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Showing posts from November, 2010

The Right Tool

It's late fall. At my school that's the right time of year for Sophomores to be seeking letters of recommendation for the ACE program. The ACE program is run by the Maricopa County Community College system. The ACE program allows high school students the opprotunity to take college courses on the weekends and during the summer. The credits earned are usally transferrable to any of the major in-state universities (UofA, ASU, NAU). If a student sticks with the program it is possible to earn around 20 credits. That means that a stuudent could enter with most, if not all, of their Frosh year done. It's a wonderful program and I have been working like a madman to finish all the letters of reommendation.

The nice thing is that the LORs are fill-ins. I don't have to write a full-blown letter. That comes after Christmas holiday when the Juniors start making their plans. The perfect machine for filling in forms has to be my Hermes 3000. The transparent line guides make this …

Typewriter from the Portugese

My poet, thou canst touch on all the notes God set between His After and Before, And strike up and strike off the general roar Of the rushing world a melody that floats In a serene air purely. Antidotes Of medicated music, answering for Mankind's forlornest uses, thou canst pour From thence into their ears. God's will devotes Thine to such ends, and mine to wait on thine. How, Dearest, wilt thou have me for most use? A hope, to sing by gladly? or a fine Sad memory, with thy songs to interfuse? A shade, in which to sing---of palm or pine? Elizabeth Barrett Browning Typewriters of the 60s and 70s from Holland or Portugal or England, while perfectly lovely machines, seem hollow and empty. They don't have the soul of the earlier ones made in the US or Germany or Switzerland. They represent the last throws of the typewriter industry. Every one stamped out in Mem Martins was a mere shadowy wraith of the Olivers, Quiet Deluxes, Silents that came before. They are a developmental graveyard where…

Cheap. Cheap! Cheap?

If you have more than one typewriter that is in need of a ribbon you could always take 1/2 the ribbon from a spool and put it on a spare. Like magic I can make one typewriter into two. Being a teacher makes you a little creative with money...and apparently typewriter ribbons.

Final Assembly

Tonight while watching some television, I finished assembling the panels on the newly painted and freshly platen-ed Travel-Riter.

It wasn't the biggest project, but it was a lot of fun. All I need to do now is wait for the paint to cure. This should take at least a week. Until then I need to be carful and avoid scratching the finish. The hammerite type paint worked very well and is very shiny.

Coin Operated Typewriters

My Sophomore classes are reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In the Afterword Bradbury describes how he considers F.451 a dime-novel. It cost him $9.80 in dimes to write at a coin-operated Remington or Underwood. He needed a place to type and the basement of UCLA's library prevented him from wanting to play with his children rather than working on his novel. He indicates that the time constraint really helped him write. Sounds like the NaNoWriMo challenge many people are working on this month.

This started me thinking about coin-operated typewriters. At 30, I am not remarkably old, but I do have a memory of coin-op typewriters at ASU. They were in an alcove on the 2nd or 3rd floor of the stacks. There were about 3-4 IBM Selectrics (the early ones, not IIs) ready for students to use. At the time I think it was a quarter for a half-hour of use.

I called the Hayden Library to ask whether the typewriters were still there, or if they had been taken out. I was saddened to hear that…

Weekend Project

Between all the regular things you do on the weekend, I began to paint the Remington Travel-Riter that I found. The surface of the old machine was rusty and very ugly. The platen was fossilized. I had it in my mind that this would be an easy project. The first challenge to that notion was the platen.

The first problem was removing the platen. The platen on this typewriter was clearly never intended to be removed by human hands. Bolts, nuts, weird compression-fit line ratchets all met to foil the work. The biggest hurtle to disassembly was a steel rod that extended the entire length of the platen. To remove it I had to take a pair of pliers and wiggle it loose. That took some time.

The dumbest idea was that I could find a suitable replacement for the platen rubber from something around town. I struck on the idea that auto heater tubing might be good. It's made from real rubber and I figured that it would be inexpensive. I went to Checker and asked the clerk if he had something that…


The process of fixing the Silent's linkage was surprisingly easy. Nothing was really bent. One of the junctions where one part of the linkage connects to another worked loose. I looked at the other linkage connections to see how this one was connected. Five minutes later we were in business. I am always surprised with how easy it is to tinker with a typewriter. I know that the professionals would rather you leave it to them. That makes sense if you are not the least bit handy. If you are...go for it! The Adler was pretty easy. The SC Sterling was a piece of cake. This Silent was no problem. If you know how they work or can imagine the pieces fitting together, they are no more scary to fix than anything else.

On the Bench

The first mechanical casualty of the CTP has been had. A lovely Smith-Corona Silent has a bent typebar linkage. The young lady who was using it noticed it immediately. I'm not sure if the problem was careless typing or something inherently wrong with the linkage. The O isn't the most commonly used letter. It's coming home with me (sorry honey) and I'll get it working again. I might also give this one a good cleaning.

Sterling with a Heart of Gold

On Saturday, the baby went down for a long-needed nap and I was able to visit a couple of vintage and antique stores. I wanted to find another inexpensive typewriter to make the total in the CTP 10. So, I visited Antique Gatherings on Thomas Rd. and Zinnia's on 7th Ave and Indian School Rd. Antique Gatherings is a very clean antique store, but a bit pricey. Also, they didn't have any typewriters. Zinnia's did, however, have a few that were interesting and not too expensive.

The first was a 1930 Royal Quiet. It was in fair shape, but it did not come with the case. The crinkle paint was chipping in a few places. I have a more than reasonable like of Royal typewriters, but I have a nice QDL at home and a brown QDL (of the same vintage) at work. So, I don't need another. At $30 I thought it was a reasonable price for one that old, but I like complete typewriters. A missing case is not something I would want to deal with. The other typewriter was a 1960s Smith-Corona Sterli…

Can You Pass the Test?

I grabbed two sheets of paper, pulled my chair up to the Royal HH, fed them in, and crafted the typewriter care exam. The questions for this exam come from "Typewriter Care: What to Do, How to Do It" pamphlet created by the friendly sounding Federal Work Improvement Program. (The file is hosted on a great site called Machines of Loving Grace. Please, give it a look.) If you haven't read it, do so. It's informative and fun!

The entire work is geared towards office typewriters, but there is some really great information that can be applied to portables. While this is not a very serious assessment, I wanted to have some basic knowledge test to make sure that the typewriters are taken care of.

D., a young lady in my 5th hour, was the first one to take the test and she scored an 84%. With a score like this she can choose a typewriter that will be hers during the duration of the class period. She decided Smith-Corona Silent. She's going to be the only one using this typ…

Infinite Monkeys

We are slowly running out of space for typewriters. It's fun to see so many, but they are seriously everywhere. This Royal Quiet Deluxe (a gift from Richard Polt) has taken a spot on the built-in bookshelf where the books of quality reside. 

I think it is fitting that this typewriter is next to a copy of Borges Ficciones. In this work there is a story called "The Library of Babel" that has a connection to typewriters. 
The premise of the story is that the universe is a never-ending series of hexagonal rooms. In this room there are the necessities of human survival and four bookshelves. These bookshelves contain books in which are printed a seemingly random selections of letters, spaces, and punctuation. If the rooms are truly infinite an accurate and complete copy of every book in the world in every language exists somewhere in the library. There are so many books that the librarians move around the rooms depressed and looking for the answer. Their behavior leads to the cr…

Weekend Projects

1. I have a Remette that is need of some TLC. When I got it the j key was oddly clashing with another linkage. I thought I could fix it by bending a bit of the linkage back into position. I broke it. Every other key works just fine except the J. I called Bill Whal at the Mesa Typewriter Exchange and asked him about fixing it. I learned that you can silver solder the broken bits back together. That is going to be one of my projects this weekend.

2. I found a pretty cool Remington Travel-Riter at a yard sale for $1. It's in fair shape, but I want to paint it a cucumber or celery green.

Will any of these be done? I probably can fix the Remette. I can get started on the Travel-Riter, but I probably won't finish. This, of course, is in addition to my other big weekend project; taking down Halloween decorations.

More Numbers

When  it comes to the new set of inventories, the news is that there is no news. Still, 100% of all students using a typewriter on a daily journaling activity enjoy using the typewriter. We're back into the 80s with students strongly agreeing. Around 83% strongly agree. The remaining students just agree.

When it comes to meaning, a majority of students (72%) feel the typewriters do offer a conveyance by which their writing has more meaning.

With these numbers similar to the last set of inventories analyzed on 10/14 I feel that there is a significant amount of support for my original supposition that typewriters do have a place in a 21st century classroom. They are not the dinosaurs that many would suppose them to be. I am really heartened by this. Education, for many years, has been victim to the quick gimmick and fast fix. I see this victimisation in all the programs, plans, and ways of fixing things that teachers have had to implement. Many people mean well with their strategie…

The Edge of the Wilderness

A Change

I have been happy with the new set of inventory results which will be published later this week. However, I am now interested in seeing how students create a personal relationship with a typewriter. So, I am going to make a small change in the way that the project is conducted.
Before the planned change students were allowed to select a typewriter that they wanted to use. It was an entirely first-come-first serve approach. Frequently the students would switch typewriters looking for the one that they wanted to use the most. By this process they could not create a personal relationship with the machine to learn all of its quirks and habits. Part II of the project will allow them to create this intensely personal relationship with the machine.
I have asked for volunteers who would be willing to fill 9 slots corresponding to the 9 typewriters available to use. After they have proven a proficiency in using and caring for the typewriter, they will be assigned one machine. This machine, for …