simply cannot keep pace with the galloping expansion of capabilities in the West. More importantly, it's another signal that Russia will do anything it can, including rely on an "obsolete" technology, to preserve its national sovereignty and the integrity of its confidential communications.
Culturally, the trend is even more interesting. We are indeed reaching a point in human history where the choices are increasingly to join in the growing technocratic state, or, to the extent possible, opting out, and sending typewritten letters the old fashioned-snail-mail way. If the story is true, Russia isn't opting out, they just don't want others listening in. And that raises another significant point.
It's been well-known since the Clinton era if not before, that the NSA was spying on virtually everyone. And "everyone" in this case means the other great powers: France, Britain, Italy, Germany, China, India, you know, the usual list. And they probably kept a few Smith Coronas, Royals, and Selectrics around just for good measure. Unfortunately, those typewriters aren't going to help too much in financial markets that are increasingly electronic...
... and if you're going to wage cyber-economic warfare against the ultimate insider trading mechanism, you'd better have a few Crays handy, and some pretty astute programers.
Oh yea, I forgot, Russia's defense ministry recently called for a vast new recruitment of computer programmers too. Typewriters, and computer programmers.
It's an odd combination that suggests Russia is planning for the long term. Now, as my co-author Scott De Hart points out, the purchase of electric typewriters will only spur the NSA to come up with some device to decipher all the keystrokes by reading the minutest variations in electricity (yea, they'd probably try).
Dear Mr. Putin, if you want to be completely safe, better buy a lot of purely manual typewriters, and when the ribbons run out, burn them, because otherwise you'll have CIA dumpster divers all over Moscow, diving in dumpsters for your typewriter ribbons. And we're not joking either; those people really are that power mad. Sincerely yours, JPF, and SDdH.
See you on the flip side.