Monday, August 26, 2013

True Blue

This post has been in draft for a long while. I kept thinking that I would find something interesting to share about this charming little typewriter, but I keep coming up blank. So, I'll just write a little here and see if the muse inspires me.

True Blue Deux is what this color should be called as there is a decided harmony between the two colors. Both are on the blue-green spectrum and when it was new I am sure the paint had a luster I cannot recapture.

It was $28. There was a problem with the carriage advancing and the seller was upfront about the problem. A small voice quietly urged me to buy it. My stomach led me to believe that it was actually fixable and the truth was not far off. Beneath the carriage was a space advance mechanism. A small adjustment brought the spacing back to normal.

The carriage return lever has lost its spring and wiggles. It advanced the line well enough, but there is some way to either reattach or replace the spring. The feet needed replacing and the process was the same as when I replaced the feet in my other Remington portable (follow this link).

School's back in session and I am looking at replacing the ribbons for the whole classroom collection. I have about 20 typewriters on the shelves and it seems like this is the perfect number. I have Seniors this year and they are well into the school year. They are a bit flintier when it comes to the lure of the typewriter, but I have seen more and more of them start to eye the few old-hands who have used them before. Twitches of intrigue. Eye-wide and shy and eager. We'll see how many I can persuade into using the typewriters this week.

More good news came this last week with some typewriter happenings at a local community college. I cannot say more right now, but I will keep everyone posted with more crumbs soon.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Elmore Leonard: 1925-2013

I have been the victim of a cold and haven't been reading the news. I remember an interview from Time magazine in 2010 that made me proud to be a fan of the analog. This is the answer to a question about his writing style:

"By hand. Every word is written by hand. Then I'll type it on my electric typewriter. It took me 20 years to buy an electric typewriter, because I was afraid it would be too sensitive. I like to bang the keys. I'm doing action stories, so that's the way I like to do it. I don't have [a computer]. I don't have e-mail or anything like that. I have a fax machine."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Old Friends

Remington typewriters are pretty common.

If you work in an institution that had a significant amount of post-war growth (i.e. every school in the Phoenix Area) you probably have seen (or used) Remington Rand Library Bureau Division furniture.

Work/school is crawling with the stuff. Desks, tables, and dictionary stands. It's nice to bring old friends together again.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wrapping Electrons: Prices

In the comments for my last post several folks had some questions about the cost of turning your blog into a book. There are several full-service options available out there. Blurb being one of the more famous, but their prices are quite high. That's why I went with the BlogBooker and Lulu method.

Digital? Does that have something to do with losing all your fingers
in a Heidelberg? Done!

I was able to get the 74 page 2010 post book (the one I featured previously ) for $4.60 + shipping. The next volume (2011) is a little larger at 292 pages with 184 posts. The price for me is $10.10. So, pretty reasonable.Lulu lets you design your own cover with either their wizard or your software.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Wrapping Electrons

It was a few days ago and my son and I were sitting on the floor playing cars. We were having a great time. As the the little Mini Cooper crashed into the red truck a thought crossed my mind; these times are fleeting. My son won't be little forever. Remembering these times is important.

We take pictures and tell stories to save these memories for our future. The archiving of our personal libraries is something I worry about. The world is information-rich, but how much of the information is being stored in a permanent way? This is especially true when so much depends on the digital. Our society has started to believe in the permanence of the digital world. In time I think that this will create a digital oubliette where things you thought were permanent prove to be very temporary.

After being frightened by this possibility, I started thinking about Magic Margin. This blog has been a work of several years. In that time I have created over four-hundred posts, took thousands of pictures, and devoted nearly a thousand hours of work. In short, Magic Margin means something to me.

So, I wanted to back it up. I wanted to save my work. Blogger lets you download an XML file of your site and all the corresponding comments. This is a good feature if you want to save it to a hard drive, but I wanted a more permanent solution that didn't offer just another digital file. I dug around the Internet and I found many web sites offering to turn your blog into a printed book. In mind this would be the perfect solution. Prices and options were all over the map, but I came away with the impression that the full-service sites it would be too expensive for a large blog like this. Then, I found BlogBooker.

BlogBooker is a free-to-use blog to PDF converter based on LaTEX and a few other open-source text formatting tools. The process is pretty easy. You upload your site backup XML file, set the date range you would like to archive, pick an output size, and let BlogBooker do its business.

The process is relatively fast. I opted to make my "book" into year volumes with 2010 being the first. It was a short blogging year because it worked out to only be 74 pages. Subsequent years I must have been wordier because 2011 worked out to 290 pages. 

The output file is a PDF paginated correctly. This PDF is suitable for uploading to a print-on-demand service like Lulu. It was Lulu that I picked to print volume I of my opus.

The product turned out nicely. I like the size and feel of a trade paperback and it was fortuitous that I was able to select that. The product looks professional and a gloss full-color cover is standard. The paper feels professional, but the failings of my book is the BlogBooker rendering engine.

All the text is there, but frequently spacing is odd. Also, paragraphs on this blog are separated by a carriage return. BlogBooker strips those out. As the output format is PDF I didn't have a means to edit the content directly. The warts and odd formatting must stay. Since I have Adobe Acrobat Professional, I was able to replace the BlogBooker standard title page with something more to my liking.

I would like to continue with this project, but I need a better way to control the output. I think that I might have to manually go through and set images and text if I want to achieve a higher-quality product. Regardless of the odd hiccoughs, BlogBooker does all the heavy-lifting. I have already completed the second volume. 

In the end I am happy that I have been able to take my digital work and turn it into an analog memory.

Friday, August 2, 2013

A Japy by Any Other Name

This last week teachers were back at school getting ready for students. I spent today uncovering my classroom typewriters and diagnosing any problems that might have crept up from the heavy use last school year. It's a multi-day project and I hope to have all the machines ready for student use before the start of the school year; August 5th.

The start of a new school year is exciting and all, but a new typewriter is its own type of fun. This is the new typewriter:

The badge says AMC, but under the stolid grey facade is a French-made Japy. I saw this little machine on eBay for a pittance and thought I would snag it. It's in fair condition, but there is something odd going on with some of the key tops.

As you can see they look as if they are melting. Melting? Yes, melting. It's hot here, but not that hot. More on that later.

I'd never seen a Japy person. In the past I had vague ideas of owning a Script or one of the several other re-branded versions out there. I particularly like the Piccola which was a Swissa version of the licensed pattern from which my AMC is based; all of which come from the Patria.

The Patria can best be described as a faimily of typewriters. This design was adopted by several manufacturers across Europe. Japy was one of those manufacturers. Will Davis and Georg Sommeregger have spent considerable time covering the intricacies of the Patria/Swissa/Japy connection here and here.

This AMC/Japy arrived poorly packed and when I opened the case I was disheartened at the state of the carriage. It was stuck in a very unnatural position. I had the inkling that a jolt had caused the unsecured carriage to shift and then jump past the uppercase shift stop.

I tried moving one of the type bars up to the printing point and it aligned with the bottom of the platen. Curses! Undaunted, and with some brute force, I was able to push the carriage back down to a position that looked more normal. I then started looking for the shift stops. In short order I found them and saw that the screw and set nut were in an odd position. 

Loosening the set screw, the carriage dropped down to a normal height. When the carriage over-shifted it bumped past this stop and jammed itself. Luckily it was an easy fix but the type was massively out of alignment. The slow and steady task of dialing in the correct alignment for both uppercase and lowercase type began. Right now it's not perfect, but the carriage is advancing properly, the imprint is more aligned, and it seems as if no lasting damage was done.

Having completed the biggest task, I looked toward some smaller problems. While deep inside the machine I noticed two springs that were flapping around freely. You can probably guess that they are part of the carriage shift. When the shift key is depressed these springs give a little lift to the carriage. Their job is to lighten the load. 

I had a devil of a time finding where this tail of the spring went until I took this picture. That pivot point looked like it was just the location.

With a quick motion of a needle nose pliers I was able to place it back.

You could have knocked me over with a feather when it fit. The carriage was lightened significantly. I would just be worried about it coming undone again. Thinking on it I came to the conclusion that this spring–and its mate on the other side of the carriage–had jostled loose during shipping.

The fixes are holding, but what about the keys. Here's the picture again.

As to the key tops, that's a mystery. What would cause them to melt like that? The surface is not smooth. They feel rough and the inlaid plastic letters are starting to pop out. Is it be possible that the oils or chemistry of a person's skin could cause plastic to degrade like this? Part of me wants them to look pristine and brand new while a contradictory part wants them to stay just as they are.

As for dating this typewriter the AMC entry in the Typewriter Database doesn't have a sequence for Japy-made machines. If you look at the Japy numbers this serial falls nicely into the 1957-1958 sequence. Given the date on the back of the instruction booklet (1956) I feel pretty comfortable with the assignation.

Apart from the dodgy keys, I really like this little machine. Thankfully the shipping damage din't prove to be permanent. The next step is to clean it up and get it typing. Unfortunately I have quite a backlog here.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Get Ready

To whet your appetite for a flurry of new typewriters here is the instruction booklet for a little French chap.