The giant typewriter eraser in the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle

The Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle is open and free to the public all year around. (And I'm surprised they haven't gotten the heat from the IOC over use of the word Olympic.)

One of the works is a giant typewriter eraser. When my friend took her niece (I'm guessing around ten years old at the time) to visit the park, the girl asked, "What's that?"

Oh, that's a typewriter eraser. Back before Wite-Out or eraser ribbons, this was how you corrected mistakes. This end is the eraser, and you use that end to brush the crumbs off.

The next question was unexpected, but in retrospect, inevitable.

"What's a typewriter?"

Comments (21)
  1. Keith says:

    Claes Oldenburg?  Every city should have a Claes Oldenburg sculpture or two!

  2. Nawak says:

    Why is the erasing end on a wheel? Regular erasers are more of rectangular shape…

    Is it only because of the brush?

  3. Since you bring it up, Washington kinda has prior art on the term "Olympic". Washington's Mount Olympus was so christened in 1778, while the IOC's first games were over a hundred years later in 1896.

    [That argument doesn't stop them. -Raymond]
  4. Nawak says:

    Maybe the wheel design chosen because of the improved thinness over a rectangular shape… and maybe typists made a lot of mistakes rendering other solutions like eraser pens less optimal.

    When doing schoolwork on tracing paper with India ink, we used fiberglass eraser pens (…/stylo.jpg ) or regular eraser pens with brushes (…/fbs-285147.jpg ) but maybe they are a much more recent invention. (and still less practical if mistakes are frequent)

  5. Random832 says:

    I'd guess the wheel shape makes it easier to target a single character, whereas a rectangular eraser is more for erasing larger areas. This difference arises both from the fact that 'erasing' ink is destructive to the paper (you're actually taking off a layer of paper) so you need to minimize the target area, and the fact that unlike handwriting you don't have to erase and rewrite an entire word for it to look right.

  6. Dave Zawislak says:

    The wheel is so you can turn to an unworn part of the eraser while still having the brush attached.

  7. John Wallach says:

    Tangental but they probably cannot get in trouble for the Olympic name as it is in reference to the Olympic mountains just across the sound from the park. Washington has its own Mount Olympus (…/index.htm) but alas no gods to live above it.

  8. Alexandre Grigoriev says:

    Last year, a couple of old guys erected a 18ft "steel" fork in Pasadena, CA, as a birthday gift for their friend. That was done overnight. See it here:…/12foot-fork-in-the-road-designed-as-birthday-prank-might-become-art-in-pasadena.html

  9. Mike says:

    The "What's a typewriter?" question reminds me of a time a couple of months ago when my friend's son asked me, "Why do they call it rolling down the windows when you just push a button?"

    I didn't think I would be answering questions like that until I reached the ripe old age of thirty, but I stand corrected. :)

  10. Boris says:


    Many new cars still require rolling down windows. Power windows is still optional (of course I'm sure they also still sell typewriters, but that's much more rare).

  11. CatCube says:


    "Dialing" a phone is another one that younger people might not realize the provenance of.

  12. Mike Dunn says:

    The gesture for asking someone to roll down their window is moving your hand in a circle, like you're operating the window manually. I expect that the reason behind that gesture will be lost eventually too.

    This[1] is what I think of as a typewriter eraser. I wouldn't have been able to identify that object pictured in the sculpture unless you told me what it was (which you did, thanks!).


  13. Mott555 says:

    "What's a typewriter?"

    I get the reverse of that all the time. I'm only 22 years old and my older family members are baffled when I know what typewriters, LPs, 8-tracks, and other outdated pieces of tech are. The comment is usually like "How could you possibly know what a typewriter is?"

  14. Sean. says:

    I'm sure "rolling down the window" is already lost on non-Americans. It's referred to as opening or closing a car window in most places I've been.

    Curiously, I have a friend who's daughter had never seen a cassette tape before. They were clearing out their attic (loft) and came across these strange devices! What is most unusual is that she was completely familiar with her father's Vinyl collection and players.

  15. Mike says:

    @Boris – My five year old pickup truck doesn't have power windows, power locks, an automatic transmission, or cruise control.  I had to search long and hard to find one without these options that still had A/C and 4WD.  It seems with each passing year, car dealerships don't have "basic" vehicles in stock on the lots.  If you want the basics, you have to special order the car/truck without the options and end up spending more than just buying the loaded vehicle sitting on the lot.

  16. Nate says:

    even in the late 90s, I heard a story about a friend's niece, who had come back from visiting someone or other and was talking about how he had all these "big black CDs".

  17. Drak says:


    I was trying to find a car without air-conditioning, because the extra weight of the unit increases fuel consumption even when you don't use it. Where I live there might be 3 weeks in summer when AC is nice, at other times opening the window will do just fine (as long as you stay under 80km/h, according to the Mythbusters)

  18. Nick says:


    If you spend more, I think the point of buying a "basic" vehicle is lost and all that remains is being able to tell people, "Oh, I don't *have* power windows!".  Kinda like that guy that is always reminding everyone that he doesn't ever watch TV.

    In any case, each of the things on your list is quite useful. Why go to extra effort to avoid them?

  19. Mike says:


    It is a 2-door Ford Ranger.  I can easily reach over and lock the other door or roll the window down while driving.   I tend to keep cars for a long time, and most of the time the power windows and locks eventually wore out.  Really I was just looking for 4WD with a manual transmission more than anything though.  With the manual I can get 23mpg in traffic and still pull a 5000 pound trailer.  

  20. Worf says:

    A/C is far more useful than cooling down on a hot day. I live in a place where we get maybe 3 weeks where we need it, but the car A/C is often used in the rainy months to quickly defog the windows.

  21. Keith says:


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