Machines Should Work – People Should Think!

Well, it turns out Olivetti wasn’t the only typewriter company producing trippy acid-fueled industrial films in the 1960s’. IBM got into the game too, and in 1967 commissioned Muppets creator Jim Henson to produce this short film extolling the benefits of IBM office products, including the newly introduced Selectric Composer. A weirder mix of suits and hippies than you’re likely to see again, and it seems clear that Henson had probably just read Frank Herbert’s “Dune” and was pushing a message that seems oddly contrary for a company that later produced an awful lot of computers with the word “Think” in the names. Enjoy Jim Henson and IBM’s “Paperwork Explosion” from 1967:

Updated: June 2, 2015 — 9:58 am


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  1. Paul De Vos - Mapdv

    I have just obtained an Underwood Standard typewriter – approximate age 60+ years. Serial # 11-6901116.
    It appears to need some work to restore to full working order, including rubbing off some rust on the frame and touching up the paintwork. The carriage return does not work in single space mode. Does your site provide guidance for restoration or are you just interested in “as is” typewriters? Is there a market for this model?
    Paul De Vos

    1. Wow, I wouldn’t normally mind how off-topic this question is (this is a blog, not a helpdesk, and the topic of this post is IBM), but I’m kinda tired of Ebay sellers fishing for free price estimations on my personal blog and not giving a damn about blog etiquette.

      That said,
      1) It was built in July 1951:
      2) It’s slightly more rare than sand.
      3) Repair manuals are here (bottom of page):
      4) no, I will not give you a value estimation.

  2. That film plays like a nightmare! A nightmare in which you are repeatedly awakened for a witty remark from a surprisingly amusing old farmer, only to find yourself back trapped in the scary world of IBM. Thankfully, it seems like we wake up in the end.

  3. That IBM film is a bad trip. After 4.5 minutes, I felt very freaked out and anxious and nauseated. Maybe the film is actually a PSA about the dangers of MT/ST.

  4. I’m glad digital freed up the typewriter for recreation! And now we know who Henson modelled Waldorf (one of the two grouchy old men in The Muppets) on!

    1. I thought that old guy looked familiar! :D

  5. Hmmm.
    I need more acid.
    Back later.

  6. I thought it pretty cool, myself. It got a bit too salesy toward the middle there but I loved the ending. Also I couldn’t help wondering what happened to all those people. I mean career-wise, not just the obvious.

  7. Yes — Waldorf! And one of those guys looks like Don Draper.

    And Raymond Scott—THE Raymond Scott—collaborated on the soundtrack??

    Man, that is weird. And for the 2015 attention span, really tedious. :)

    1. YES! Ha, you’re good at this! (:
      ” In 1966-67, Scott (under the screen credit “Ramond Scott”) composed and recorded electronic music soundtracks for some early experimental films by Muppets impresario Jim Henson.”

      1. also, “Toy Typewriter”, by Raymond Scott. From the album “Soothing Sounds for Baby” (1964):

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