As if you had to even ask.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
A few weeks ago I got a call from one of the administrators at the local community college down the street. Glendale Community College's satellite campus in the North Valley has a beautiful library filled with display cases that are sitting empty. I was asked if I would be willing to put together 12 typewriters to display in the library for the rest of the semester. I jumped at the chance to get my collection out of my home Typetorium.
We've got the ball rolling and it looks like there also might be a reception and lecture by a certain typewriter-collecting English teacher.
I've been going through my collection looking at what I might want to include in this broad collection. I think I have put together an interesting history of typewriters.
Things are in the planning stages and I'll make sure to keep everyone updated, but I am pleased as punch to be sharing our hobby with a whole new group of people.
Friday, August 23, 2013
I have been the victim of a cold and haven't been reading the news. I remember an interview from Time magazine in 2010 that made me proud to be a fan of the analog. This is the answer to a question about his writing style:
"By hand. Every word is written by hand. Then I'll type it on my electric typewriter. It took me 20 years to buy an electric typewriter, because I was afraid it would be too sensitive. I like to bang the keys. I'm doing action stories, so that's the way I like to do it. I don't have [a computer]. I don't have e-mail or anything like that. I have a fax machine."
Sunday, August 11, 2013
It was a few days ago and my son and I were sitting on the floor playing cars. We were having a great time. As the the little Mini Cooper crashed into the red truck a thought crossed my mind; these times are fleeting. My son won't be little forever. Remembering these times is important.
We take pictures and tell stories to save these memories for our future. The archiving of our personal libraries is something I worry about. The world is information-rich, but how much of the information is being stored in a permanent way? This is especially true when so much depends on the digital. Our society has started to believe in the permanence of the digital world. In time I think that this will create a digital oubliette where things you thought were permanent prove to be very temporary.
After being frightened by this possibility, I started thinking about Magic Margin. This blog has been a work of several years. In that time I have created over four-hundred posts, took thousands of pictures, and devoted nearly a thousand hours of work. In short, Magic Margin means something to me.
So, I wanted to back it up. I wanted to save my work. Blogger lets you download an XML file of your site and all the corresponding comments. This is a good feature if you want to save it to a hard drive, but I wanted a more permanent solution that didn't offer just another digital file. I dug around the Internet and I found many web sites offering to turn your blog into a printed book. In mind this would be the perfect solution. Prices and options were all over the map, but I came away with the impression that the full-service sites it would be too expensive for a large blog like this. Then, I found BlogBooker.
BlogBooker is a free-to-use blog to PDF converter based on LaTEX and a few other open-source text formatting tools. The process is pretty easy. You upload your site backup XML file, set the date range you would like to archive, pick an output size, and let BlogBooker do its business.
The process is relatively fast. I opted to make my "book" into year volumes with 2010 being the first. It was a short blogging year because it worked out to only be 74 pages. Subsequent years I must have been wordier because 2011 worked out to 290 pages.
The output file is a PDF paginated correctly. This PDF is suitable for uploading to a print-on-demand service like Lulu. It was Lulu that I picked to print volume I of my opus.
The product turned out nicely. I like the size and feel of a trade paperback and it was fortuitous that I was able to select that. The product looks professional and a gloss full-color cover is standard. The paper feels professional, but the failings of my book is the BlogBooker rendering engine.
All the text is there, but frequently spacing is odd. Also, paragraphs on this blog are separated by a carriage return. BlogBooker strips those out. As the output format is PDF I didn't have a means to edit the content directly. The warts and odd formatting must stay. Since I have Adobe Acrobat Professional, I was able to replace the BlogBooker standard title page with something more to my liking.
In the end I am happy that I have been able to take my digital work and turn it into an analog memory.
Thursday, July 11, 2013
I just finished typing a letter to Keith Sharon. If the name sounds familiar you might want to check out Mike Clemens' typosphere.net post about Keith and what he is trying to do. Click on this sentence to read it.
It was a few weeks ago that Keith asked me to write him a letter. I promised and put it off. I remembered my promise and was distracted by a new typewriter. I remembered my promise and finally sat down and penned a letter worthy of correspondence. I even have photographic proof that this letter exists.
Keith is waiting for your letter. He want to hear about the weather, your favorite foods, or how you feel about the Angels. His address is in the photo above. So, off you go. Write a letter and make a new friend.
Monday, July 1, 2013
So, I thought that this post would have been over some time ago, but as I dug further and further into the topic, I could see that there was more than I could have ever imagined. We have all drooled over the Varityper at one point or another. That's a shame because I know– from my vast experience and rugged good looks– that drool really falls short as an ink substitute. Drool'n aside, the idea of cold typesetting typewriters really heats up by typeshuttle. Mostly because of justification which I have mentioned here. The Varityper later became the Coxshead DSJ an example of which Richard recently acquired in an antique shop. A more drool-worthy machine never existed. I, however, will confine myself to a drier, lesser history of the justified typewritten page.
Let's start, again, with the snippet from Popular Science that started my interest in this topic. I posted it some months back. It details a new device that can be added to a typewriter to make it a justification-capable machine. The article–if you could even call it that–does not list an inventor or a date of invention. Without either it would be a slow drudgery to look through thousands of patents trying to find the responsible inventor.
So, that's what I did. Not, first, without doing a little Shelrock Holmes routine on the advertisement. There are always a few clues that can lead you to an answer.
Since the snippet came from a 1940s edition of PopSci, I decided to hazard a guess that the "new" invention was probably not more than ten years old at that time. Since the machine was from the 40s and the photo had a 40s look (being a 150–or so–screen halftone engraving) I decided to start in the decade from 1939 to 1949. I read the passage over a few times to get a general idea of what mechanical attributes I should be looking for in my patent searches. The one section that stood out read:
I looked for any patent that clearly had a knob/dial somewhere in the vicinity of the escapement and a pointer/indicator on the carriage.
Going to Google Patent, I was able to find two patents from the era covering a device that uses a knob and a pointer. One was from an Andras Goy and the other from an Oliver O. Martin. Martin also had an earlier 1920s patent for the same type of invention.
Mr. Goy's invention features a knob, but the knob is mounted to the front of the frame and from there links to a device on the carriage of the machine that alters the movement of the escapement. There was a dial and an indicator, but the placement make me feel like the Goy method wasn't the one featured in the article. Also, the machine would need to be completely heavily modified to accommodate a forward facing knob. Goy does not mention that this would be a simple or reversible modification.
Oliver Martin's justification system, however, looks more appropriate for a modification of a current typewriter. Martin describes this within the patent. "It is the object of my invention to provide a device which may be readily attached to or embodied in commercially well known typewriters without interfering with or changing the general combinations and features thereof..."
The above device was patented in 1920. Martin also patented a newer version in 1945 and that patent was issued in 1948. My feeling is that it is Martin's later patent that is mentioned in the Popular Science article.
Martin's second patent for a justifying attachment describes his invention thus: "It is the object of this invention to provide a simple inexpensive and conveniently operable justifying mechanism which may be attached to various types of typewriters or which may be built into such typewriters to form permanent part thereof." This alone was pretty convincing, but it was the illustration from Figure 5 that sealed the deal for me.
You can clearly see a knob that it attached through a linkage to the escapement disk. This knob adjusts the size of each space to affect the kind of movement needed to make the justifying technique possible. I guess Martin's our man.
Even with the discovery of who probably invented the justifying technique detailed in the Popular Science blurb, I started to think about this problem. It's interesting that even with these three innovative solutions to proportional spacing no major manufacturers made full justification a feature or even attempted to find their own solution. Perhaps the technology was too complicated. Maybe the market wouldn't support the additional cost of a complicated escapement. In reality, I think these innovations and attachments were a solution looking for a problem.
I have written quite a few pages on a typewriter and–excepting novelty–I haven't had much a need for a justified page. I also don't believe that this was an expected feature of the hand-typed letter. The uneven right margin was de rigueur and the quality of a typist was how even she (and the occasional he) was able to make the margin without the aid of a justifying mechanism. Good margins are addressed in the Smith-Corona Tips to Typists booklet scanned by Richard Polt (http://site.xavier.edu/polt/tipstotypists.pdf).
In this instance the uneven right margin was equated with hand-typed. A letter would be conspicuous with even right and left margins. So it came to be unnecessary for this feature. I know that my life is not incomplete at the possibility of uneven right margins. I can continue on and manufacturers didn't invest the time, money, or manpower devising a means to even both margins.
However, the technical problems of justification even plagued Vannevar Bush, the technological visionary who presaged hypertext and the power of relational searches.
In a patent filed in 1942, Bush described a technique for justifying the text of a typewriter using the benefit of stored memory and relays. The inputting of text, calculation of required spacing, and the composing were done by different components of the larger system. In fact, the solution was to have two typewriters one to encode and the other to decode. Think of two modified Fridens connected to a memory unit. That's the kind of solution Bush was envisioning.
You can see the influence of the coming digital revolution in his solution.
The patent illustration isn't so much a picture of mechanical devices, but a flowchart. Flowcharts are the way of the future. Bush also detailed how the typewriter should have a type of digital relay system to record keystrokes.
Which isn't too far off from the USB typewriter designed by Jack Zylkin.
But it wasn't until the computer that a consumer would be able to justify the left and right margins on-the fly. Isn't progress wonderful?
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
Through my many (three) years of scientific (barely) study of youths and typewriters I have arrived at an optimum number of typewriters for use in an opt-in classroom. 19. Also, the shelves I have hold 19 nicely with room for journal forms. The number is arrived at by a combination of prudence and actual use. So, here are the 19.
With bad photography and all, here are the 19:
With bad photography and all, here are the 19:
|Royal QDL, 1950s (Richard Polt donor); Royal QDL, 1950s (Erick Lawson donor)|
|Royal QDL, 1950s (Erick Lawson donor); Royal QDL, 1950s (Erick Lawson donor)|
|Royal QDL, 1950s (Erick Lawson donor); Royal Custom III, 1970s (Bill M. donor)|
|Royal Safari, 1950s (CTP donor); Royal Mercury, 1970s (Erick Lawson donor)|
|Remington Performer, 1970s (Jen Aschmann donor)|
|Royal QDL, 1940s (CTP donor); Remington Quiet-Riter, 1950s (Erick Lawson donor)|
|Olympia B12, 1970s (Richard Polt donor); Olympia B12, 1970s (Bill M. donor)|
|Olympia SM9, 1960s (Ted Munk donor); Olympia SM3, 1959 (CTP donor)|
|Tower Presidental, 1950s (Ton Sisson donor); Hermes 3000, 1950s (Kathy Maguire donor)|
|Brother Eschelon 90, 1970s (Peter Baker donor); Webster XL-500, 1970s(Erick Lawson donor)|
What about all the other typewriters? Well, I keep them in-reserve should anything happen to the ones I have out in rotation. With as much use as these typewriters get, I have been able to come to some conclusions about certain brands and their ruggedness.
As you can see, there are few Smith-Corona typewriters. They seem to just wilt under pressure. The typebar linkages are openable so those typewriters tend to fail in that one area. All the Smith-Corona Galaxie-like machines currently have a problem with their linkages as a result of this tendency and await repair.
Brother typewriters are remarkably durable and able to withstand heavy use. They are easy to repair and have both precision manufacturing and the ability to be "formed" when needed.
1950s Royals are plentiful and cheap. When they are in good shape, they type well. When they are junkers, boy are they pitiful typers. All of the escapements on the CTP Royals are good. There tends to be little skipping when the typist has a good rhythm, but any time the typeist is out-of-sych with the machine, chaos ensues.
Things are going well with the CTP. We are treading the typing waters here. No revelations or grand schemes are in the works. There have been rumblings about a 4th Phoenix Type-In. We'll see if something cool happens with that.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
After reading a post by Will Davis about a very mysterious Webster, I decided to look at the CTP collection. When I really started looking there were actually quite a few. Many are rebrands, but two are the real-deal.