Wednesday, November 17, 2010

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 they were removed (or moved) some time after 2004. I put a call into the facilities manager for the library to see if they had just been moved or were completely removed. Knowing ASU as I do, they are probably in some closet gathering dust.

I wonder if there are any still in existence?

On another note, I came across this very interesting video by Bill Hammack on how the A/D converter (the whiffletree or whippletree) in an IBM Selectric works. Even though Selectrics are not my particular brand of crazy, I have seen so many of the type elements for sale (esp. script).