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Business booms for Melbourne’s last typewriter repairman, Tom Koska

A little 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 — as the last Australian tradesman qualified to recondition these writing relics, many a client had tapped out a message of gratitude.

But none was quite like this:

“Dear Tom,” the letter began.

“Word has reached the shores of the USA of your shop, of your servicing of typewriters and the 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 pick out a gem, made perfect and workable by you.

“Until then, throw deep.

“Tom Hanks.”

An elderly man holds a letter in one hand and an envelope in the other while sitting in his typewriter repair workshop.
Mr Koska was delighted to receive the letter of encouragement from Hanks.(ABC Radio Melbourne: Aaron Langmaid)

‘Imagine Tom Hanks writing to me?’

Mr 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 a Hollywood actor like that as one of my customers?”

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

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

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

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

“Every week I am receiving a typewriter from somebody who wants it repaired.

an old typewriter.
Mr Koska fixes typewriters of all ages.(Supplied: Yau-ming Chiam, Con Filippidis)

“Sometimes somebody may have inherited it from a grandparent and they want it restored as a memento.

“But I also have requests from young people — children as young as 10 who have made the request of their parents.

“I guess others just like to hear the noise — the louder the better.”

An elderly man sits in a workshop surrounded by old typewriters, with one machine 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 earned a reputation as the man who remained steadfast as the tide shifted in an industry almost 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 silhouetted at his desk, repairing a typewriter.
Mr Koska says he’s not short of customers.(Supplied: Yau-ming Chiam, Con Filippidis)

“I did the documentary on 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 up a typewriter.
Very few typewriter repairers remain in Australia. (Supplied: Yau-ming Chiam, Con Filippidis)

Mr Koska, who fled conscription in the former Yugoslavia in the 1960s, arrived in Australia as a refugee and quickly plied a trade as a typewriter mechanic when the industry was at its height.

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

‘This is what I love’

These days his workload remains steady thanks largely to the underground love of all things analogue.

Every day he sits surrounded by the kind of clutter that could almost bring a grateful tear to his eye — vintage relics that are cut and polished and placed back into the hands of customers.

An older man sits at a desk, his hands resting on the keys of a typewriter.
Mr 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 client and see just how grateful they are.”

He has even received a second letter from Hanks encouraging him to never give up.

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

close-up of typewriter keyes.
Renewed interest in the writing relics has not only surprised Mr Koska, it’s delighted him. (Supplied: Yau-ming Chiam, Con Filippidis)

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