I contemplated posting this on Typosphere, but I try to keep the really grumpy/cynical stuff out of the way. I don't know if you've seen the piece, but it's bouncing around my "typewriter" newsfeed just about as fast as the Hanx Writer story did:
The Times' newsroom set to ring with the sounds of typewriters once more
And with a little digging, one finds a tweeted pic of one of the speakers in question.
On the one hand, I can actually see some benefit. My kids and I all find it easier to work with some kind of background noise going on. I got into the habit in college of packing my trusty Walkman, a couple of cassettes and some spare batteries and camping out in the library to recopy notes. (My wife is the lone dissenter in the house, and can't so much as read with the radio on.) Public typing aficionados in the 'sphere have reported favorable responses to the sound, too. ("I haven't heard one of those in years.") As a kind of productivity susurration, perhaps the recorded drone of a flotilla of typewriters will have the intended effect.
But what is the intended effect here? It feels more like cheap manipulation to me, like the old saw about piping in the scent of vanilla at amusement parks. It's like a sensory trick, isn't it? Wouldn't this get old after a while? Unless the sounds are truly randomized, I can see this being something of an aural assault. I hope that it's not just a single sound effect layered and looped upon itself, like an early Steve Reich tape composition. There is a point at which a wave of noise can be too much. Even I had to stop every now and then and flip the cassette over.
What nobody's pointing out, though, is that this is being played in a newspaper office. Not exactly the best place to work right now, given that the readership is almost certainly carrying around the latest news on a device in their pockets. A very, dark cynical part of me says: if they play it loud enough, they can't hear progress coming.
I will be the first to confess that there is certainly a lot of romance in the sounds of a typewriter, and as any type-in attendee can avow, a roomful is even more special. I don't know if piped-in sounds have the same impact, but if they do, I hope all the divisions at the Times get to choose their legacy-tech background music, otherwise the Times' web team will be stuck listening to the harmonies of a hundred screeching modems.