Robert A. Caro and the value of analog

Smith Corona Electra 210, the electric typewriter Robert A. Caro uses

Eminent historian Robert A. Caro has been at work on his acclaimed multi-part biography of President Lyndon B. Johnson for decades. Now in his early 80s, he’s working on number five. 

“Today everybody believes fast is good. Sometimes slow is good.”


Caro is a former investigative reporter who long ago learned the power of “turning over every page” in the archives he haunts. 

He describes his methodology in a new book, “Working: Researching, Interviewing, Writing.” but if you want a Cliff Notes version, Popular Mechanics has published a fascinating interview with him.

Robert A. Caro by Jay Goodwin/Wikimedia Commons

It’s a surprising venue, until you realize the publication is fascinated by his electric typewriter. It’s a Smith Corona Electra 210.

Caro wrote his first book, “The Power Broker” on one. He likes them so much he bought seventeen of them when the manufacturer ceased production of the model decades ago. Nowadays, some people keep them around mostly to address envelopes and for short notes.

I’ve read lots of interviews with Caro; this conversation, which focuses on the value of analog vs. digital in his research and word processing, is one of the more interesting. 

Top quote: “Today everybody believes fast is good. Sometimes slow is good.”

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