Friday, June 8, 2012

'I’d love to use my typewriter again' Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

I was saddened to hear of Ray Bradbury's passing. He was 91 and succumbed to a long illness following a stroke in 2002. I was reminded of a small section of a post I wrote about a year ago:
My Sophomore classes are reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In the Afterword Bradbury describes how he considers F.451 a dime-novel. It cost him $9.80 in dimes to write at a coin-operated Remington or Underwood. He needed a place to type and the basement of UCLA's library prevented him from wanting to play with his children rather than working on his novel. He indicates that the time constraint really helped him write.

Born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1920 Ray Bradbury moved with his family to Los Angeles, California. He graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1938. He spent his days at home writing and his nights reading in the library. In 1947 a collection of his stories were published in a volume titled Dark Carnival. But it wouldn't be until The Martian Chronicles was published in 1950 that Bradbury achieved literary celebrity.

What followed was a career filled with some of the most-read and most-enjoyed books of the late 20th century. Books like The October Country, Dandelion Wine, A Medicine for Melancholy, Something Wicked This Way Comes, I Sing the Body Electric!, Quicker Than the Eye, and Driving Blind captured the imagination of readers.

All written on a typewriter. 

I started to investigate a little further. Based on what I found, Bradbury had at least two typewriters. One was a Royal KMM ( #3756210) from 1947. This particular machine is in the collection of Steve Soboroff.

I emailed Steve and he let me know about the history of this typewriter.
[This] typewriter was given directly by Ray Bradbury to a film documentarian who was completing a work on Ray. It was sitting on the floor of his cluttered study in his Beverly Hills home. He gave It to Dr. Elliott Haimoff, the documentary director and producer, as a memento. I purchased it directly from Dr. Haimoff. I have a photograph of the documentary crew with Bradbury taken on the day he gave away the typewriter. [The photo] was signed "to Elliott from Ray Bradbury".
How absolutely exciting and special to have this typewriter in a collection, but Steve is well-known for his collection of exciting and special typewriters. 

The typewriter wasn't the end of the line. The typewriter embodied his entire world-view.

In an interview with the Paris Review Bradbury talked about his expereinces in writing and, more interesting to me, about his typewriter. He was asked where he did a majority of his work and he had this response with a nice recollection from his past:
I can work anywhere. I wrote in bedrooms and living rooms when I was growing up with my parents and my brother in a small house in Los Angeles. I worked on my typewriter in the living room, with the radio and my mother and dad and brother all talking at the same time. Later on, when I wanted to write Fahrenheit 451, I went up to UCLA and found a basement typing room where, if you inserted ten cents into the typewriter, you could buy thirty minutes of typing time. 
As much as Bradbury wrote about the future, he was a staunch proponent of a far less digital life. It was only when his health dictated, did Bradbury alter his work flow.
Up until my stroke, I used a typewriter. An IBM Selectric. Never a computer. A computer’s a typewriter. Why would I need another typewriter? I have one.
Bradbury inadvertently touched on the manifold reasons that we in the Typosphere prefer our typewriters. A single use device can be more efficient than something that can do everything.

Is it any surprise that the the protagonist in Bradbury's perennial classic Fahrenheit 451 finds his own personal salvation –physical and spiritual– through a decidedly low-tech device; the book? Montag's entire world has been duped by technology and there are a precious few that realize that life is more than a digestion of technological junk-food. There is real nourishment out there and it can can be found outside the computer, outside the cell phone, and outside the television.

Bradbury frequently depicts a society grappling with the unintended consequences of human actions and many of these crises are exacerbated by technology. For me, the most powerful images of technological skepticism in Bradbury's writing comes from "There Will Be Soft Rains." In this story, titled after an identically-named Sara Teasdale poem, we see the death and ultimate destruction of a very technologically advanced house. The owners of this home were killed in a nuclear holocaust, but the completely automated home has survived. Mindlessly, the house continues its daily program of cooking breakfast, cleaning, and serving humans who are long gone. The technology is a tool for comfort and without people it is meaningless and almost crass.

High technology is a tool. The tool is relevant, but not as relevant as the person behind it. A typewriter is middle technology. The tools is relevant, but not as relevant as the person behind it. The latter is true. The former is not the case. A computer, a cell phone, a television have become the product and not the means. The speculative world of "...Soft Rains" or F451 where is slowly coming true.

Bradbury's stroke left him unable to type, so one of his daughters would type his over-the-phone dictation on a computer and fax the print-out to him. He would then edit with pen and send it back for typing. 

There isn't much more to say, so I'll end this post with the title; "I’d love to use my typewriter again. I miss it terribly, but it’s just not possible. So I get by."

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Ribbon Tin: A Modest Collection

I am working on a small shadowbox project for our home office. This room is also known as the "typewriter room." This is the place where all my private collection typewriters are displayed. The room is comfortable and very usable, but is does need a little decoration. That's where these really nice typewriter ribbon tins come it. Before I was finished with the project I wanted to share some quick photos I snapped.

This Carter's tin is my favorite. I love the star graphics.

The Panama tins are beautiful with the airplane graphic.

Ribbon tins are those fun bits of typewriter ephemera that add some dimension to the hobby. It must have been impressive to see all the varieties of tins stacked up in office supply stores. Now, they are a reminder of the way things used to be.

The Mini Type-In Was Mini

Friday night was the Mini Type-In. Counting myself there was one other typewriter enthusiast.

Bryan, who came to the 3rd Type-In at Lux, was kind enough to indulge my blabbering on and on about typewriters. I brought a mid-50s Smith-Corona Skyriter and Bryan brought a few Japanese-made Litton Royals; a Mercury and a Mustang. His examples are in great shape and it was a joy to have the experience of using them.

With just two typospherians in attendance, the conversation was limited, but the conversation was interesting.

So, was the mini type-in successful? Yes, just a little.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A Typewriter Summer

The last days of school have passed. Grades are in and I am cleaning my room. I decided to take a break. As I sit at my desk with my trusty Royal HH (a portrait of which graces the header of this blog) and look over at the shelf of typewriters, I can honestly say that this year has really been an extraordinary year of typewriters. I tried to put together this timeline of events to show how much of the last school year was filled with typewriters. I’ll begin with last summer…

  • I am listed as AZ Teen’s Hot 100 for my groundbreaking work in educational retrotechnology. 

  • Interview for The Typewriter in the 21st Century 
  • The 2nd Phoenix Type-In and filming for The Typewriter. 

  • Maguire Donation. Kathy Maguire, a local real-estate agent and former world-ranked speed typist, donates 16 typewriters to the CTP. With her donation there are enough typewriters to keep a constant rotation of 30 in my classroom. 

  • Classroom film shoot for Nicholson’s film The Typewriter 

  • Not much, just a lot of typing. 

  • Eric Lawson donates 24 typewriters to the CTP. He is officially the largest donor ever. I am still working on getting them into rotation. 

  • TypeGrants were started, failed, resurrected, and turned into just nice gifts. Keep it simple, Adney! 
  • Magic Margin Etsy Shop founded. Successful to a point. I can never bring myself to sell typewriters in any great number. 

  • Small blurb in the Community section of the Arizona Republic 
  • Bill Geist from CBS News Sunday Morning comes to interview my students and me about our typewriter experiment. The segment airs two weeks later and it's great. 

  • Know 99, a local, cable education program does a segment on the CTP. 
  • Representative Debbie McCune Davis sends a very kind letter praising the innovation of using typewriters in a classroom. Innovation? I agree! 
  • Peter (AKA notagain) founds Strike Force; getting typewriters into the hands of students! Peter is declared to "rock" by the CTP. 

  • 3rd Phoenix Type-In is held. This was the largest and best-attended of the Phoenix Type-Ins. Many new faces were seen. 
  • Arizona Republic article on the type-in is published. 
  • Chanel 12 runs a short segment on the March Type-In and the typewriter renaissance. 
  • Ton donates a wonderful Sears Tower to the CTP. It is a popular little machine. 

  • Sill more typing. 

  • Bill M. arranges a donation of three machines. Bill is added to the pantheon of "cool." 
  • The first Mini Type-In is scheduled.

This is all I could recall from the school year, but I think you would agree that it has been pretty busy. Summer break is here and the typewriters have been covered. They will sit for three months waiting for the students to return. During the interstitial I will keep updating Magic Margin. I have loads of content that I have been waiting to share. So, check back often. It's going to be a very typewriter summer!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

It's Free!

I feel guilty that you might have clicked on the link to this post in hopes of getting some sort of typewriter for free. No. That's not the case. The only free thing is this Typewriter Insurgency graphic I've been working on. Free is free, so no complaining! Use it. Modify it. Move the movement forward!

Saturday, May 19, 2012


I had the directions to Elevate Coffee Co. wrong. This is the corrected graphic: