This was originally published on Pessimists Archive.

A love letter written with a typewriter today would be considered a romantic gesture, however in 1906 they were called the most “cold-blooded, mechanical, unromantic production imaginable” by one writer.

Another – in 1914 – said “The girl who will put up with a typewritten love letter will put up with anything.”

letter to an editor in 1897 enquired about this notion: “A question has arisen in society as to whether it is good form to write one’s love letters on a typewriter. Will you decide it?”

The editor weighed the pros and cons, of old and new means of romance. His conclusion was inspiring and thoughtful. To the question: “is it good form to write one’s love letters on a typewriter. Will you decide it?” He retorted:

Love uses the telephone, whispers at 50 cents a word to the Atlantic cable, and displays itself without fear or punctuation upon yellow telegraph blanks; why then should it hesitate in the presence of a typewriting machine?

His point: technology was already augmenting love then, and always has done — ever “since the ingenious Cadmus put the alphabet together” After all, writing and the tools with which we write are technology too. The telephone would suffer similar critiques in the 1950s.

The editor finishes his response with a prescient prediction: that pens and pencils may well give way to keyboards in future. “In the ages to come it may be that everybody will be able to manage the typewriter better than some people are able to manage it now.” He noted that cupid had wings – implying the unnatural was not necessarily unromantic. Asking what is so wrong about a “lover who offers to unpack his crowded heart at the rate of 150 words a minute.”

He was right and today we are having similar conversations about generative AI love poems. Are AI love poems unromantic? Or could generative AI make Valentine’s day gifts romantic again through unique personalization?

We wrote further on this subject for NewArt.Press, a publication that explores the past and future of TECHNOLOGY x ART.