Tuesday, August 30, 2011

More Monarch


Some up-close shots of the Monarch I picked up from the online auction, and which may have a future in front of the business end of a can of spray paint.

It's a problem child for sure, but beneath the cosmetic flaws, it's got good bones. The above was typed with the machine held up at an angle -- a gravity-assist carriage.


That unexpected bit of fishing line is the drawband. No, it's not supposed to look like that. But I'm digging the light green color. "Celery" if you're interior-design inclined.


This is the part of the repair job that concerns me the most: I need to remove the silver plate from the back of the drum, seen here from the top. The drawband is fastened inside somehow. There is no convenient knot-hole in which to slip a replacement cord. I am hoping the experience is not like opening one of those trick cans of peanut brittle with the toy snakes inside.


The ribbon is hopelessly twisted and bunched on the spools, with ragged, torn portions. A loss, sadly, but it had enough life near the end to type just a bit.


The king of typewriters? That might be stretching it a bit, but my experience with 1960s Remingtons is that they're snappy, crisp machines.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Whew! ... Now what?

Lots of things happening here lately:

  • The Hermes "Tropical" I blogged about showed up in the hands of a local eBay'er, and went for over $100 U.S.. Not bad for a typewriter with what I suspect is a broken or jammed tab mechanism. Dishonest, perhaps, but not bad. I'm taking a Critical Eye at some of the less-than-stellar machines in my stable.
  • Speaking of auctions, I put a low bid on a machine at Goodwill's online site, after talking it up on Google+ and Twitter, trying to find an adoptive home. It finally shipped, and is mine now. It's got some issues, including a tricky-ish drawband replacement, and a chip in the frame that needs to be stuck back in place, and some largish paint damage. I've been considering picking up a can of appliance enamel paint for a refinishing job. I think I may have found the machine to try it out upon. Stay tuned.
  • Nearly two years after the fact, I finally finished what I consider "Rewrite 2.0" of my NaNoWriMo 2009 story, One Last Quest. A few in the typosphere have slogged through earlier versions, or the first half of this rewrite. Since this stage has taken so long, though, I don't feel that I've actually read the silly thing start-to-finish. So that's next: convert it to an .epub file and throw it on the Nook. But being done with it: what a feeling! This is easily the longest thing I've ever written. And without question, having the computer read it aloud sped up the rewrite, as my ear caught so many things that my eye missed. (For the curious, I used LibreOffice for transcription with the Read Text extension. Free, and cross-platform.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Drive-Thru Book Review: This One's for the Ladies

The Wonderful Writing Machine
by Bruce Bliven, Jr.
no ISBN, search on AbeBooks.com

I mentioned in a previous post that I met up with the guys filming the typewriter documentary, and that my interview was held in a local bookstore. Well, you have them to thank for this review, since the owner of the bookstore pulled this title off the shelf for me when I went out to talk with him face-to-face about the possibility of using his shop. My copy of this book is pretty beat up: it's a discard from a local library, though it amazingly still has its dust jacket on it. The book was written in 1954, and in the forward, the author thanks Royal Typewriter Company "[f]or complete freedom to explore its offices, factories and files, along with permissions to interrupt its busy personnel with my often foolish questions [...]" That little forward, plus the fact that this was written in 1954, led me to two immediate conclusions:
  • The book will be filled with shameless Royal cheerleading
  • The book will be filled with the pervasive sexism of the time
In other words, a great read. Of course I bought it and brought it home. Color me surprised, then, when I read all the way through it, and found almost none of what I'd expected. Almost. But more on that in a bit.

What I found, much to my surprise and delight, was a well-written, entertaining, and sometimes funny historical journey through the life of the typewriter, from the first crude inventions, to Sholes and the Remington partnership, through the adoption of the typewriter as a necessary tool of business. There's some hints that the manual, mechanical machine's days are numbered -- a brief allusion to advantages of the electric machine, and discussion of the labor-intensive nature of typewriter manufacture and adjustment -- but this book is clearly a product of the peak of the typewriter age. Classic photos and illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book, with (I assume) Bliven's captions: several photos of pre-Sholes machines, various period photos of "stylish typists" of the early twentieth century, and at the end -- and only the end -- photos from the Royal factory, which surely seemed high-tech and impressive in their day (hand-grinding the segment, for instance. Ye gods.)

Only in the last quarter of the book does Bliven really show allegiance to Royal, and even then it's a smirking one. The hijinks of one of Royal's more infamous marketing guys and his stunt to drop typewriters on parachutes from a plane, for example: that's good reading, no matter what your brand preference. Chapter 11 ("Adjuster at Work") goes on a bit, but as a contemporary caretaker of a machine or two *cough* it's a window into the level of attention that surely went into the big Royal I have at home. Somebody spent a few hours with it, just making sure the N lined up with the A and the O. Somebody in a big factory wing, seated side-by-side with a few dozen other somebodies.

The only cringe-worthy portion of the book is Bliven referring to "the girls" or "your girl" when referring to the typist, but again, this happens later in the book: late enough that it makes me wonder if it was grafted on. (The forward indicates that portions of the book were previously published in Atlantic Monthly and Collier's magazines.) Through the earlier chapters, Bliven is a good deal more equitable, and sometimes sounds downright progressive, even. But taken as a whole, it's fun book, and worth checking out if you can find a copy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Catch a Wave

200110817 typecast
One side-effect of finding this machine is that I'm incapable of remembering the model name properly. It is truly "Tropical" as I eventually stated. You can see it among the other Olivetti machines on Will Davis' site. Imagine the name badge says "Hermes" and you'll have it.

Also, this typecast topic got away from one of my original points, which was the documentary being filmed right now by the crew from LA. After some back-and-forth trying to get me to find a location, we met last week in a local used-book store, and I managed to sweat and mumble my way through a series of innocuous but otherwise mind-blanking questions ("What's your name, and what do you do" and "What's your first memory of a typewriter.") If I make it into the final product at all, it will be a testament to their editing skills. I know that folks at the L.A. and Phoenix type-ins met Gary and Chris and praised them for their professionalism and unobtrusiveness. They were particularly patient with me the entire time, despite me trying (and failing) to not stare at the one customer who hung out and watched the first half hour of the interview.

True to form, I managed to not even think to grab a crappy cell-phone photo of the experience. If you happen to get contacted by these guys, please do your best to be courteous and polite to them, so they can get some usable quotes out of the experience. And pick someplace air-conditioned, so you don't look like Nixon sweating his way through a debate.

Typed on "Lennon", a 1972 Hermes 3000 with only a slightly confused heritage
"Lennon", Hermes 3000, c 1972

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Guy

Double question
Hey, who's that over there on the desk?

Hmm, I don't think I've ever seen him before. Swiss, is he? Or French?

Eñe guesses?

Double exclamation
Ooh! I think I know!


He's from the future.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Stickers of the Dead

20110808 typecast

Typewriter Receipt

From the original receipt found with my church-bazaar find, a late-model Olivetti 32. Purchased for $99.50 in October 1975 (not including sales tax.) An online inflation calculator makes this $420.20 in 2011 dollars, or about the cost of a budget laptop. 2247 Market in San Francisco is currently Lime Restaurant.

Key Typewriter

Adhered to the front of a Smith-Corona Sterling, this fine badge from Key Typewriter in Sunnyvale, down in the heart of Silicon Valley. No search engine matches for this business, but the telephone number uses a three-digit exchange, which probably dates it from at least the 1960s.

Century Business Machines

This is inside the case lid of the same Sterling. Presumably when Key went the way of the buggy-whip, Century Business stepped in and got the previous owner's, um, business. Century is still around.

Call Us/Touch Control

My favorite one by far, stuck to the side of my big Royal standard machine. I'm not sure if Berkeley Office Equipment morphed into Berkeley Typewriter or California Typewriter, or was a third business entirely. With a major University just down the street, there would have been a demand for administrative machines and student machines alike.