Friday, October 19, 2012

4.6 Million Words...Maybe

So, it's good news for the typewriters and the students, but bad news for my Netflix Poirot addiction. Yes, I am a mystery nerd. I will let my students make a decision about their own work, but I will be sharing my progress on this very blog. I can say that I am more than a little nervous. Also, as you can see by the badge, I am in the youth-y version of NaNo.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


I had finished all my work for the day and I started walking around my classroom looking at all the typewriters on shelves. My eye was drawn to the lowly shift key. So much depends on the shift. A new sentence cannot begin without it. Passions are expressed with shift. The greatest questions of our lives are echoed only with the shift key. 

A shift in perception.

Graveyard shift.

Leftist shift.

Paradigm shift.

A comfortable shift.

Clearly a shift to the right.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Remington 12 Typeface

So, there were requests that I share the typeface from the newest typewriter in my collection. It's not exotic or exciting, but I like it. I even make a shopping list today on this very machine.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Little Elbow Grease Makes All The Difference

The Remington Standard No. 12 is not an especially collectable typewriter. You can find them all over the place and this one (BZ73012) is from 1926. As you can see it was also pretty dirty. 

The styling is not exactly modern. The decals have a very non-1920s look to them, but Remington stuck with this design for many years. In fact, it was in production for nearly a decade. Keeping the styling of a product for 10 years is a little odd, especially for our modern consumer society. I digress. Interestingly, some 12s still featured the right-hand return, but this version featured a left-handed return.

There was dirt caked everywhere. 

The platen is rubbish. I need to either get it recovered or try Richard's shrink-tubing trick.

Is that a bug? It wouldn't be the first I ever found in a typewriter. After looking at the layers of dirt I was willing to spray it down on the side of the house. The weather was warm and the sun was out, so I had little fears of the thing rusting too badly. It was also easy to see that it had been kept in a damp environment at some point. There was surface rust in some places, but nothing too bad.

Spraying out a typewrter with the hose takes some guts. I've done it before with good success, however, I always have done it on a sunny and warm day. If it's too cloudy things might not dry as you intended. 

Normally, I cover up the keytops, but I wasn't able to tell if these key tops were cloisonné or maybe enamel. They don't have little circles of celluloid covering the letters and I felt confident that there would be no damage from the water. I tested out on one before I committed to the endeavor and it seemed to be pretty water-resistant. 

You can see the pre-existing rust. It is also clear to see that everything is much cleaner. I also had a much better time getting the segments to move properly.

I had taken all the body panels off earlier and started the process of polishing them with Meguiar's cleaner and polish. They were very grimy and it took a while, but the black gloss paint started to shine through.

I think that the final result is stunning.

There is a very old scratch near the screw at the bottom of the type bar scoop. It's old enough to have rusted. Some amateur was probably trying to fix something and mid reinstall the screwdriver slipped and scratched the body panel.

There is one small scuff on the back right that I could not get out. It's small and barely noticable. Strangely, there is a very fancy number two written on the bump-out under the 'e' in Remington. Something like that might have been for inventory control, but it is some sort of enamel paint; shiny and hard. 

Even though it was dirty this 12 was a solid machine to start with. Dirty standards tend to clean up nicely, but if the paint is oxidized you are out of luck. Polishing will make it look better, but it will never look as nice as a good paint job that has been preserved nicely. I can never tell empirically if the paint is good ahead of time. I usually get a gut feeling. 90% of the time my gut is right-on, but there have been times when I was spectacularly wrong.

And remember that a little elbow grease makes all the difference. 

I will leave this brag post with a closeup of my favorite detail of the 12; the margin release.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

No Magic Margin for You!

The drab grey exterior is not exactly charming. It's pretty institutional, but from Remington's advertising department it was nothing short of revolutionary.

This particular model is the Super-Riter. Being the grown-up version of the entire Remington line it had all the gadgets you would expect from a typewriter of this caliber; full tabulator, touch select, snappy response, and even a type bar un-jammer. There is one thing missing. The margin set is not automatic. You must reach behind the paper table and use the margin set tabs. Not a terrible inconvenience, but certainly not one you would expect to see in a full-featured desktop typewriter. I looked around at American machines from the 50s and found that the automatic set margin was pretty common.

Obviously, there's Royal:

and Smith-Corona:

Underwood was a little different with their font-set marginal stops, so they don't count.

This begs the question; Why do Royal and Smith-Corona typewriters have fancy margin sets while the Remington is left out in the cold. Well, the answer has a little to do with a lawsuit.

It was October 3, 1947 when Royal filed suit in the District Court of Connecticut. Royal claimed that Remington Rand violated Royal's patent with the creation of the KMC or Keyboard Margin Control. This feature was prevalent on Remington desktop typewriters before the 1950s. Like Royal's Magic Margin it was a novel way to set margins on a typewriter. Unlike Royal's Magic Margin the KMG was on the body of the typewriter to the right.

Under the hood, both MM and KMC used an actuated arm to press a spring loaded marginal stop. If you are familiar with MM, then the KCM would make total sense. The KMC procedure was very similar to Royal's. Interestingly enough, the entire lawsuit centered around a patent created not by Hart, but a man named William Woodfine. William Woodfine is the grandfather of the Magic Margin.

Woodfine was a Canadian living in Verdun near Montreal when he applied for a U.S. patent for a "Margin Regulator for Typewriters." He wanted to improve margin system so "that rearwarly disposed margin stops may be caused to assume position in correspondence with a selected setting of the carriage through... forwardly projecting control keys." The patent was filed on November 1st, 1932 and issued on July 4, 1933. 

The most interesting part of the whole case against Remington was the revelation that Royal had purchased the Woodfile patent ten years before Smith's judgement. That would be around 1937-1938. The Hart Magic Margin patent was filed in 1938. It seems that Royal stumbled on this novel method for setting a margin and, before they issued their own improvement patent, wanted to secure the rights to Woodfine. 

Remington Rand appealed the ruling and the case came before Learned Hand. Hand was a well-known and well-respected judge and legal philosopher. In his time on the bench he heard many cases including several free speech appeals during World War I. Hand was particularly interested in patent law.

L. Hand's eyebrows frequently wrote their own opinions.

Hand affirmed Smith's earlier judgment in 1948. One of the most interesting outcomes of this case was the number of times that Hand is quoted from the Royal opinion.

Ultimately, Royal's ownership of this patent was upheld and we can see the repercussions of this in Remington's typewriter technology. Nowhere in the 1950s will you see an automatic margin on a Remington. 

The Woodfine patent was also brought up in another margin lawsuit with SCM in the 1960s. I have not looked too closely at the particulars, but I imagine that the outcome was similar. 

Even with all the legal harangue, Remington still made a very high quality typewriter that was used by large sectors of the U.S. Government.

I have another Remington desktop. It's nice as well.

I guess that if you take the body panels off, you can "unroll" the whole typewriter to work on it. I'll have to give that a try.

So, if you happen to see one of these typers out in the wild, give one a try. Even without the fancy margin set you'll still enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

CTP Data: Year Three

It's been a while since I posted any sort of stats or survey results, but here are some new numbers fresh from my classes today. After I get a few more data points I might do a comparison between the first year of the CTP and this year. It might be an interesting trend. Regardless, please enjoy these typewritten statistics.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

History Comes Alive

The Royal "Radio Mill" in my private collection is one of the more interesting typewriters I own. The typeface (10 pitch all-caps) is very easy to read. Considering its purpose, that makes sense. I've been using it recently to make lists for our Sunday shopping. It is a fairly mundane task and I am sure that there have been far more important things that a 10 pitch radio-mill Royal would have done in its life.

Here is one such thing:

This is a naval dispatch is dated 7 DEC 1941; a date that will live in infamy. I found it while browsing the National Archives web page. This particular dispatch was sent to Sqantum Naval Air Station outside of Boston.

What caught my eye wasn't the historical import of the document, but the typeface used to type this dispatch. When I saw it it looked very familiar. I had and idea, so I went to the office and typed this out on my Royal:

My ribbon is a little drier and the original form might be a carbonless carbon, but the similarities are there. What clinched it for me was the number "4." It is very distinctive as you can see in this earlier post:

 When you see something like this it really makes history come alive.