Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Dilemma: Should it Stay or Should it Go?

I had a college professor who like to point out that the real meaning of dilemma was a choice between two equally undesirable outcomes. Dilemma connotatively means any problem, but in this situation it is a true dilemma.

The problem centers around this typewriter.



A once proud and mighty grande dame of the office, this Super Speed is now a decaying wreck. I can only assume that it was stored in dampest, dankest, darkest basement ever dug by human hands. The corrosion is impressive.

Needless to say, to restore this typewriter to its original state would take countless hours and probably more than a few q-tips. This typewriter was a gift. It was free from a very kind person and I didn't have the heart to tell him that I would never get around to fixing it.

Other projects came and went.

Time passed.

And now what do I do with this albatross?


I like the Super Speed. It's attractive typewriter. The horizontal banding breaks up the strong vertical look of this machine. It's very Moderne. The new design came at a time when Smith-Corona was looking to update the look of their office machine. I agree with Alan Seaver when he says, "In my mind, this version of the Super-Speed belongs more to the '30s than the '40s..."

As much as this typewriter looked new, under the ribbon cover everything was very much the same. To the end of the product line Smith-Corona Super Speed used the same ball-bearing design to hang the type bars that had been designed and used on all L.C. Smith machines for the previous 50 years. By the 40s no company was using that technology. Slotted type segments were the norm, but Smith-Corona still hung on to the tradition.


Even with such a great past and good looking design, the realities of the modern day still linger. I can't keep the machine (I need space for new ones) and restoring this machine is not going to happen. What does that leave? I think parting it out and recycling the frame is my only option.

I don't like the idea, but I am in the middle of a dilemma. So much of the typewriter collecting field focuses on salvaging typewriters, but should we be so squeamish about getting rid of common and broken typewriters? Is every machine worth saving? 

14 comments:

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    1. My thoughts exactly. I have a similar quandary with an Imperial Good Companion 5 with a cracked frame. It will never work properly but at least it doesn't take up too much room.

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  2. ...then again, and following Will Davis's advice, maybe a future mechanic could learn a lot by stripping it to components?

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  3. I bet you could get $50 for those keys...

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  4. Don't we all have one or two of those? I do. I mean those we know we will never get around to repairing for one reason or another. As the internet community links us to repair solutions, we could equally well connect with parts machines. Storage is the quandary. (Another fine word)

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    1. Yep, I do too. And I don't know what to do with them anymore other than to fix what's left of it and maybe put them up for sale again. But then again, I have other machines I would rather work on, so this never happens...

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  5. That is quite a dilemma, indeedy! I love desktop typewriters, but I too have a limited space issue (not to mention that the cost of shipping that huge thing would be considerable).

    Hmm... There's a formula some restorers and collectors use to determine if a given object is worth preserving, restoring, or scraping; basically it has to do with the condition, completeness and uniqueness of the object, but also it takes into account the past history of the piece. I think in this case you would have to take into account how important that machine is for you, compared to how useful the space would be. If there are not personal or emotional attachments to the object, then I think you could part with it.

    One possible option would be to donate it to a place like Wordplay, or something like it near you. That way the machine would be put to work and used by someone who actually appreciates it and for whom the machine would be anything but common.

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    1. I agree with Miguel here about the donation. I bet Richard restores such machines for breakfast. Well - if there a bit more rust maybe he'll have some leftovers for lunch...

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    2. I've done a few miracle restorations, but I think that this one is too far gone to bother. It's really a tradeoff between desirability and amount of work needed.

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  6. Uh oh, I see a consensus is developing that you should ship the thing to me!

    Currently at WordPlay, the kids have enough typewriters and big, gray typers aren't selling in the store. Plus, restoring this one would be a big job. It has value as a parts machine, but I don't have a lot of storage space left. So no thanks.

    I wonder whether one of your students is mechanically inclined and curious, and would enjoy digging into this machine.

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    1. That's what I wondered. Maybe a typewriter for the mechanically inquisitive more than the literary ambitious?

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  7. Excellent idea. I'll ask around and see if there is anyone who would like to take it apart to see how it works. Otherwise, I have a large Super Speed parts machine if anyone needs any.

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  8. It's funny. My Olympia SG3 was in way worse shape considering it spend over 7 years outside, and believe it or not, but it works wonderfully. Sometimes tends to get slightly stiff, but it works, it's awesome. Keeping SOMEBODY outside for 7 years would kill them. :)

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