Friday, March 15, 2013

NBC Filming

A crew from NBC was here today taking a few shots and interviewing some of my students about the typewriters. I have to say the two girls and two boys they interviewed were articulate and very impressive. I snapped this quick pic of the camera and lights. Whenever I find out the air date, I'll let you know.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Unfettered Eager Minds

Even with all the excitement over the 4th Phoenix Type-In, the CTP is still chugging along nicely. It's been a while since I have posted with updated information about the benefit of a typewriter in a classroom setting.

I've done stuff with spelling, and student opinions, but I thought it might be a hoot to look at output as an outcome. I have never subscribed to the "more is better" camp of thought. There is, however, a chance that typewritten output can be an evaluative component of student "on-typewriter" performance vis-a-vis handwritten activities.

I decided to take four random journal prompts from my class that has the highest typewriter user to student ratio; 2:3 for Period 2. I then set about counting the average number of words written by both hand and typewriter. The results were interesting:

Typewriters (students who typewrite their journals) were producing more words per journal than handwriters. Typing for composition is definitely faster than handwriting, but is it that much faster? Taking into account that my students are not touch typists and have a non-standard typing styles--owing to the prevalence to two-thumb typing--I find that the result is skewed in favor of something other than speed.

Speed, however, is a powerful metric. Typewriting allows ideas to be placed on paper at a rate commensurate with a thought process. Handwriting can slow things down although that might be a honorable intention in and of itself. Speed (as if speed and quanity equaled quality) was a major justification for kids using typewriters made by Royal, and other manufacturers, during period advertising.
Most of the research that supported the claims by Royal in this kind of advertising were conducted by two researchers; Ben Wood of Columbia and Frank Freeman of the University of Chicago. In 1929, funded by the typewriter industry, Wood and Freeman deployed thousands of typewriters in classrooms across the nation. 15,000 students and over 400 teachers were involved in the study. It was widespread and far-reaching and, ultimately, the results were positive. Wood and Freeman concluded that gains in all areas were measurable by the Standford Achievement Test and that spelling was a significant component of that.

"There is fairly consistent evidence that the typewriter's influence of spelling is more favorable than on any other subject tested in the Stanford Achievement Test" (Wood and Freeman, 1932).
The Classroom Typewriter Project data proved Wood and Feeman correct.

The only other reason for the data in the chart above might be a fun little indicator that made its debut appearance in the first typewriter survey I gave my students. The statment was; "Using a typewriter imparts more meaning to my writing." If a writer thinks that the act of typewriting is special, there would be an interest in fulfilling that preconceived notion and writing more. And in the case of a classroom filled with teenagers a lack of material is the greatest detriment to quality revision.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Type-In Geekery

The New Times Jackalope Ranch was kind enough to give the Phoenix Type-In scene another accolade in a recent post.

Friday, March 1, 2013


ITAM is over, but it seems like Type-In season has just begun:

There is also this thing in Phoenix:

But back to the blog post. In my eternal quest for full typewriter justification, I found this little snippet:

The way that the attachment works is a mystery. From the description is seems that you note the number of spaces that remain on the line after typing. Some sort of pointer and ruler help you do this. In retyping, a knob s allows you to set the number of spaces to drop into the line to fully justify it. Maybe its something that fiddles with the spacer mechanism. The possibilities are very interesting. Maybe this is something that can be replicated if I channel my inner Thomas Edison.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Selectic Stairway to Heaven

It happened almost by accident; three IBM (Ee-bee-ems as Toddler Magic Margin calls them) Selectrics. The strangest thing is that they are all the same color. One, two, and three. The Right Reverent Munk has also seen a surfeit of Selectrics come his way, although his come with natty keys.  Mine are more...serious?...somber?...Blue Chip! All typewriters are welcome during ITAM!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Typewriter Restoration: It's a Messy Business Pt. 3

The plan was to be farther along with this restoration, but I think I heard a saying about the best laid plans...

I came away from this exploratory surgery with a fairly good idea of what was causing the wayward keytops. Unfortunately, the solution wasn't the button I found deep in the bowels of the typewriter. That would have been too easy.

It was something far more interesting; a pivot point.

The keytop arms of this particular typewriter are very long. The extend all the way into the back of the frame where they pivot. I think this is something well-known to Underwoods. Each bar has a small tab of metal that engages with a comb/pivot plane. An extended "Z" bar-like piece covers these tabs and the pivot comb allowing the arms to stay in place, but also move freely. Small springs add some push to the tops and keep everything aligned. In the picture below, I have removed the retaining bar for ease of viewing.

On this typer, several of the arms had worked their way out of the pivot comb. Their conspicuous absence can be noted above. This small change rendered the typewriter unusable. Here is a better view of the absent key bars:

The metal tabs were intact on both bars. I imagine if they were actually broken I would have a whole set of other problems, but they look good. The loose retaining bar might have contributed to them working out of their locations.

To fix I just formed the metal "Z" a little so there would be a tighter fit. I have yet to reinstall it, but I was thinking that oiling this point might make more trouble than it solves. There is no sign that oil was ever applied here and adding it at this juncture might cause the pivot points work loose even easier.

I am also fairly confident that the springs that are on the underside of the bars are important to alignment because they keep the keytop bar tabs pushed up firmly against the pivot comb. I have a few extras from a very bad donor machine.

I am getting closer to some of the more fun stuff, but without a solid working mechanism all the rest would just be window dressing.