Thursday, September 30, 2010

Letting Go

The Adler J5 is the first victim of heavy use. The ribbon advancement mechanism is broken and no matter how much I jiggle, poke, and prod the ribbon won't more. I am sure that there is a reason why, but I am not gifted enough to fix it.

This leads me to my title "Letting Go." I am not lamenting the Adler J5. It wasn't my favorite or the favorite of the kids, but I have to get used to the idea that these are not meant to be museum pieces. They are to be used by people. Students will use them rougher than I would and all I can do is remind them to be gentle because they're old. When these machines were new, did people treat them gingerly or did they use them as tools? I imagine most were used as tools.

As a collector I see the value beyond their use as a tool. To me they are beautiful objects that sit on shelves and are to be admired. Yes, I like to use typewriters, but I use them gently with a great deal of respect. These typewriters are intended to be used by students and they might get broken. Things happen. I need to be at peace with that and be willing to let go.

P.S. I don't want anyone to think that my students are ham-fisted cretins who grunt like a neanderthal. They are, to a large extent, taking good care of the typewriters. These machines were designed to last. And lasting they are.


  1. Your project may serve double duty as a testing ground. Interesting that Mr. Polt specifically mentioned the ribbon mechanism.

    Sure, when new they were used as tools and not museum exhibits; they were not rare and were only moderately expensive. But no decent workman will abuse his tools. I doubt the original users treated them gingerly; if that were a requirement, not so many would be usable today. Probably the only genuine abusers were toddlers who banged on them with fists and open hands.

    I doubt there is anything intrinsically abusive about your students (I certainly don't know them) but you say you have to remind them? (Well, anything else I can think of to say is just speculative.)

    It's looking like you will teach more than just (just?!) writing. Thanks for posting all about this project. Have Fun!

    == Michael Höhne

  2. Yes, if I had to pick one part of the J5 that was likely to give out, the ribbon mechanism would be it! My J5 was actually at my daughter's school for the better part of a year, but the kids' continuing frustration with the ribbon finally led me to exchange it for a Remington Quiet-Riter, which is still giving them good service ... except for keytops that fall off!

    I think every typewriter has an Achilles' heel. Putting the machine in a classroom is a good way to find it.