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  • 04/17/17--08:20: Colourful Columbia
  • Playing music from a stack of records from the early thirties...

    Quite a few American records were in there that somehow found their way across the Atlantic. (The market here always was very international.)


    Unusually colourful record sleeve by (American) Columbia records. (Ergo a colorful record sleeve.) Few companies spent the money to print these in colour; makes for a very neat period image:



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    Already a while back the paper tray of this black Remington Portable 2 typewriter was replaced with a nicer specimen. From having bought a parts machine and a box of assorted Portable parts, there's a range of parts lying about here for this model typewriter. Out of this stock was picked a cleaner paper tray with less (no) rusty spots and still shiny on the bare metal side.


    Then to fix it on the machine. Preferably with least dismantling of the machine.

    An unavoidable first step is to remove the platen from the machine. Removing the platen knob (loosen screw) and pulling out the rod allows the platen to be wiggled out of the machine. (Images on a previous posting of April 2015.) Again a good idea to keep the line feed parts in place with a rubber band or such.


    The machine then needs to be turned over, upside down. Obviously with the typebars flat. It is best placed on a thick wad of rags or an old towel to prevent damage and to not bend parts of the ribbon-reversing mechanism. (The ribbon reverse pillars can stick out and are easily bent out of shape, causing the automatic reverse to fail. I know now...)

    Upside down, extend the carriage as far as it will go left and right and remove the hinge pin left and right. In the picture below is shown the carriage pushed all the way to the right, bringing the paper tray hinge in view. The rod may need a gentle tap from the right with an awl or small screwdriver to get the knurled end to protrude from the hinge. When it sticks out enough, it can be grabbed with pliers and gently pulled out, rotate and wiggle a bit and it should slide out fine. 


    Remove hinge rod at other side too and the paper tray will drop off. This also gives easy access to the paper feed rollers, both front and back. The front rollers assembly is merely held under the spring-rod and can even just be taken out. To replace or fix the rollers, it is however probably much easier to pull out the axle rods by the knurled end. (Don't pull the other end, that'd be the hard way.)


    For re-assembly, the reverse procedure applies. The knurling of the rods being pushed into the hinge holds the rod in place.

    The little Remington Portable then had a shiny and rust-free paper tray :-)


    (Next up still is the lifting tray. That's much harder, as the clean replacement part did not quite fit. Some 'forming' of parts and frames will be needed to make it all work.)

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  • 06/09/17--02:16: Produx pocket calculator
  • A very simple mechanical calculator of the Troncet-type, more commonly known here as 'an addiator'. This Produx was probably the main competitor to the Addiator. 


    This particular little calculator likely dates to the 1950-ies. The protective sleeve is made of a plastic (PVC or vinyl) and it is made in Germany - West.


    The Produx was manufactured mostly unchanged from the start around '28 (?). Even though the competitor Addiator became the generic name for these calculators, the Produx was made by Otto Meuter who was the inventor of these little devices. Addiator was founded by Carl Kuebler who licensed Meuter's patent. (May be that the royalties from Addiator sales then enabled Meuter to set up his own manufacturing.)

    It is of very simple and low-cost construction. The Produx is quite compact at 4½ by 2¼ inch and very thin. The stylus made of rolled-up brass is a bit too flimsy; the tip is often broken off as it is in this case. A toothpick inserted in the stylus makes it usable again. Both adding and subtracting are on the front of the calculator, making it a bit more convenient to use than the original Addiator.


    The sliders protrude through the bottom of the device, so resetting to zero is a simple pushing back - set it on the desk and push down.

    These take a bit of getting used to, but then work surprisingly well :)

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    Getting round again to tinkering with the 'lost cause' Remington Portable 2 typewriter, the next step after mounting all the typebar linkages was the ribbon mechanism.

    The change of ribbon travel direction is done by sliding the shaft to the left or right, engaging either of the spool holders with its conical drive gear. To keep it in engagement, there is a spring loaded mechanism located under the left spool.


    Two cups are held with a single spring-clip, pressing against a thinned section of the shaft.


    The shaft has nicely flattened areas for the set screws to get a proper grip. The thinned section can be seen jutting out of the hole in the spool-base. When assembled, the spring-clip should fit underneath the shaft, pressing the cups into the two holes either side of the spool-base.


    The spool holder can then be screwed on, consisting of its base gear, spool-plate and the pillar.


    The conical gear on the advance shaft is in engagement with either left or right spool holder when the shaft is pushed in its left or right position. The pillar is stationary and the gear with spool-plate rotates. (The slots in the spool-plate hole engage notches on the special Remington Portable spools. Spool-plate not yet screwed on in picture below.)


    At every keypress that actuates the universal bar, the ribbon advance shaft is rotated a little by a push against the advance gearwheel. To prevent it from rotating back again, a pawl locks it in place. When sliding the shaft with all its parts back in position again, this pawl needs to be lifted on top of the advance gear.


    As can be seen in the above picture at the arrow, that is what I failed to do. The pawl that can be seen hiding in the dark should have been lying on top of the finely geared advance wheel. (Something we'll know about a next time :)

    The shaft can then be fitted with the end control-knobs. These also have the cam-slopes that are actuated by the prongs on the ribbon-fingers that 'measure' the amount of ribbon left on the spool.


    In this machine, the parts are oddly of the old pattern - more usually found on older, pre-'25 Portables. This also goes for the spool-locking clips. It seems that the British factory still assembled some machines with the old pattern fittings as late as '27.

    With the knobs fitted again and a little tweaking on the position of the gears, the ribbon and spool mechanism is again in place.


     (The dastardly pawl has since been lifted to its proper position.)




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  • 06/28/17--00:58: The princess and the lamp
  • A while back I picked up an old magazine at a thrift shop for a few cents. Tucked in a stack of old paper was this special edition of the illustrated weekly paper 'Het Leven' (Life). This is a special January 1938 issue to commemorate and celebrate the birth of a princess!


    With a suitable band of orange on the cover. Inside it is filled with related pictures; the nurses, the vicar, the bottles. However not a single picture of the baby or even her name (that came later).


    The issue proudly ends with the magazine's best picture of the royal couple. On the inside of the back cover a full-page advertisement urging the reader to enlist in the KNIL (colonial army).


    The back cover is selling subscriptions to the magazine. On this special occasion of the birth of a princess, when you take out a subscription you will get a modern, deluxe lamp! The connection of the occasion to a lamp escapes me, it may have been apparent to contemporaries - but rather doubt it.


    To add another dubious linking with the happy occasion, you will also recieve free an American detective novel; "The Criminal Doppelgänger". Somebody filled out their address on the return card in pencil, but then probably thought better of it and did not send it in.  Alas - no lamp :-)

    From another era. But that lamp was strange then too, I'll wager.

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    Now that the ribbon mechanism is back in place on the 'lost cause' machine, the lifting tray is the only thing still missing from the typing mechanism. The Remington Portable typewriter has a lifting mechanism, pushing back a knob on the right-side of the machine lifts the typebars to the typing position (as is very well documented on the net).


    Hadn't yet mounted the sideplates to the segment that hold the crescent-rods or fulcrum-wires in place. These also have the mounting eyelet to pivot the protective hooks about. When mounting these plates, you'll want to play with the shifting of the carriage to get access for the screw. (Or mount this before assembling the ribbon shaft, of course...)


    Some rubber-band is helpful in keeping the typebars out of the way during the procedure. Not clearly shown in the below image, but on the right can be seen one of the flimsy looking push-bars that do the lifting of the tray and in the lower-right the hex-nut of the uppercase-right shift adjustment.


    Another preparing step on this machine was to fit one of these shift-stops.

    A Remington Portable has four adjustable stops for the carriage shift, this machine was missing one of these stop-assemblies completely. These stops are mounted on the inner sides of the machine frame. The trapezium-shaped 'vane' is part of the carriage-shift link and travels between these two stops.


    The stop assemblies consist of the stop-block itself, two mounting screws, eccentric adjustment-nut and a spring-washer. Luckily the spare-parts box contained a full extra set of these parts. (Just not in nickel-plate - this 'lost cause' machine must have been a sight when new - everything was bright shiny metal!)


    There are thus two screws for each stop accessible from the outside to adjust the shift, that is what the cut-outs in the side of the outer frame/housing are for. This way the machine can be adjusted with only removing the top panel to get access to the eccentric hex nut.


    Back to fitting the lifting tray; with the typebars out of the way the lifting tray can be lowered into its guides (B) and then fixed to the lifting bars (at A). Opening the bracket at the end of the lifting bars can be a bit fiddly. In this case with a badly mangled typewriter it also needed some forming to make it all meet up again.


     The 'hook' part that protects the typebars is then fixed to the tray and the segment endplates (C).


    Unleashing the typebars again, these rest against the felt rim of the lifting tray and can be raised and lowered by the knob at the side of the machine. In the lowered position all the typebars rest flat on the lifting tray.


    Except the '6' key.  (Drat.)

    The linkages of the '6' key had been rather bent and the connecting rivets broken. The repaired linkage is apparently almost right, but takes a little too much space and won't go as far down as the others. Will be seen how to deal with this, it may be resolved raising the lower position of the tray a little. Something to have a look at with the machine more completely assembled. Not yet declaring it a 'lost cause' completely :-)

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    A while back I got a small collection of early nickel Meccano pieces. Despite their dating to probably around 1920 they were in great condition. In the meantime some extra period-parts were found to make it almost a set that can be built with.


    To keep the collected nickel-era parts a bit better and add to the overall experience, decided to create a fitting storage box.

    The smaller sets of that time were sold in cardboard boxes - the gallery of pictures available at the New Zealand Meccano Club site and on the net in general give a good idea of the type of case. It was made of cardboard, sometimes with wooden parts for strength, and covered in black paper or leathercloth. (The largest sets were available in sturdy oak cabinets.)

    Today in the internet-age the delivery of online purchases yields a continuous supply of sturdy cardboard - saving a few of these boxes gave a good set of strong and flat sheets to construct a box with. Making up a dimension and arrangement of compartments to fit the parts and not following a very specific prototype, a new box was taped and glued together (paper-tape and PVA glue). Most of the original boxes had lift-off lids, for this case however a hinged lid was chosen. Using a cotton ribbon backing to form the hinge. The inner and outer surfaces were covered with a light-green and black covering paper.

    The most important finishing touch then is applying the labels.


    Again the galleries in New Zealand provided several high-resolution scans of various labels. This provided enough source material to assemble and mock-up a lid top label. The box lid label is a reasonable representation of a label as used in the early 1920-ies, the outfit number would have been in the roundel at the lower right corner.


    The lift-out tray has small lifting tabs of cotton ribbon. The tray layout is inspired by the layout of the inventor's outfits of the day. A regular outfit would not have had the large 3" spoked wheels. Even though some models in the 1920 manual use them, they had to be bought separately as spare parts. One could also buy a special accessory inventor's set - these would contain a set of large wheels as well as the newly introduced braced girders.

    The image on the inside of the lid seems a bit quaint, even for 1920-ish. Meccano started using this image around 1913 and kept using it well into the twenties. Another aspect that remained constant for a long time is the unattainable models on the box lid.  From these very early box labels right through to the 1960-ies, they showed large structures that could never be built with the contents of the box. Something to aspire to, I suppose.


    Building the occasional smaller model with the vintage nickel 'set' is now very much possible and a pleasure. Only a very few parts extra needed still to make up the content of a period Outfit 1, and already it has a wide range of special extra parts such as the windmill sails. Reproduction small parts boxes hold the brackets and a set of new brass nuts and bolts. Overall it now is a bit of a time-warp experience.

    Stored this way the nickel set is great for playing with again, also by the youngest - there is no paint that will be wearing off or any fragile vintage packaging to worry about. Building a model from the manual is not what is wanted however; freelance planes, cranes and automobiles are more the thing. (Aeroplane with some parental assistance - fuel cart his own construction, borrowing the boiler from a '29 set.)


    Should anybody have some stray nickel bits and want to replicate (or just have a good look at the graphic design of these vintage toy labels), the images in higher resolution below:



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  • 07/16/17--05:33: Typewriter Desk-Case
  • Browsing an old Popular Science magazine, spotted this typewriter desk-case.


    The typewriter case that folds open to form a proper table was patented, published as US patent 1,661,015 filed in 1926 and published in February 1928.

    The case folded open as a table.


    And closed for keeping the typewriter in it (and all the legs as well...).


    Somehow it didn't catch on. Wonder if the design actually made it beyond one prototype. Compared to the later travel tripod cases from e.g. Underwood, the design perhaps has drawbacks:
    - Even though it's a complete desk, the typewriter needs to be taken out of the case completely and then placed loose on the table-top (the outside of the case).
    -The case cannot be used in the normal portable manner, cannot just open the lid to have the machine available for use.
    - The complete desk and folding wooden legs likely are somewhat heavier and bulkier than a metal tripod in a regular case.
    - The narrow wooden 4-legged table needs a decent surface to stand on, a three-legged stand is likely more forgiving and stable for typing use. An adjustable leg's a hassle (and cost).
      Nevertheless; an ingenious case it is.

      This type of folding case seems to have been 'in the air', looking at this folding lunch table/box from the same year...



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      It's been said before; these are amazing times. With the global flea-market and antique-shop that is the internet, it was possible to find and purchase for a very reasonable sum the correct pattern screwdriver for the re-boxed nickel-set.

      To be fair, for a mid-twenties set it would more likely be the longer, closed nickel item. This type is more common in 1915 sets than '25 sets. But this is the exact pattern as shown in the parts-list in the 1920 booklet.


      It is again confirmed. There is not a niche-interest so tiny that it is not served somewhere on the internet.

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    • 07/27/17--12:12: Night Alarm machine spotting
    • Old movies are a place to see vintage mechanical writing machines in use - in their time. This is especially so when the story revolves around a newspaper - and many films do.

      The 1934 crime drama'Night Alarm' is all about the intrepid newspaper reporter uncovering the 'fire-bug' (and getting the girl). Overall it is a bit dated. The acting is quite decent, but there are some unexpected jumps and shortcuts in the story as well as an eyebrow-raising musical number halfway. It does have some lively action scenes with firetrucks and cars screeching round the corner. (Regarding the odd jumps in storyline; this surviving copy may well have been heavily cut down for broadcasting on television. It could well be that a half-hour's worth of acting was cut out. For many films, the television edit is the only copy that remains.)

      To properly set the newspaper scene at the beginning of the film, it shows the typesetting room with several linotype (I think) machines.


      And in more detail.


      From there on, the action moves to the newsroom to introduce the players.


      An array of desks with standards.

      Although a bit dated, the film still is quite watchable and is readily available even; 'Night Alarm' can be seen or downloaded over at The Internet Archive.



      Machine spotting!

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    • 07/30/17--03:18: Junk Shop machine spotting
    • Found another new thrift store in town, well perhaps more a junk shop. This one has a very wide variety of items from fairly credible old furniture to broken electronics and assorted 'junk'.

      Also several typewriters.

      First spotted is this remnant of a typewriter. Somehow somebody removed and then lost the body-panels. (Why?)


      Even the back panel is gone! (Having gone that far. why stop and not take off the carriage cowling.) Makes the typewriter a bit harder to identify...


      Next up was a (to me) uninspiring modern machine, a Royal Apollo 10 that will originally have landed in Germany with its QWERTZ keyboard.


      On the shelf above it sat an adding machine. Jammed solid with unfortunately a cracked housing. (Not a typewriter, but we'll class it as related machinery.)


      The next and last machine was a solid looking Remington standard looking somewhat unhappy. This is probably the maximum number of typebars that can be jammed in a machine. Unsure what caused the damage to the paint and wordmark on the top cover; it almost looks as if it's been too hot. Was it baked? Blowtorch? (That would explain the tabulator-bar being all bent.)


      Not sure how wel that white label will come off (but not much lacquer left anyways), it advertises that the asking price is a full 15 Euro for the machine.

      No prizes for guessing what machine was purchased - no typewriters were acquired that day. (Nor any adding machines, for that matter ;-)

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      It must have been always kept in its box, a fine Meccano number 2 clockwork motor. This was for the Dutch market, a 'Veermotor No.2'.


      Where the label has worn away on the box lid, it could be seen that the Dutch label is a paper pasted over an English printed box. The motor inside is in a surprisingly good condition. With the paint good still and really no rust, this motor is altogether too nice to play and build with today.


      Even the spring is clean and free from corrosion - like new.


      The included instruction sheet is multilingual and also a bit strange. The Meccano company made the effort to print and paste a Dutch label on the box and then included instructions in English, German, French and Spanish. No instructions in Dutch.


      Another strange thing is that the Dutch warranty slip is pasted over the remnants of a torn-out slip. From the remaining printing codes, both seem from the same era (printer code suggests 1931). An original 'U' (United Kingdom?) slip was replaced with an 'H' slip (Holland, likely). Seems very sloppy for such an expensive item. Perhaps needed to quickly fill an unexpected export order, but still.


      Had bought this item to get a dark red motor to go with the period set for building. On the pictures of the listing it looked decent enough and was stated to be in working condition. When I got it, it turned out to be that this particular motor is too well preserved to mar with screws. It'll mostly continue being kept in its box. A very nice time capsule nevertheless :)

      Below a larger resolution image of the instruction sheet, should you have one of these and be curious on its use :-)





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    • 10/01/17--04:45: About succulents and Royal
    • Recently picked up an album - a so-called 'Verkade album'. Between '03 and '40 the cake-manufacturer Verkade published these illustrated albums, with the illustrations enclosed with the company's product. (Collect them all...)


      This is a 1932 album; 'Vetplanten' ('Succulents'). The undoubtedly knowledgeable Mr van Laren gives much and varied information on the care of succulent plants and the various species thereof.


      Notable on the title-page of the album is the mention that it was printed and bound by Blikman and Sartorius, Amsterdam.


      In the field of typewriters in The Netherlands that is a familiar name; they were the importers/distributors for Royal typewriters. They are notable for having pasted their company name on each and every typewriter they supplied. So much so that often on the local online-ads site there is listed a 'Blikman & Sartorius' typewriter for sale, model 'Royal'. (They were however by no means the only importer to do so. James Plant prominently labeled every Underwood that passed his warehouse and Ruys tagged all Olivetti machines with their own brand. Blikman & Sartorius were the most consistent and 'visible' in doing this, though.)


      As example of their eagerness to place their name, they went to the trouble of taking this Royal De Luxe portable machine out of the case and rub off the 'touch-control' label. They then put their company name prominently on the centre front of the machine.

      It was perhaps a company policy; everything that leaves the door gets labeled :)







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    • 10/22/17--12:20: It is our earnest desire
    • ...it is our earnest desire that [it] shall give the greatest satisfaction.

      Those sentiments came with an online purchase that arrived last week. This is clearly a phrase that is not from a recent warranty statement. In fact it was included with a nearly a century old toy. Much worn and the box has lost its lid and some of its shape, but the instruction leaflet was still included.


      The clockwork motor itself has some spots of rust on the outside, but otherwise is still in fine working order. They were right in their claim that the Meccano Clockwork motor will do excellent service for many years.

      The printing code on the leaflet dates this to February 1920. A next known printing run of this leaflet is September 1921, so the motor likely dates from some time between the two dates. The text and layout of this leaflet likely date to 1916, when Meccano started making their own motors. They had been buying these from Märklin originally, but the Great War (World War I) halted that supply of course.

      This clockwork motor would have been very much a luxury item in 1920, affordable only by the well-off. (As was Meccano, to be honest.) These motors were then still supplied in 'austerity' plain strawboard boxes and only by the mid twenties were the boxes upgraded to a blue fully labeled version. Today these motors are still (or again) not all that cheap, but thankfully well within reach of many now.

      Also today there is the wonder of digital image editing. With a scanned image of the old leaflet, a cleaned version was created and printed to go with the motor in a newly made box.


      On the other hand it turned out that today it is not so easy to find matching brown paperboard made from straw. A century ago this would have been the raw material for nearly all paperboard, but today it nearly all is grey paper-pulp board. The local crafts-store here sell a large sheet of this 2mm thick board for a very modest sum.

      Some yellow watercolour ink can create a more yellow/brown colour of the board to match the original box. What proved more difficult is that the modern board is very dense in comparison to the old strawboard and near impossible to crease and bend cleanly. It will break at the edges. Nevertheless a new lid and also a new box base were made from the grey board. More of an impression than an exact replica, but it does look the part and serves its purpose of storing the motor safely. A reproduction label then added to complete the impression of the article when new.


      From references on the net (no interest so niche...), this particular motor can be identified as a nickel motor of the 'Meccanoland designation' type 6. It has the letter stamping not on the reversing lever, but on the motor side-plate. These motors are known with F, J or K, this one has a 'K'. Am curious, but have no idea on the meaning of the letter (could be initial of the person that assembled it? the subcontractor that supplied it?).


      Should you have one of these early Meccano Clockwork motors that inadvertently lost its paperwork some time during the last century; an image of the instruction leaflet below - measures about 200 by 255mm:


      And a newly created small reproduction box lid label:


      The whole point of this new box and leaflet were to add it to the newly boxed set of nickel Meccano. Now also the motorised models in the 1920 book of models can be made. Such as this Mechanical Hammer (model 147). (There's a subject you're unlikely to find in today's construction toys! - can't see a mechanical hammer appealing much today - unsure what appeal it had back then. Perhaps it was still modern and a marvel of progress...)


      In a quickly assembled model, the motor does its work fine.


      Very noisy. Surprisingly noisy. This model must've annoyed the rest of the family and possibly the neighbours, also in 1920 :-)

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      The January 1928 issue of the Meccano Magazine with an image on the cover for the article on the building of the Panama Canal. Many more articles inside on various feats of engineering, science and of course Meccano.


      Also in this issue is the first instalment in a series about famous inventions. The header of the series contains a list of notable inventions. There are the expected items such as the steam engine, the sewing machine, the motorcar and the typewriter. Oddly missing (for '28) is radio. On the other hand it does mention noctovision. But to get back to this first article - the story of the invention of the typewriter.


      The article gives a quick historical long view and then goes into more detail on how the 'startup' of Glidden happened, including the 'pivot' from a numbering machine to the general purpose writing machine. (To put it in today's terms.)

      All back issues of the Meccano Magazine can all be read online at the Internet Archive. This link opens the January 1928 issue, browse to page 10 for the article.

      For reading convenience, the pages also included below.



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    • 12/15/17--00:56: Marked down
    • As the price for typewriters on online classifieds and auctions seems to escalate, the amount of machines in local thrift shops seems down. This may be related, or pure chance of course.

      In a round of a few local second-hand shops including a very large one, only one typewriter was spotted. This one had been in the store for a while and was now marked down from 15 to an 8 Euro asking price.


      By now it was tucked away in a dark corner, jammed and looking rather forlorn. The top-cover is badly mauled and the Remington emblem is broken. A spare top cover from a portable is included with an intact emblem, should the buyer want to fix it up. Apart from the cosmetic state and a tabulator-bar that has warped out of shape it seems to be in good shape and fully working condition. Even a dust-cover is thrown into the package.

      Alas, no sale even for 8 Euro. Would be fun to tinker with, but wrong period for the collection and rather too large to insert unobtrusively into the house.

      On that, the amounts being offered for nice, clean pre-war portables looks to be going through a bit of a spike here. On the one hand there are a few traders that buy and then re-sell the machines via more international outlets for a several hundred (and they apparently do sell, looking at the shop-sites data). On the other hand the value attributed by many to these obsolete machines may well have gone up over the past few years. Even when not 'collecting', then as an item to have one of. Some as a static and transient 'interior decoration' for sure, but also some to have and keep one working machine.

      In its distressed state, the Remington would fit the bill as a 'vintage' looking prop. A steal at the price. It may sell yet :-)

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    • 01/12/18--02:34: Polyphase duplex
    • Recently arrived a small, elongated package.


      The leather is a bit worn and the embossing faded, but the marking 4088-3S can be read on the flap, with 'K&E polyphase duplex slide rule' on the end.


      And inside this 4088-3S leather sleeve is indeed a Keuffel & Esser Polyphase Duplex slide rule, model number 4088 version 3. Quite common in North America, but much less so  in continental Europe.


      Had not seen or used a duplex before, so took a chance when spotting this basic model. Duplex meaning the slide is usable at both sides, the stock being held together by the metal clamps at the ends.

      It was somewhat dirty and 'stuck solid', but cleaned up very nicely. Everything can be screwed apart and cleaned carefully. A basic polish and removing of dirt, using an eraser / rubber to remove stains and even out / lighten the yellowed celluloid. Carefully clean the glass to not accidentally remove the hairline. Putting it all back together again with some care to get the alignments right (well, good enough). On one edge the celluloid has lifted and warped, so re-mounted the cursor 'flipped over' to run on the smoothest side. After the cleaning and some adjustment it slides very smoothly.

      The 4088 is a fairly basic duplex rule, many later duplex rules go rather overboard with log-log scales. The front of this rule has, to continental eyes, odd scales; no AB, but folded CD scales (by pi) with an inverted CF. This deviation from the Mannheim is actually very neat and handy for the basic operations - clever.

      The rule being duplex, the AB scales have been moved to the back of the rule, with an inverted C and regular D. The reverse also has the K, L and the sine and tangent scales, making it look quite crowded.


      The serial number 378790 puts this as an early 'thirties rule - the K&E serials are a bit of an approximation, reading the graphs would make it around 1931-ish. The cursor however has the flanges at the corners to protect the glass from chipping. From the online sources on slide rules (yes, there is definitely a slide-rule-O-sphere on the internet), this type of cursor was made between '33 and '35. Assuming this is not a replacement runner, this rule was likely manufactured in 1933.


      After 85 years, still giving results to three digits :-)

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    • 01/21/18--13:18: 11C
    • Odd one out.


      This one is very much electronic, not mechanical.


      Also it is a departure, not an arrival.


      Similar to many slide rules, it has some useful information on the back. Not conversion tables, but instructions on the more advanced use of the calculator. (As had the more simple Lawrence slide rules.)


      This is an 11C (obviously...), of the 'Voyager' line of scientific calculators introduced by HP in '81. By then, the electronic calculator had well and truly rendered the slide-rule obsolete. Even though it's already 30+ years old, this specimen still works fine. Come to that, it has no dependancies on external 'networks', replaceable batteries, is low power and has no moving parts - it should remain functional for a while still.

      There are collectors of early electronic calculators, and especially of the early HP scientific calculators.

      Last week I got asked via-via by a collector of early calculators if perhaps knew of or had one of these that I'd be willing to let go of. I had and I was. So this particular specimen has now been passed on to a collector who was looking for one of these :-)

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    • 01/28/18--04:35: Colored streamlined five
    • Typewriters are shown in many films, being the 'every-day' objects that they were. Most are fairly standard and recognisable machines. In the '37 film 'Rhytm in the Clouds', it looks that a less common machine is shown.

      The film itself is a low-budget, fairly simple comedy with music and some romance. Typical of its genre/time; unpretentious, light entertainment. (If curious, the film can be found on the net - a.o. on the Archive.)

      Around 8 minutes into the story, the songwriter (Warren Hull) is sitting at his typewriter in his swanky apartment. It looks quite clearly a Remington portable #5.


      When the story again is at his apartment around the 40 minute mark, the machine is shown more clearly and it definitely is a Remington streamlined #5 portable typewriter. (Swanky, spacious apartment - with a white phone too.)


      What is notable and unusual is that the machine shows quite light in the film. The regular black #5 typewriter would show very dark in the picture, but this machine definitely is not black.

      Remington made #2 and especially the #3 portables in many colors, but the #5 came in black. Only by the late 'forties was the #5 made in crinkle grey, but this scene was filmed in '37. Did it also come in colors? It did come as a Smith Premier machine with a red top-cover. The machine shown is however not red, as reds would have shown darker with the film used at the time - as well as the whole machine being light.

      A brief search on the hive-mind that is the internet turned up the Remington teaching typewriter:


      This is a streamlined #5, but finished in a greyish shade of tan. That would be about right for the light shade in the film. (For larger images; there is currently one on offer at Etsy.)

      Did the prop department of Republic give the songwriter a beginners, teaching machine? In the last scene with the machine, the camera briefly shows the keyboard - no visible signs of colored columns of keys. Maybe they went to the trouble of painting a machine to match the general luxury of his apartment - for a low-budget Republic production, that however seems a bit too much.

      So maybe the wealthy songwriter did get a colored keys teaching machine :-)


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    • 02/04/18--00:31: From Quill to Typewriter
    • The piece from the editor so titled is actually not about the typewriter.


      Naturally writing technology progressed also prior to the writing machine, hadn't considered the milestones of progress of the pen itself this early. (More recent and better known of course the fountain pen and the ubiquitous Biro.)

      The article does make me see the simple metal nib pen in a slightly different light - an artefact of technological progress and product of the industrial revolution.



      Incidentally, the closest item to a typewriter in this October '30 issue of the Meccano Magazine is this Braille typing machine.



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    • 02/16/18--05:04: Damaged label!
    • Hadn't had it happen to me yet - but last week the needle jumped the groove and pirouetted onto the label.


      This type of damage to the label is sometimes seen on shellac records. It's mostly on older records, early 'twenties or before. The heavy reproducer with its needle is knocked out of the groove and slides over the record onto the label, scratching a groove where it goes.

      Having seen it happen now, it makes a bit more sense that it's seen mainly on older records that would've been played on gramophones without an automatic brake. When the spiral of a record hurries to the central run-out (fast - to trigger the automatic brake mechanisms), the heavy reproducer of the older gramophone is thrown out of the groove.

      This record already had one such damage, so could have known it was sensitive to this with probably a very shallow groove - letting the HMV101 gramophone run out only seconds too long gave an awkward scratching sound. And another spiral on the label.

      Play only on auto-brake instruments - or listen to a digital version of the same recording :)





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    • 02/25/18--04:36: Colored in black and white
    • By chance spotted another colored machine in a black and white movie. Any typewriter that isn't black does of course stand out, even in a monochrome film.

      This fairly clearly is a two-tone Remington Portable number 3.


      Near impossible to determine the color-scheme, but the character closely examining the typeface in the scene is (clearly) Charlie Chan. The typeface does play a role in the story, identifying the machine where an important note was written.

      This scene is from the '35 movie 'Charlie Chan in Egypt'. Whilst most of the Charlie Chan movies are fairly decent, simple whodunnits that are still quite watchable, this instalment in the series is a bit more dated than most. Despite its generous rating on IMDb, I would say this one hasn't aged well. The far-fetched story, the acting and the cringeworthy performance of 'Snowshoes' likely make the film unpalatable to modern audiences. It all does make it a product of its era.

      Let's just say that there are better Charlie Chan movies to watch today.
      (Even if they're without any sightings :)

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      Another scene from an older black & white movie. This is from a bigger-budget feature film of 1939, she is using an early 'twenties Remington Portable.


      As she inspects the machine and then goes on to type a note on it, she still is not really smiling.


      How can you be using a clean and crisp little Remington Portable and not have a smile on your face. She definitely is acting, must be.

      As proof that she can smile, even laugh - later in this film she does actually laugh. (At the time that was noted as quite an event of itself.)

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      The instruction manuals of the '20-ies and '30-ies contain a lot of mechanical machinery. Next to the trucks, cranes and large excavators, they have a range of workshop machinery and engines. These models do look their age, they are very 'period'.

      A neat example is this oscillating steam engine.


      This is from the 1923 (Dutch) printing of the Meccano Instructions booklet for sets 1 to 3. It is built here with early '20-ies parts. For this model the book actually added some explanatory text to the single picture, but to be frank it confused me more than it clarified.


      Despite its simplicity, it does nicely catch the essence of the oscillating engine. A short, stocky engine like this would have been used as a stationary engine or more likely fitted as a ship's engine (e.g. driving paddle wheels.)

      As usual, the model needed some tweaking and small modifications to get enough clearance for the cylinders and to get it to work smoothly. But then it shows the two cylinders' oscillating motion on the crankshaft very well.


      This drawing from the 1922 printing of the Lichtenbelt textbook on the marine steam engine shows the general arrangement of a single cylinder of such an engine.


      Very simplified - an enjoyable little 3D puzzle :)

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      To convince you it is a wise decision to purchase a typewriter, several manufacturers advertised not so much the machine itself, but rather the benefits you will experience.

      Royal's effort here starts somewhat negative - this is not an appealing advertisement. Sitting down browsing a Popular Science magazine, this is not a headline that will instil much positive feelings when looking at the admittedly attractive machine.


      A few months later, the headline is much more upbeat. Instead of noting a negative, it touts the possibilities. Much more likely to make you view the advertised machine and its make in a positive light.


      A bit later still, with this advertisement they really manage to argue for the purchase of such an expensive machine for the family. Especially when the argument is that will help school results of offspring, there will be a willingness to spend the money.


      Well, that does convince, doesn't it.


      Well, maybe not. Today however similar arguments are used to advertise the modern-day equivalent products, such as the laptop or the tablet computer. Perhaps not quite as crass as in the old Royal magazine advertisements, but usually it is shown that the product can be used for homework.


      As could this portable typewriter, it still can. The modern-day tools can however do so much better in many ways. How would the equivalent product of 80 years hence have improved further in helping the family 'get ahead' and to help make homework faster, I wonder...