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Typewriters

Typewriters are better than Bitcoin

Last week I visited a Salvation Army I’d never tried before for some quick typewriter hunting. Between two late-period electric Smith Coronas I spotted a silver fiberglass case that screamed Olympia. And sure enough, I popped it open and beheld this 1959 SM3 (photo taken post-cleanup):

The combo of gray body and brown keys was not my favorite. And despite the carriage being unlocked and the general appearance of working order, I just couldn’t get the typebars to strike. I try to make sure typewriters I buy at least type decently before I commit, especially since this was going to be a refurbish-and-resell.

But it was $20, and since I couldn’t do an autopsy right there on the shelves between the kitchen appliances and stereos, I decided it was worth the risk knowing I’d make a profit regardless.

I brought it to the checkout. Then, because either the cashier misread the tag or there was a sale I didn’t know about, she rang it up as $10.

Merry Christmas to me, I thought. I could barely hide my smile as I left.

Mr. 2 Years Old was eager to help me clean and fix it, and was especially keen on using the compressed air can to blow out an impressive amount of gunk.

The typing issue, I eventually discovered, was due to the margin release bar blocking the typebars from striking even when it wasn’t activated. I’m guessing it’s due to the mechanism slowly loosening over the years? Regardless, giving it a little bump set the typebars free and made it sellable.

And I did sell it yesterday via Facebook Marketplace for $100, making me a 900% return. Typewriters—better than Bitcoin!

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Typewriters

Introducing ‘One Typed Quote’

Here’s a new fun thing from me: One Typed Quote, an online catalog of short, share-worthy quotes typewritten onto paper and lovingly flung onto the internet.

This new venture was inspired by the blog One Typed Page, created last year by Typewriter Review purveyor Daniel Marleau. I pitched OTQ to Daniel as an offshoot of OTP and he jumped onboard.

For years I’ve been collecting quotes I like from books, movies, songs, podcasts, and other random sources. I never knew what I’d do with them; it just felt good to save them for reference, librarian that I am.

One Typed Quote lets me share these quotes quickly and easily, in a visually interesting way, using tools I deeply admire. The blend of analog and digital also befits my personality and general ethos of life.

How to participate

Follow and contribute on Instagram:

Don’t have a typewriter? Email your favorite quotes to onetypedquote@gmail.com and I’ll turn them into OTQ treasures.

Have your typewriter (platen) ready to roll? Here’s how to join the merry coterie of quoters:

  1. Pick a quote. From a book, movie, song, podcast—doesn’t matter so long as it’s brief and beautiful.
  2. Type it. On paper, with a typewriter. Include the author and source material.
  3. Share it. Take a pic (square is ideal) while it’s still in the typewriter, then post it on Instagram with the hashtag #onetypedquote and the typewriter’s make/model/year (if known) in the caption.
  4. Or email it. Send the pic and caption to onetypedquote@gmail.com to be shared on the @onetypedquote account.

That’s it. My hope is this will inspire a steady stream of captivating quotes from a variety of sources, but I have no expectations other than having fun sharing typewritten bits of wisdom I’ve encountered and appreciated myself.

Happy typings!

Categories
Typewriters

A friendly birthday typewriter

This cross-stitch was a belated birthday gift from my mom, who said she used the color of my Olympia SM7 as inspiration. As I don’t have a display room or even nook for my typewriters, I’m not sure where to put it yet. But it’ll brighten up whichever wall it lands on.

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Typewriters

French Dispatch from a Remington Portable 3

Finally took some time to clean up this 1931 Remington Portable 3 with Mr. 2 Years Old, who understandably couldn’t keep his hands off of it. Aside from a faded ribbon, some dried chunks of rubber rattling around inside, and tons of dust bunnies (the compressed air can was a big hit), it’s working fine.

I got it over two years ago from my mother-in-law, who had gotten it for free from someone in her book club. It’s now the oldest typewriter in my collection by almost a decade.

Though it was made in the United States, the keyboard contains French diacritics, most notably the accent (`), cedilla (ç), circumflex (ˆ), and diaeresis (¨). The combination of the latter two on one typebar makes for a rather expressive key top:

The other notable feature (at least for my collection) is that the machine is attached to the base of the carrying case:

The rest of the case pops on and off fairly easily, and contains a little compartment presumably for storing supplies or secret dossiers.

Though I’m looking to slim down my collection, I think I’ll hold onto this one. It’s a fun typer and very solid for a portable. Vive la dactylographiée!

Categories
America Books History Review Technology Typewriters

On Paper Trails and Typewriting Females

I just finished reading Cameron Blevins’ new book Paper Trails: The US Post and the Making of the American West, which I learned a lot from (see my full notes and quotes from the book below).

One thing that popped out to me was the role of women in the Post Office’s workforce. Women made up two-thirds of all Post Office employees by the end of the 1870s, with the Post Office itself accounting for 75% of all federal civilian employees at the time. This made it a vital source of work for women early in the movement for women’s suffrage.

Their chief work was within the Topographer’s Office, which produced maps of postal routes. The layout and drawing of the maps was done by men (it was actually called “gentlemen’s work”). But the “ladies’ work” of coloring the routes according to frequency of delivery was arguably just as if not more important, because it added the dimension of time to the otherwise inert graphics and kept the maps up to date and therefore useful.

This wasn’t easy given the constantly changing routes and limitations of paper. As Blevins put it: “These women were, in effect, trying to paint a still life while someone kept rearranging the fruit.”

All this was on my mind when I saw Richard Polt’s Instagram post for International Typewriter Day.

I’m not sure how much typewriters factored into the work of the female “colorists” given its graphical nature, but the people’s machine without a doubt contributed to the societal sea change happening concurrently as women marched first into offices and then, eventually, the voting booth.

Anyway, I recommend Paper Trails primarily for history nerds—specifically 19th century America. The academic writing is refreshingly accessible and peppered with illustrative graphs throughout. I’m happy to file it under my “technically first” series of books about how innovative technologies came into being.

Notes & Quotes

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Typewriters

Free typewriter paper? OK

Sometimes it pays for people to know your hobby.

Last week, when I was actually working in the office for once, I arrived to find this on my desk:

No note, no idea who left it there. Maybe they found it in the library’s supply closest and remembered I was a typewriter guy.

Regardless, I’m letting it serve as my 2021 resolution to get back into my typewriters. They’ve been neglected for far too long.

First up, a 1931 Remington Portable 3 that needs some admiration and TLC…

Categories
Books Typewriters

Little Book of Typewriters

I’m a little tardy on this, but I wanted to share what my wife got me for Father’s Day. After a great deal of secret preparations, she presented a one-of-a-kind Little Book of Typewriters for me and our son:

The first page includes a scan of something we got from Tom Hanks in reply to one of my letters to him. It’s his “Eleven Reasons to Use a Typewriter” pamphlet, signed and with an inscription saying “Chad — they are all true”:

Then she took pictures of our typewriters and laid them out with their names. Here’s a few:

It’s become one of 18 Month Old’s favorite books. He’s even started saying “Dora!” when he sees it. Though he has his own typewriter, I have a real Royal Royalite that’s beat up enough to allow a toddler to tap and pick at. One day he’ll graduate to more quality machines. Here’s to raising the next generation of typists! ~/:::/°

In the meantime, he and I have this incredibly thoughtful and useful book to enjoy. We’re lucky guys.

Categories
Photography Typewriters

The Smoking Type

Under The Ocean of Words by Adrian Borda on 500px.com

Love this photo by Adrian Borda, called “Under An Ocean of Words”, which captures the view from inside a typewriter looking up through smoke. I’ve seen this view plenty during repair and cleaning sessions, but never quite this dramatically. Perhaps I should take up smoking.

h/t Kottke

Categories
Typewriters

Advice for selling a typewriter

Here’s my advice for selling a typewriter: Don’t Google it before selling. Don’t see what it’s going for on eBay or Etsy. Especially if it’s a functional model of a popular and photogenic brand you’re just using for decoration and know nothing about. Just sell it to me at a ridiculously low price.

That is my advice for selling a typewriter.

OK, tongue-in-cheek aside—though by all means take it seriously—I was inspired to write this after my sister scouted an Olivetti Lettera 22 on Facebook Marketplace for $10. Surely it’s a junker, I thought. Nope. The sellers were moving and needed to clear out, stat, money be damned. She got it for $5.

Most people aren’t appraisers and can’t be expected to know the value of antiques. I’m sure I have donated or tossed things over the years I could have sold for a pretty penny. I’m just surprised when something as pretty and sleek as a blue Olivetti changes hands for nothing.

But hey, one man’s trash…

Categories
Typewriters

Scenes from another Evanston type-in

Putting on a type-in last year was a lot of fun, so I was happy to be asked by the Evanston Literary Festival to host one again. This year it was at my favorite secondhand bookstore in Evanston: Squeezebox Books & Music. Rather than setting the typewriters at a table together for a shared typing experience like a traditional type-in, I scattered them throughout the store. This fit the space better and gave people some privacy, while also encouraging them to browse the whole place.

Overall it was much more low-key and intimate than last year’s. (The pouring rain probably didn’t help the attendance.) But my main goal for any PDT (Public Display of Typewriters) is to make it fun and educational for novices. On that account it was a success. I got to show several kids and young people the basics, which I hope radicalized them into the Revolution.

My Smith-Corona Electra 12 set the tone near the entrance, impressing people with its style and snappiness:

With its futuristic curves and spaceship smoothness, my Hermes 3000 felt right at home among the outer space books:

My Olympia SM7 (of surprise acquisition fame) took advantage of the store’s typing table:

And my beloved Skyriter was kept company in the art books corner:

I also brought one to sell, another Skyriter my sister spotted online for $10:

It worked fine despite some scuffs and scratches, so I listed it for $80 hoping to get lucky. Squeezebox was kind enough to display it on their checkout counter. Towards the end of the type-in a young couple arrived toting a quirky, sticker-pummeled Sears portable and Remington Travel-Riter, not realizing the event wasn’t of the BYOTypewriter variety. But I was glad to talk shop with them, and even gladder when they bought the Skyriter. He uses typewriters for ASCII art and she’s an ESL instructor who likes to use them for class material, so it’ll be put to good use.

Finally, some snapshots from the day’s typings:

A lot of them were done by a pair of tween sisters who rotated through all the typing stations (hence the “weird dad” reference—perhaps they are Judge John Hodgman fans?):

The Electra 12: “It’s Electric!”