Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Typogram From Richard

Richard's Typogram to me. It is filled with typey goodness!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Super Mega Capacitor of Death


You can see the extent of the electrical complexity of this typewriter. The massive motor is on the other side. The vertical piece of  plastic to the right is the power switch which is actuated by a lever assembly at the front of the machine. Three parts make this typewriter electric; a switch, a capacitor, and a motor.

Fully charged, I assume that it would hold a nice little jolt. Who needs coffee when you have this?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Promising Typewriter Book

Uppercase Magazine (completely new to me) is working on a new book about the graphic history of the typewriter. This project promises to be very interesting. Janine Vangool, the architect of this project has put together a small video detailing the hows and whys.


The interesting thing about this book is that it is a completely graphic look at the world of the typewriter. Based on what the video describes a significant part of the book is dedicated to ephemera and advertising. For people who are at the intersection of the typewriter-graphic arts Venn diagram, this promises to be an interesting book.

The project is being funded by Kickstarter and it looks like there are miles to go before the printer, but it is over half-funded. It will be interesting to see how this book turns out. Click on this sentence to be taken to Uppercase's page about the book.

On a final note, Janine is looking for interesting examples of typewriter ephemera. From what I can understand she would like to work with you to scan the material. I know that the Typosphere has more than its fair-share of interesting materials.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Peeling Back the Layers

An Olivetti Lexicon 80E gives up its secrets slowly.

When I bought it I knew the draw band had been disconnected. The band did not look broken or frayed and I assumed that it had just come loose from the pulley. Tracing the path of the band past a few rollers and guides I was able to find where it connected, but was thwarted by the case. From what I could see there were two screws holding on the whole of the body.


 I loosened the screws but the body was pinned by the carriage. I took a gamble and figures that the carriage on this machine was removable. It seemed a likely possibility. What repairman would want to disassemble and entire carriage and sub-assembly just to get to a ribbon vibrator? I looked around and settled on two screws. After removing them, the carriage, escapement, and other components lifted out easily. The whole operation is very reminiscent of what you would see on the Olympia SG-1.


After that I was able to remove the body panel (there were two additional screws) and gain access to the draw band pulley. The real mystery is how the darn thing is connected. I intend to work on the pulley today and with any luck I might be able to fire it up. I haven't even plugged it in because I really want to get in there and look around. Also, there is a very large capacitor that gives me the heebie-jeebies. I would not want to meet with it fully energized.


I have yet found a serial number on the body, but I did find this hand-scrawled number on the carriage. 2876? What could it mean? Perhaps 2876 pounds; the weight of this typewriter.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

La Macchina da Scrivere Pesante*

I plan on doing a much larger post about this typewriter, but I did want to post a quick picture of my newest acquisition. It needs some work and a good wash. I haven't even plugged it in to see what state the motor is in. Regardless, I am fairly certain that these heavy (as in 65 lb.) typewriters are unusual.




* The quality of this translation rests solely in the hands of the very clever boffins at Google. If you know better, please let me know.


Monday, August 13, 2012

It's Not the Worst Typewriter Ever

The typewriter is a tool. Much like every tool, the product that is created with its aid is shaped by the tool itself. The Typosphere would agree with this statement. It's one of the tenants that keeps us writing with typewriters; the tool transforms the work. For most of the denizens of the Typosphere, this mean manual typewriters.

Manual typewriters have more going for them than electric typewriters. You can use a manual typewriter anywhere. All you need is a sturdy desk. That's it. A desk and an idea. Nothing more. If a desk isn't to your liking you can use a bookcase. You can sit on a park bench. By the seaside.

These qualities are hard to come by with an electric typewriter. Instead of freedom, you are attached by an umbilical. The power that impels the imprint of your ideas comes from electrons sent to your wall by a smoke-belching or radiation-hot generator. But even in this grim view there are some really exceptional electric typewriters.


The IBM Selectric is an example of an exceptional electric typewriter. I know that I am not the only one who feels so. The type ball is a really interesting evolution of the single type element. The simple analog to digital conversion is really something quite unique. For every good thing about the IBM Selectric, there is a terrible electric typewriter waiting in the wings.
The IBM Wheelwriter is one of those terrible things. OK, maybe I am a little harsh. There are some really great things about the Wheelwriter and there are some things that will lead to a future filled with really trashy typewriters.

What is good about the Wheelwriter? Even though this typewriter is 100% electric there is still a fairly satisfying touch to the keyboard. You can thank the buckling spring key switches for that. The technology that makes these keyboards so enjoyable to use is the same technology that is in the IBM Model M keyboard. I am a devotee of these keyboards and they are often cited as the finest typing keyboard in the history of computer input devices. The keyboard on the Wheelwriter, though, is decidedly louder and snappier.

There are also a few features that make special typing much easier. You can center text easily. It even can remember up to two pages of text and type them back at a mere command of your fingers.

It has interchangeable typefaces.


And a very cool auto-load feature.



There are lots of keys to press.

It can be a printer if hooked up to a computer. (Everyone knows that a computer is a great big thing that sits in a lab. Why would you ever need a computer in your home?)

And it has this handy guide to various features.


With so many cool features it is understandable why it’s a popular typewriter with…


Sedaris used to have a request for a Wheelwriter in his contract. “And then I would show up and it would be some ancient Canon typewriter,” Sedaris said in a recent telephone interview. “And then you would type three words and the ribbon would snap. And then you’re at some hotel out on the highway and there’s nowhere to get a new ribbon.” Says Sedaris.

But Sedaris isn’t alone in his Wheel Writer love.

Ray Bradbury used one and


Elmore Leonard uses one.


And I admit that I have been guilty of typewriter snobbery in the past. I thought just because it was electric and modern that it cannot be as good as a manual typewriter. For me this is true, but it is not necessarily true for others. Tools can be very personal. What feels right for one might be all wrong for others. The Typosphere is a big enough place to let all typewriters have their place. This little attitude adjustment makes me appreciate this tool more than I have in the past.


Oh, By-the-way The IBM Wheelwriter is not the first typewriter to have a print wheel. This machine (From the collection of Martin Howard) is a Victor and it had a daisy wheel.


 


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ribbons and Back To School

Monday is the first day of school. Over the past week I have been getting my classroom ready for the new crop of Juniors to pass through my door. The biggest project I had to do was move about 40 typewriter cases to a storage space on campus. Kindly, our Plant Manager has allowed me to more-or-less commandeer a disused storage closet as the typewriter "warehouse." This closet is also home to surplus computers and furniture. It's a bit of a jumble, but nowhere nearly as messy as Robert's storage unit.

Friday I called Baco to place my yearly order for ribbons. It's always nice to get a chance to chat with Charlene. Actually, she was here a few months ago visiting her sister. She made it out to the Mesa Typewriter Exchange and wanted to stop by my classroom, but her schedule didn't allow it. Regardless, it was very nice to chat on the phone.

Baco is one of those wonderful quirks of capitalism. It's a small business that survived dominance by big business only to be the last large-scale manufacturer of ribbons in the Midwest. How did they do it when NuKote and Ko-Rec-Type and Roytype stopped making typewriter ribbons long ago? By finding a niche and staying there.

Baco's ribbons are made by-hand on equipment that dates back to the founding of the company. Some of the machines used in their manufacture is hand-made. "If it breaks I either call someone out to fix it or I fix it myself," said Charlene.

"It is a business that has stayed pretty constant over the years," said Charlene. "We never advertise and people just need ribbons."

Baco started out as an Ames distributor, but turned to ribbons long ago as the bulk of their business. Now, it's just ribbons. People all over the nation use Baco ribbons. Some of the biggest names in the Typosphere use Baco ribbons.

"I don't know how many customers we have," said Charlene, "but I know it's a lot." Baco is one of the last places that carries typewriter ribbons for a reasonable price and are willing to sell to private individuals. Yes, Fine Line Ribbon, I am talking about you. I know that I am not a business, but I want bulk ribbons at a reasonable price!

Anyway, call Charlene at Baco and buy yourself some nice ribbons. I do believe that I ordered a few extra green...

Summer was fun, but now it is time to get back to the CTP!