January 2019 / Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
Everything Old is New Again
Dominion Business Machines Deal in Old and Modern Tech
By Nishat Chowdhury
In the past couple of decades, modern technology has dominated the lives of many globally and the impact of it is unmeasurable. While it is hard to remember what life was like before smart phones, tablets, and portable computers, at one point in time, typewriters were used in educational facilities, workplaces, and homes. Although modern day technology has taken over, the appreciation for typewriters has not vanished. Today, there is a thriving nostalgia for typewriters and the use of them has not stopped. Doug Sanderson’s family company, Dominion Business Machines, is one of Toronto’s oldest companies and has served a wide range of individuals, companies, and institutions – many of whom have remained loyal customers for decades. With the integration of modern technology, Doug Sanderson’s family had to reinvent themselves by discovering new ways to run their business to meet the demands of the people.
Once called Dominion Typewriter until 1978, the Sanderson family started the business in 1902. “My grandfather started the company, then my dad ran it, and then it got passed down to me,” says Sanderson. “We used to have large and several locations around the city but then we realized it was impossible to stay downtown. We started on 45 Adelaide Street East in the early 1900’s, then in the 1930’s we went to 68 Victoria Street, and then back to the original location on Adelaide Street.”
Due to the volume of typewriters sold, the prices of rent downtown, no parking, the demand for repairs and businesses wanting Dominion to go to them instead, the company was unable to stay downtown. In the 2000’s, Dominion Business Machines moved to a small unit on 71 Vulcan Street in Etobicoke. “Those buildings that we were once in, in the 1900’s, DELL owns now.” says Sanderson with a small laugh.
Even tech giant, IBM started out selling typewriters. In the 1970s, IBM came out with the IBM Selectric, a highly successful electronic typewriter which was faster to use and had self correct. “It was expensive. It retailed for $1200-1300. That is a lot considering the average annual household income at that time was $11,000,” explains Sanderson.
When asked how many typewriters are sold and the volume of customers Sanderson receives, Sanderson gives a reminder that Dominion Business Machines does not only sell typewriters. “We are not only a typewriter company. We sell calculators, printers, photocopiers, toners, 3-D printers, and paper shredders. Typewriters are not our entire business revenue. We have a successful rental business and we often compete with Staples and Amazon in terms of prices.” says Sanderson. “But to answer your question, we repair about 3-4 typewriters every week and also sell about 3-4 every month, approximately.”
Some say typewriters are a thriving nostalgia and that there will always be people keeping them working. Whereas, some are unsure of why others think that typewriters are obsolete because plenty of people still use them, and a handful of companies still manufacture them. Some are still used in public and home offices. And, there is no reason a perfectly working machine should not continue to be used. A machine that types without electricity is a very useful tool. Perhaps more now than ever with the increased reliance on electricity.
“I think there is definitely room for them. The nostalgia factor plays a big role and some people find typewriters much more appealing than a computer. Are they going to be around in 50 years? I think so. 150 years? I’m unsure but it is hard to predict the future.” says Sanderson.
When asked if Sanderson himself still uses a typewriter, “Of course I do! Yes! Doesn’t everyone?” says Sanderson enthusiastically. “I understand they have become a trend in recent years and I have even met a couple of aspiring authors who use them.”
Through technological advancements, Dominion Business Machines has still remained successful. The company took great strides in ensuring that they are selling products and providing services to meet the current demands of customers. The company has been voted ‘Best Office Equipment Company in Toronto’ by the Consumer’s Choice awards and became one of Toronto’s best known business equipment suppliers.