Business is booming for Melbourne’s last typewriter repairman, Tom Koska

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Just over a year ago, Melbourne typewriter repairman Tom Koska carefully peeled open a letter from a grateful customer.

He was used to it, of course – when the last Australian craftsman was qualified to restore these writing relics, many customers had overheard a message of gratitude.

But none were like this:

“Dear Tom,” the letter began.

“Word has reached the shores of the United States to your shop, your typewriter service and Down Under Type-O-Verse.

“Good on you mate.

“I hope to return to your island nation and, if possible, your neck of the woods. When I do, I will find your shop and select a pearl, made perfect and serviceable by you.

“Until then, throw deep.

“Tom Hanks.”

An elderly man holds a letter in one hand and an envelope in the other as he sits in his typewriter workshop.
Koska was happy to receive the letter of encouragement from Hanks.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Aaron Langmaid)

“Imagine Tom Hanks texting me?”

Sir. Koska, the owner of the last typewriter shop in Melbourne and one of Australia’s last typewriter specialists, said he almost fell off his workshop chair.

“Imagine Tom Hanks writing to me,” he said.

“Who the hell am I to have such a Hollywood actor as one of my clients?”

a typed letter
Hanks is known to prefer using a typewriter for writing.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Aaron Langmaid )

As it happens, Hanks is among the thousands of enthusiasts who still can’t bring themselves to tap away at a computer keyboard, preferring the constant clack of metal letters on crisp white paper.

So in an age of instant communication, Mr. Koska’s skills are still in demand.

“I’ve never actually been busier,” said the 79-year-old.

“Every week I receive a typewriter from someone who wants it repaired.

an old typewriter.
Mr. Koska repairs typewriters of all ages.(Provided by: Yau-ming Chiam, Con Philippidis)

“Sometimes someone may have inherited it from a grandparent and they want it restored as a keepsake.

“But I also have inquiries from young people – children as young as 10 who have made the request from their parents.

“I guess other people just like to hear the noise – the louder the better.”

An elderly man sits in a workshop surrounded by old typewriters, with one typewriter resting on his lap.
Elite Office Machines is the last typewriter shop in Melbourne.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Aaron Langmaid)

‘Last of a Dying Trade’

From his shop in Melbourne’s inner north, Mr Koska has built a reputation as the man who remained steadfast as the tides shifted in an industry that had almost been lost.

Last year, he was even the subject of a short documentary called The Last Typewriter Shop in Melbourne, which was released by filmmaker Yau-ming Chiam.

A man sits in silhouette at his desk repairing a typewriter.
Sir. Koska says he has no shortage of customers.(Provided by: Yau-ming Chiam)

“I made the documentary about Tom because he’s a really pleasant person and his story is living history,” Chiam said.

“He is the last of a dying trade that was once ubiquitous.

“It’s like the Tasmanian tiger – I had to film it before it was gone.”

Hands fixing a typewriter.
Very few typewriter repairers remain in Australia. (Provided by: Yau-ming Chiam, Con Philippidis)

Sir. Escaping conscription in the former Yugoslavia in the 1960s, Koska arrived in Australia as a refugee and quickly worked as a typewriter mechanic when the industry was at its peak.

He knows he should have been out of business about 40 years ago, but he kept going, branching out into fax and copier repairs until he stood alone as the last of his kind.

‘That’s what I love’

These days, his workload remains constant thanks to an underground love of all things analog.

Every day he sits surrounded by the kind of mess that could almost bring a grateful tear to his eyes – vintage relics that have been cut and polished and put back into the hands of customers.

An elderly man sits at a desk, his hands resting on the keys of a typewriter.
Sir. Koska kept his business going through changing times by diversifying, but now his original service is in high demand.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Aaron Langmaid)

“I could probably rent the shop and make more money, but this is what I love,” Mr Koska said.

“It’s very rewarding when you can return a machine to a customer and see how grateful they are.”

He even received another letter from Hanks urging him to never give up.

“When in doubt,” Hanks told him, “go fishing.”

close-up of typewriter keys.
Renewed interest in the writing relics has not only surprised Mr. Koska, it has delighted him. (Provided by: Yau-ming Chiam, Con Philippidis)

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