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Articles on this Page
- 03/18/13--02:26: _Testing 123
- 03/20/13--10:04: _Why
- 03/23/13--08:13: _Trendy?
- 03/25/13--02:38: _Remington Victor T ...
- 03/28/13--08:22: _Streamlined 20-ies ...
- 03/29/13--12:33: _Just arrived, shipment
- 04/02/13--03:54: _Article on Rundstat...
- 04/08/13--05:32: _Oops - learnt somet...
- 04/10/13--01:18: _New (in 1930) elect...
- 04/12/13--12:23: _Large, heavy, green...
- 04/16/13--10:50: _Taking the air
- 04/22/13--01:22: _Free typing course
- 05/01/13--00:18: _New Speedline Corona
- 05/04/13--05:55: _The digital world o...
- 05/06/13--06:50: _N38954 on it's feet...
- 05/14/13--01:43: _Practice
- 05/20/13--02:39: _Copies letter witho...
- 05/25/13--02:22: _Corona 3 'automatic'
- 06/02/13--05:35: _Hardboiled detectiv...
- 06/07/13--13:04: _Hardly a typewriter...
- 03/18/13--02:26: Testing 123
- 03/20/13--10:04: Why
- 03/23/13--08:13: Trendy?
- 03/25/13--02:38: Remington Victor T - A mechanical machine (very)
- 03/28/13--08:22: Streamlined 20-ies Royal portable typewriter
- 03/29/13--12:33: Just arrived, shipment
- 04/02/13--03:54: Article on Rundstatler musical notes writer
- 04/08/13--05:32: Oops - learnt something new about bakelite ^D^D^D lacquer.
- 04/10/13--01:18: New (in 1930) electric typewriter prints whole phrases
- 04/12/13--12:23: Large, heavy, green and gone
- 04/16/13--10:50: Taking the air
- 04/22/13--01:22: Free typing course
- 05/01/13--00:18: New Speedline Corona
- 05/04/13--05:55: The digital world or how to load a stack of sheets evenly...
- 05/06/13--06:50: N38954 on it's feet again
- 05/14/13--01:43: Practice
- 05/20/13--02:39: Copies letter without carbon paper
- 05/25/13--02:22: Corona 3 'automatic'
- 06/02/13--05:35: Hardboiled detective fiction
- 06/07/13--13:04: Hardly a typewriter at all...
New to me, this Blogger. So some random jottings first, to see if this works. And of course to figure out a bit how it works too.
Perhaps typewriters are now/becoming trendy again. Just noticed that the user manual of a Fiat 500 (a trendy car, it's selling point is mainly it's design I think) is entirely typed.
Well, they used a typewriter typeface, the blackness of the characters are very regular for the same character. But it is even in red and black, now that is very appropriate for such a typeface :-)
To get the machine to feed properly again the back-rollers have now been replaced with new 'rubber' from several layers of heat-shrink tubing (in-expertly). The platen is a bit hard (noisy, but not a big issue) and seems to have worn or shrunk un-evenly (makes the paper want to go awry on linefeed). Over about an inch on the left-side of the platen it is about half a mil smaller in diameter than the rest. After having tinkered with the rollers, I'm not tackling that or taking the carriage apart in any way however.
The machine works again, cleaned and with new ribbon on the spools.
A very explicitly mechanical machine that lasts. Should be good for another 75 years :)
The first Royal portables were afaik the boxy design, the 'Model P' and so forth. Replaced mid 30-ies by the rounded squarish design.
When did Royal make a small portable typewriter in a streamline design?
There is one listed on the local Ebay version for sale with a cover that looks more like a Corona streamlined design than anything else but marked Royal.
Where does this fit in the Royal line of portables, wondering...
Latest (and last, honest) shipment arrived today.
Bought via the major local online auction site. Packed with only a layer of cardboard (and tape, tape is good :) around a single layer bubblewrap wrap. The postman thankfully was careful, arrived pretty much unscathed as they usually do via the post.
In the picture it looks in great shape. When viewed up close in person - needs some work. Good thing is that the feed rollers are still pretty ok (round at least) and the platen seems fine. The feet are totally gone, seem to have taken the last 80 years to perform a slow-motion explosion.
The case does have some damage also, likely older damage and not from the last shipment. The cleats have partly just sheared off the case. Have to think about how to fix that.
But first de-gunk and clean!
Browsing an older issue of 'Het Leven' ('Life') magazine of 1937, the following article caught my eye "A relief for speedy composers.":
The caption (in Dutch) reads:
"The laborious writing down of musical notes, sharps and flats, the time consuming writing out of the different orchestral parts and all the burden that the complicated musical notation is for the speedy composer have been resolved in one fell swoop by German engineer Rundstatler, with his machine that can write musical score with the speed that a typist can take a letter! The machine writes everything, both the musical notes and the bars as well as even the most complicated chords - now just some inspiration, and our composers write a symphony in a day!"
One other mention of the Rundstatler machine turned up on a first quick internet-search. A scan of an advertisement for the machine (included in a thesis for it's graphic design).
Looking at the machine in the photograph, it somewhat resembles perhaps an Adler mechanism. Still has at first glance a 'normal' 4-bank keyboard and the sheet clearly shows indeed musical notation. The print-ad suggests this was probably on the market and for sale; in this blog some recent (and much better) pictures of an actual Nototyp machine.
A second internet-search quickly yielded a patent for the machine and also showed that it (of course :-) was already the subject of an article on oz.typewriter. Including a much better quality version of the photograph above and much extra information on these machines.
But still enjoyable and inspiring to run across such little tidbits of ingenuity from decades ago.
When browsing through an old issue of Popular Mechanics (the March 1930 issue to be exact, amazing what is on the internet), the following short article drew my attention.
The text was intriguing and not quite clear to me at first reading. Did make me wonder: what did such a machine look like?
Another slightly longer article in an American newspaper of April of the same year gives more information about the machine (but still no pictures) and especially information on the rationale for such a machine:
Reading this pitch; it should be a great success! But these machines did not become ubiquitous. This had me wondering for a bit. Why is that?
The machine may have been too costly for it's benefit back in the 30-ies, but probably there is a another cause. The fact that also today we use mostly character based keyboards is a strong hint there is a fundamental flaw in the proposition of a word writing machine.
When viewing a writing machine from the information flow point of view, then I think there is a likely, fundamental reason word-writing machines are not and will not be a great success.
For a word-writing machine, the user has to choose from a keyspace of 100 (50%), 400 (90%) or even 1000 words (98%) in addition to the individual characters. Assuming an average word length of 6 characters, this would allow the user to need 6 times as long to make the choice in this larger keyspace to still need the same amount of 'work' to write a text. The time ('work') needed to make the choice and enter into the machine is I suspect not a straight linear relation with the size of the keyspace. Probably there is an exponential relationship. Making a choice and a keyboard entry from a 130+ keyspace takes longer than entering 6 regular keystrokes.
The benefit of word-writing (if any) is too small to justify the cost of learning a new entry method.
Anyways, I get distracted. What did it look like...
A quick trawl through patent databases turned up a few patents with likely relevant titles. The US patent numbers 1,587,137 for a "Word Writing Machine", 1,590,998 for a "Combined Keyboard and Chart" and 1,619,691 for a "Typewriting Machine" all describe and claim such a device. These were filed for during the early 1920-ies.
From the text of the patents it seems that Mr Balston started filing patent applications for this invention already in 1914. Overall, Mr Balston was a quite prolific inventor over a broad field. His published patents range from a "Nursing Bottle" (1890) to a "Photographic Camera".
But back again to the word-'macro'-writing machine; the first patent describes the machine that has the ability to print a series of letters in one go; print a whole word in a from a single key-press. It does this with a row/rack of letter-rings, indeed much like the mileage counter on a speedometer. The hard rubber letter-rings have all printable characters on the outer diameter. The rings are rotated so as to form the word to be written and then hammered against the page. The rotation is controlled of course via the key selected on the keyboard and encoded in the mechanics.
It could be seen, in working principle, perhaps as a hugely parallel Hammond-like machine. Or similar to the mechanism of adding machines (or cash registers) to print all digits of a number in one strike, albeit with many more characters.
Rather complex drawings, but they do show the basic arrangement:
Selecting the words was rather ingenious, as described in the newspaper article above. The diagram from the patent shows the general idea. Also it shows the complexity, there is a large choice to be made by the user for every entry:
Given the sophistication of the patents and the detail in the articles, at least one functional machine would surely have been built. Can't however find any sign of this device becoming a commercial product.
The complexity in the construction added by the 'macro' function, combined with the unusual keyboard operation probably were more costly than the cost of just writing the individual characters. Also by 1930 the form-writers were, I guess, established products, using paper-tape or pre-punched aluminium strip or sheet. These would be hard to compete against in such a specialty product for a niche market by an unproven method that would take more work.
Still curious if a photograph of this machine (or such a machine) exist?
Distracting, this internet. Interesting, but distracting...
Large it was. The machine itself, a solid office desktop machine, has already quite a footprint; add to that a carriage with a 50 cm wide platen. This could take an A3 - sideways. This really made it unwieldy, hard to carry and hard to store.
Heavy it was. Even though most of the machine was aluminium, the material was used rather generously. Very solidly built. The extra wide carriage probably made the machine just that little bit heavier than even a regular version would be.
Green it was almost but not quite. It is the brand's particular shade of not quite green and not quite grey. It's period I suppose.
Gone it is. Selling it on the local online auction site proved really not feasible. There just isn't that much interest in a 50 cm platen machine, as I can well imagine. Now I've read about the desirability of these machines elsewhere, but overhere they are as common as mud. There are at any given time 5 or 10 of these listed in between several hundred machines of other makes and sizes. And that is just the local (national) auction site for this fairly small market. So in the end it was dropped off at the local charity shop...
Every machine has a serial number, so I've read. Being curious, I looked for it but couldn't find a serial number anywhere on this machine. I didn't remove any glued-down felt padding to look underneath, but otherwise I looked pretty much all over the machine and I did use a flashlight. Not a number in sight. The one thing that was inside the machine was a small scrap of paper with the word 'Asterlist', stuck under a clip. No idea what that was of/for/about; maybe the name of the typeface. I put the scrap of paper back where it was and put the machine together again.
So. Got the Noiseless. I wanted the booklet.
Starting with the online scans, used picture editing tools to edit out most of the stains, spots and creases that paper collects with age. Then made a printing layout for double-sided on A3 paper (thin, smooth, just a little too white probably), at about the right size (I think). So to the color laserjet printer; then stack, staple and cut to size: Booklet!
By the way, when sitting down to read my newly printed booklet, I noticed that the company actually recommends the manner of typing touch, top of page 5; "strike them quickly and do not allow the finger to hang on to the key at the end of the stroke". That sounds a lot like a description of 'staccato' style :-)
Now to practice. Or perhaps just stick with my 'sight method' of typing.
Now I did see this sensational new portable typewriter in many pictures online. Now still to be among the first to own one is unlikely; the ad is from '38 announcing the new '39 model. But even if not amongst the first, from what I read about it and saw of it; I did now want to own one :-)
Did not mail the coupon to Messrs. L C Smith & Corona, but started checking for one to pop-up on the local auction site. After a couple of weeks a Sterling gets listed and in burgundy too. It looked a bit worn, but after holding off for some weeks; did bid and did buy. (Passed earlier on a mint-condition Silent in crinkle...)
So a Sterling. And that really is what it is.
Sterling design, it's styling is spot on and "looks as though it could be no other way" as a designer friend commented. And that, he said, is very hard to achieve in design. It really has a 'zing', has a swing to it.
Sterling engineering. Very light touch, easy typing and the carriage positively purrs as it returns. The shift is light as promised. The mechanism to me looks brilliantly simple. In engineering, it usually takes a lot of effort to make something look simple.
I've now had it for a couple of weeks and used it a bit, really am impressed with the 'sensational new typewriter'.
Such tricks and tips would I guess be common knowledge back when typewriters were in common use. Exchanged and passed on between users, both home and office. (I do think I remember being demonstrated this trick of loading a stack as a kid - 'ages ago'. But memory is an unreliable thing...)
When using a typewriter today there is usually no throng of fellow-users around you to help and assist with such little tricks. This is where the 'wired' world fills the gap and really helps out! From the basic (but potentially really confusing) "where's my 1 ?" to "best to not hit the full-stop (.) too hard".
With the digital world, the cost of communication and the impact of distance on communication has basically approached zero. Like Clay Shirky observed in this Wired article, this now makes niche-interests possible, even mini-niche interests like typewriters in the 21st century.
I think it could be argued that the mechanisms of the digital world are fueling this interest, enabling for this interest; "Meganiches can address any interest, even one that users themselves wouldn't have thought of until they stumbled across a captivating Web page."
Nice, this digital world :)
Tried that - no difference. Maybe this is just how it was meant to be (or the mechanism has a bit more internal resistance that it had when new). It is actually more the typebar mechanism, vibrator-bar and keys that go 'ka-thunk'; the carriage is not the main culprit.
But back to the subject of feet.
It took a while, a month, for the package to get to my door. After paying the customs charges to the postman, I got the package. It had been opened for customs inspection - I can just imagine the customs inspector reading 'typewriter parts' and going; 'huh?'.
The new feet do make the machine complete again.
The original feet had gotten totally out of control. I guess this specimen had been equipped with the special cushioned feet, as Remington proudly advertised; see mid second column:
Probably great in 1933, not such a hot idea in 2013. The remains of the old feet had to be chiseled away. Literally. The black had become like tarmac and the red gave off a clingy type of dust and both had worked their way into the machine and into the case-lining. There is still some of the black tar clinging to the machine and feet-cups.
But now with the new feet from TTS; fit the machine great:
By the way; learned that the screws could do with a final extra turn after settling after typing a page or two. As the pictures show, the lettering on this machine is not so great anymore. On the back the remains of the original markings can still be seen very vaguely as an imprint in the lacquer. The wordmark on the front and paper tray have lost their gold crispness. Nevertheless, the machine is on it's feet again and it types!
Mind-boggling that spare parts for such an old and obsolete machine can still be purchased today. Again the wonders of the digital, internetworked world; otherwise would never have known about TTS and this would just not have been possible.
Post scriptum: yesterday used my Remington Victor T to type a letter (and two drafts, the backspace did not erase...). I was really struck again by how loud that machine is. Maybe this is partly because the platen is hard, but it made me appreciate the noiseless feature.
The extra feature that the copy also can be two-color probably did not outweigh the extra hassle. Also not sure it wouldn't smear the copy with ink during linefeed, needs to take care with inking levels.
In any case it was not a roaring success that drove carbon paper off the market - carbon paper can still be bought even today!
Come to think of it, carbon paper probably pre-dates typewriters as well. And after a very quick scan of the collection of niche interests that is the internet - yes it does!
A folding Corona. These are indeed relatively common machines, also locally here. They pop up regularly on the local auction site (though sometimes with eye-popping pricetags). Several months ago I got this one also online, and had it shipped to me by a very kind seller stamped with many many stamps.
The case has been repaired with a piano hinge, an old repair. The front flap of the case is a weak point and many show up online with this bit missing or broken. Otherwise the case looks fine and hardly any rust on the hinges. Amazing how small it really is.
When taking it out of the case, it looks like all the mechanics of the machine really fill the available space of the box. Not a lot of space left (just a small gap for the spare ribbon tin).
With this one I was quite lucky, all the defects and damages were minor and easily fixed. It now types quite nicely again. The left Fig-shift key got badly bent at some time, this makes the shift-lock a bit harder but I'm not going to try to bend anything back. It had a ribbon that still had good ink, but was rather worn and torn with holes. This is now replaced with a new ribbon (nylon). When the kids found out that such things as purple ribbons existed (and that it would then print in purple!) it absolutely had to get a purple ribbon. So of course it has.
So now a Corona 3 'automatic' it is.
The detective stories by Raymond Chandler featuring his Philip Marlowe character methinks qualify as being part of the 'hardboiled' detective fiction genre.
I learn that Mr Chandler wrote these stories using an Underwood Noiseless machine, a very soft-spoken writing machine. I'm imagining he would have used a portable (77?), but don't know or can't find the online reference I got that impression from.
Odd. Whilst Agatha Christies' puzzle-like 'whodunnit' stories were typed on a Remington 5T portable (pretty loud type-clack) these 'hardboiled' were written on a gently soft-striking machine (only the ka-chung of the carriage).
I wonder. Does it add something to the experience of reading or listening to a Marlowe story to imagine it having been typed with the muffled ka-chung of his Noiseless?
To try, the short story 'The Dear, Dead Days' is a very gentle story (nobody dies) and not so 'hardboiled' at all. Though there is plenty of wisecracking.
A more 'hardboiled' story to enjoy is 'Trouble Is My Business'. This one was first broadcast in 1948, starring MGM's dynamic young actor Van Heflin. The audio quality is not so good on this one and there is almost two minutes of commercial seduction to sit through (no, not soap - toothpaste). But still, do sit through the commercial going all lyrical over the minty new flavor to get to what I think is a very typical 'hardboiled' Marlowe story. Now imagine typing all this out on a Noiseless...
In any case; even today I find these are enjoyable short radio-plays. Excellent for listening to during a long drive or when tinkering (with a machine).