Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Saga of the Mexican Oliver

I have been on the quest for a Mexican Oliver for some time. They are nearly impossible to find here in the US. What makes a Mexican Oliver special? Well, I have found some pictures from Mercado Libre to give you and idea:

A Mexican Oliver is nickle plated on the bottom while still retaining the green paper table and front piece. I can glean no information about why the two-tone Oliver was so popular, but it's all you find in Mexico.

For a long while I felt as if I would never get a lead. Mercado Libra frequently has them for sale, but my inexperience with the language and fear of buying something so expensive so far away makes it prohibitive. I can't take a vacation to go look for one because there 32 states and one federal district and they could be hidden anywhere. But now there is a slight hope.

Andres, one of my students, has an uncle who is a journalist with a newspaper in Mexico City. He's spotty on the details because they have never met, but this summer he is taking a vacation to visit him. It was kind of Andres to offer to ask if he knew the location of one and I am sure that a journalist would know just the right people to contact.

So, this little quest is taking on a new dimension, but it's still exciting.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Big and Little Brother

As the semester winds down (we are three weeks from graduation) I have started to take inventory of machines both at home and school that I had all intentions of showing off here. I was thinking about this all the while looking at a very nice (if not dirty) Olympia SM-3 that I got a few weeks ago. There were two things that made it a pretty special little typewriter; the touch and the color.

I have one other SM-3 in sky blue. It's a great little machine, but for some reason the keys are a little stiff for my taste. They aren't pillowy like a Hermes 3000 (which I don't care for), but sluggish. It's very clean. That's not the problem. Even when the key tensioner is set to the lightest position it feels like I am typing through treacle. The green SM-3 as a totally different feel. It's lithe and very well balanced. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed typing on an SM-3. Maybe it's worn. Maybe there is something wrong, but it is really very good. Coincidentally, the only other green machine like this was brought to the latest Phoenix Type-In. It had much the same feel and it was green too. Hmm. I wonder if there is a connection between color and touch?

There isn't much exciting about the color other than it matches the Beast of Wilhemshaven. They look like  a big and little brother.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

It's Not My Hobby, but I Can Understand

In a box of some old things I came across this old altimeter:

I know nothing about it, but I was able to leverage the power of the Internet to find someone who does. Brian Karli blogs about the restoration of a 1918 (I think that's right) Curtiss Jenny airplane. His blog is filled with really interesting restoration information if you need to restore your antique Curtiss Jenny.

After emailing him out-of-the-blue he was kind enough to respond and give me some information about the altimeter. Apparently it comes from the late 'teens. Through my own scientific studies I have concluded that it works. (My home is about 1000 feet higher than where I work.)

As a collector of old precision equipment (typewriters) I can appreciate something like an antique altimeter. It's quality and construction were designed at a time when units sold was not the bottom line. A product was the public face of a company. If you make a bad product, your reputation was assuredly negative. But more than that, it's a piece of history that comes from the early days of flight. Pretty exciting.

The more I thought about it, the more I can understand people who have hobbies that seek to preserve the past. Preservation gives me a sense of continuity with the human experience. I can use a typewriter and feel part of a cultural guild; people who used typewriters. Computers and its compeer are devoid of this feeling. They are rootless machines. Feeling effective and efficient is nice, but there's more to life than efficacy. Art, timelessness, grace are all attributes that make life round and fleshy.

I've rambled too much. But if you are interested, take a look at Brian's blog. (Click image below.)