Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Thrifting Finds 2019

On this day, the last of 2019, I wanted to share some fun finds from my most recent thrifting adventure.

My friend Tim and I hit the Sun City thrift stores. If you have never spent any time in Sun City, you are missing one of the most bizarre places on earth. Sun City is where every day feels exactly like 2:00pm on a Sunday at your grandmother's house; time moves with all the speed of molasses. It is packed with people, but you never see them. The only suggestion of life is the maniacal whizzing of golf carts on city streets and the white and blue blur of the snowbirds.

While Sun City gives me the feeling that I am sinking slowly to the bottom of a plastic-covered sofa, the thrift stores where very generous to me.

The first item is this very nice Jorgensen clamp. $3.00

It's a clamp. I don't know what else to say. It is large. Largeness is a useful attribute to have in clamps. This is a No. 2. You can get them new for about $30.00

Next, is a nice VFD combination printing adding machine and advanced 4-function calculator. I got it because they keys are wonderful to press. It works. $5.00

I cannot resist American-made wall clocks. This is a Seth Thomas Manager 12 (plug-in). $6.00

The plastic dome is scuffed and scratched, but I can polish that out pretty easily. The brown surround is made of metal and it has a sweep hand. Nice clock for just a little money.

Finally, there is this nice little 13" IBM correcting Selectric II in white. $14.00

It's completely frozen up. No hum when you turn it on, but it was so clean that I couldn't pass it up. I'll invariably take it apart, rub my chin, clear my throat, and take it Bill Wall for analysis. 

The red tongue is missing, but I have three of those sitting in a box in the garage. 

So, that's the haul. Hope you enjoyed the show-and-tell. 

Have a great New Year and I wish you all the best in 2020!

Thursday, December 19, 2019

IBM 5291 Keyboard USB Mod

Typewriters are wonderful, distraction-free writing tools. Actually, I don't really believe that. Typewriters are a feast for the senses; the smell, sound, and tactile feel are all part of the magic that is part of non-digital writing. Some very sick people even love the gentle hum of a Selectric's motor. Instead of being distraction-free they are right-distraction devices. The things that draw our attention are all in service to the visceral feel of pure communication.

Even so, we are called on to engage with digital devices. It's a cruel reality of a "modern" world. I don't like typing on a computer, but when I do, I always use mechanical keyboards. You know the kind; clicky, tactile, loud, and ancient. My daily typer is a 1987 IBM Model M. It's a nice keyboard. If you'e never had the chance to use one of these keyboards, you are missing out. On a tuned specimen, nothing compares. If you've used an IBM Wheelwriter before, you have used this type of keyboard.

The Model M's cult following is well documented. There are people who will wax philosophical on the feeling and sound of the buckling spring keyboard. There are actually YouTube videos on the subject, but that is hardly a sigil of eccentricity.

Connoisseurs will tell you that the predecessor to the Model M, the Model F, is even more refined. It's as close to the urkeyboard as you can get (barring beamsprings). This is what I wanted to share with you today.

Bigfoot is what some collectors call this. It is big and heavy. It types beautifully.

I recently completed a USB conversion for this IMB 5291 Terminal keyboard. Most people would think that Soarer's Converter would be the way to go. However, Soarer's is closed-source. It's not being actively maintained. There is also the sudden and strange disappearance of Soarer from the keyboard enthusiast's bulletin boards. These three things prompted me to look elsewhere for firmware. I decided on QMK Firmware. It ticked all the boxes; Atmel support, open-source, current updates, large user-base.

Wiring up the converter was fairly easy. I used a Teensy 2.0 to upload the firmware from the QMK online builder. You can customize, compile, and download all from within a web browser.

Just a little debugging and I was able to start using it on my home computer. I just completed grades using this keyboard and it was so nice to finally use it. As I use it more, I might just make it a permanent daily typer. The sound and feel of this keyboard are a perfect right-distraction.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Rocketeer Keyboard

I am not one for free buzz marketing on my own blog, but I was perusing through the Massdrop site (looking for keytops) and I found this keyboard that is intended to mimic the style of a Hermes Rocket. 

The keytops are double-shot plastic (yum) and it's a pretty nice looking thing. Just thought I would share.

Check out on the Massdrop website: https://massdrop-s3.imgix.net/product-images/massdrop-x-zslane-mercury-rocketeer-mechanical-keyboard/FP/sgyeeoeSlyZcgNUh4muA_CB5A2865-copy.jpg?auto=format&fm=jpg&fit=crop&w=1080&bg=f0f0f0&dpr=2&q=35

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Happy Typewriter Day 2019!

As the sun sets on your day of celebration, raise up a typewriter to the memory of Christopher Latham Sholes. Be careful not to drop your typewriter. They are heavy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Classic Argus C3 Film Advance Mod

While it's not really a mod it's definitely a useful addition to this classic brick.

It's a classic.

It's also designed to be simple, reliable, and useful.

Not a single curve to be found.

I think it's a great camera, but the ergonomics of the film advance knob leave little to be desired. Winding the knob is not an easy thumb-only affair. That is, until I got on Tinkercad and made this little accessory.

I 3D printed this object and it was a terrible idea. Thick. Clunky. An overabundance of plastic. I went back to the drawing board. This was the result:

The design was better. It used less plastic, but it wasn't easy to use. The thumb-indentations were too shallow to operate with one hand. Back, again, to the drawing board.

I made the thumb-indentations deeper. Really, it's just a six-sided gear, but it works. I printed it and this is how it turned out:

The six depressions make turning the knob quite easy when the camera is up to your eye. You can quickly release the film advance button and turn the knob.

Here's a link to the STL if you want to 3D print your own. The process of making this little accessory made me think about the continuing possibility of a digital parts warehouse for typewriters. Need a key-cap? Print one!

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Cameras, Englargers, and Strobsy: An Analog Journey

If you have come this way because of a post on the Film Photography Project website, welcome. If you are here because you are looking for typewriter stuff, you are also in the right place. The typewriter stuff is a little deeper in this blog, but it is still here.

What can I say? Mike at the FFP has been a great help by providing the fledgling photography program with cameras and kind thoughts. He kindly let me ramble on about what I need to do to get this program going. A couple of folks have reached out to me after reading the post and made some very kind donation offers and I can tell you that I am blown away with the kindness of others.

If you want to follow along with my classes, you can visit the class site at http://www.strobsy.com The name is interesting, no? I had originally conceived of a series of tutorials designed to help yearbook students use off-camera flash, but I needed a new site and I had the domain. Maybe the tutorials will come in time.

Try as I might, I cannot live a purely digital life. To be sure, there are some really digital things in my daily experience, but I always come back to analog tools. There's some irony for you; I communicate this on one of the most self-conscious forms of digital navel-gazing ever devised. Blogs are the digital id. Or is that Twitter?

Richard Polt effectively describes my sentiment in the manifesto of the Typewriter Insurgency when he calls for an acknowledgement of the "real over representation/ the physical over the digital/ the durable over the the unsustainable."

I think the time for a Photographic Insurgency is in order. The digital image has devalued the photographic image. I know history. I know that photo editing has a long and unsavory past. I have seen the Stalinist palimpsest. However, there is some value and honor in a photograph of real things. Our species has become embroiled in Manichaean debates on truth and lies; reality versus imagination. Photos may not always tell the whole truth, but they tell 1/30 of a second of truth. Photography is the real over representation.

The most disheartening thing is that you can go online to YouTube and watch countless tutorials on how to use Photoshop to make your pictures look just like the pictures of other people. It's hollow and the pride of craftsmanship is as ephemeral as the digital files they create. However, the creation of a print in a darkroom from a negative you alone created is not just a photo; it's my photo. I created it and I have pride of creation of this thing. Photography is the physical over the digital.

A photographic print is a guaranteed (providing good fixing, rinsing, toning, and storage) century of life. Platinum prints will last longer. I have talked about the digital oubliette before and we are living in an age of garbage that will make up the geological strata of the far future. Planned obsolescence and the newest upgrade are the economic orthodoxy. Film photography breaks down the assumptions of modern convenience by saying longevity, value, significance, and meaning are important values. They should not be ignored.

Typewriters and photography are kindred spirits; both are tools of intimate creativity. The products of which add to the world through their permanence.

I've gone on too long, but welcome to Magic Margin.