Friday, 28 December 2012

Post Christmas Update

Christmas is the time for giving, and thanks to the fact that most people are giving, a fair bit of receiving happens, too.

Christmas got quite mad with stupendous amounts of stuff going on and things to be done. That’s why I seemed like a Grinch: why there wasn’t a Christmas post and why I wasn’t openly wishing everyone a Merry Christmas on their Typosphere blogs. I do all hope you had a Merry Christmas, and that the new year is a good one. Please note that I am not a Grinch.

For Christmas, my father made me a giant “Olympia” sign.


The Olympia sign is pictured with an Olympia SF just so you get some idea of the scale of it.

And my mother put together a typewriter repair kit. Full of all sorts of screw drivers and pliers with a bonus bottle of silicon spray.


I think that Mum put it together because Dad had most likely mentioned that he was sick of me stealing his screw drivers and rags and oil and everything else. Luckily I won’t have to now, and he’ll continue to hold onto his sanity.

Then, on Christmas Day, I won my first typewriter on eBay. It’s a Smith-Corona and I’m leaning towards thinking that it’s a Clipper. Of course, I don’t really know what it is, and if anyone can tell me I’d much appreciate it. But I don’t really mind what it is, after all it was a steal at only $5.50. A full post about this machine will follow.


And then – yes, wait, there’s more – on the day after Boxing Day we were heading to Sydney to have dinner with my grandfather for his birthday and, conveniently to pick up a Smith-Corona typewriter. In the morning, ten minutes before we were going to leave, the postie comes. A small United States Postal Service box. What does that turn out to be? Oh, a USB typewriter kit. Really? Had my parents read my mind? Christmas seemed to just keep going and going! And my parents were being too generous.

So the rest of the holidays will be centred around typewriters, electronics, and the four hours of soldering that will have to be done to put the USB typewriter together. Of course, a few weeks of thought will have to be put towards nutting out which typewriter I will “convert”.

In other news, Robert Messenger found another parts Hermes 3000 which he said I was welcome to. Now, I’m hoping, I’ll be able to put two together from three. But this is all just assumptions at the moment. A full assessment of the situation will have to be made when I can see them all lined up, so I can see what’s wrong with each one and what sort of Frankenstein work I can do to bring one or two back from the dead.

That’s my Christmas and the immediate days after for you, and I hope that yours was just as good.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Dual Decapitated Hermes 3000s

There are many stories of heads looking back at their bodies with a look of shock and surprise after they had the old guillotine treatment. I’m just glad that typewriters don’t have eyes and that they can’t look back at themselves. The carriage can’t look back at the main frame and think, “Oh bugger.”


These two Hermes 3000s came home with me after a trip to Robert Messenger’s (see his brilliant blog here). He thought that a project would be good for me and that it would help my understanding of the workings of a typewriter. I’m quite sure of that and to be honest I’m looking forward to it. But, like so many things, it will have to be done “after Christmas” – a time that I won’t want to end and will most likely need to go one for ever and ever to get everything I need to done.


Both machines don’t have their carriages installed at the moment. One machine’s main spring has broken inside its case, and the other machine’s type-bar segment is jammed; the same machine’s chassis is spotted with rust.

The rusty machine has Pica type – fairly bog standard – while the machine with the broken spring has techno elite. Because I have a preference for bog standard typefaces, I’ll most likely end up going to the effort of cleaning out the rust. I might fall back on this claim because I won’t have the patience or I simply won’t be bothered, and could well, at this stage, end up settling with techno.

Cosmetically, both machines are in good shape, both have a few minor scrapes here and there, though. In keeping with the tradition of Hermes 3000s, there is a broken platen knob:


I do have a spare, luckily, and I’m very thankful I won’t have to go to immense lengths to figure out a replacement.

So, if all goes to plan, I’ll have a very nice Hermes 3000 to start the school year with. I’m looking forward to it, having heard so much about them. And thank you again, Robert Messenger!


Is this survival?

The sun seeped through the venetian blinds this morning, and the room filled with warm light. Already one knows that it is going to be a hot day. The radio is still broadcasting, and the immediate hallway outside my door appears to be intact…

Is this survival of the apocalypse?

Have I really survived the whole event by going to bed on time, and not reading with a torch until the small hours? Was it that easy? Are you really telling me that I won’t have to trek out into the bush – Canberra, handily, is the “bush capital” – with a typewriter to record the last days as the threat of radiation comes closer? Are you telling me that all I have to do is get up today and potter around like normal?

Perhaps we overlooked what is normally the end of the world: Surely someone broke a nail yesterday, or dropped the toast – butter side down – surely someone made a typo on an important letter; surely all of those things happened and people though that they were each the end of the world.

The Mayans, maybe, were just having a go at us from beyond the metaphorical grave of a collapsed civilisation. Perhaps they knew that the “end of the world” to us is so small and insignificant they wanted to give us a jolly good scare. Okay – maybe the real end of the world is that there wasn’t really an end of the world and just lots of little things being labelled the “end of the world”.

Shouldn’t I be thankful that I’ve just survived something that could have spelled the end for the rest of the human race? No, I’m not really – I’ve survived plenty other apocalypse predictions in my short life time. But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to try trekking off into the bush with a typewriter though…

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Type Snob

There are some typefaces that I like and there are some that I don’t like.

Really, I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why I think Georgia is a great typeface for everything, while I think Comic Sans is so utterly awful that I’d never use it. There seems to be no rational reasoning behind these opinions of mine on fonts, typefaces. This lack of rational reasoning extends to typewriters, too, but why I don’t really know.

Let’s face it: pretty much every typeface ever found on a typewriter, throughout history, was pretty easy to read. Some were easier than others but none required a magnifying glass to decode. Then why do I like some more than others? Why do I associate certain fonts with certain tasks? They’re all easy to read and none look nasty; but still I have a stigma that associates typefaces to tasks.

Below is a collection of my own thoughts of a typeface typed in that typeface.

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As you will note, there is very little logic and sense applied to my different uses and appreciations of different typefaces. But what's logical about a love of letters?


P.S. Apologies – once again – for some awful grammar and syntax in that typecast. My woeful use of the English language can’t even be justified by a creative rush at a typewriter. There’s a reason for that: there wasn’t a creative rush.

Monday, 17 December 2012

This SM-4 gets a new lease on life



I was asked by one of my teachers if I wouldn’t mind having a look at a typewriter for him. The word has got around school fairly quickly that I’m the one to see if it is anything to do with typewriters. I said I’d be happy to.

A few days later he comes in with a large wooden case. Lifting the lid revealed the typewriter to be an Olympia SM-4; even though I thought it was an SM-3. I took the typewriter home with me.

As things tend to do at the end of the year, it got quite insane. Homework sprung out from nowhere, and what I thought was going to be a nice easy, cruising sort of week, became a week from hell. So, the weekend after school finished was the first chance that I had to get to work on this fine machine.

And what a fine machine it was! There was nothing really wrong with it, that’s the real testament to its quality. After however many years of sitting in a shed nothing went “bang” or “pop”, and it was cosmetically really great, too. The keys were just all gummed up, and the platen needed the ‘ole brake fluid treatment. A bit of a lube up and away she went, flying like the clappers, like she’d never been put away for twenty-odd years.

The teacher who enlisted my help with this machine is, I can tell, very proud of it. He didn’t hesitate to tell me that it was from a time when everything was built to last. He realised that with a bit of care there are no worries that this machine will still be typing in a hundred year’s time.

The typewriter itself is destined to be a Christmas present from the teacher to his son. His son’s a script writer and, as far as I know, is going to type up some story board notes and rough ideas with it. It’s always good to see a typewriter going to a good home. None of this key-chopping barbarism, no “put it on a shelf and don’t use it, it’s old” sort of ideals; no, just good old fashioned use – what this quality machine was meant for, it was meant to make quality writing.



Friday, 14 December 2012

Let the holidays begin and bring on the typewriters

In the ideal world, I would have it so that we would cruise through the end of the school year and arrive at the last day without any stress. It would be a nice way to finish off, a nice way to farewell those that are leaving and to say “see you later” to those coming back next year.

It has not been like this at all.

Today was the last day of school here in sunny Canberra, and yet there were still people printing assignments in the library before school started. It was a mad house, just to get everything and done and finished – but it did get done and finished, so all ended well.

It was the last few weeks that kept me from this little measly blog. I’ve been madly writing assignments, finished off books, keeping track of assessable work. But now, for the next seven weeks, that is behind me. It isn’t to be worried about. It is now that I get the joy of thinking solely about typewriters for the next little while.

I have two projects for the Christmas holidays. Both machines belong to my teachers. One is an Olympia SM-3 that needs a good oil and service, the other is an Underwood 5 (I think, or at least I hope it is a five otherwise I’ll look very silly on a typewriter blog). The Underwood 5 needs quite a bit of work, but it should keep me busy. The SM-3 is destined to be given as a Christmas present from the teacher who owns it to his son. The Underwood 5 will most likely end up on a teachers desk in a Year 1 classroom next year.

Apologies for no pictures and yet another of a shocker of a blog post, but I felt like I should let my pseudo-faithful readers, you, know that nothing horrible had befallen me. And that I just had my inky fingers against a typewriter trying to get all that homework done.

Thank you, if you’ve made it this far, for reading.

Monday, 26 November 2012

“Last Ever Typewriters”

The person who collects “last ever typewriters” is really building up quite a collection. And I think they would be really pleased with the last few years, as the collection only continues to grow.

Of course, they would have a Godrej and Boyce standard that they had especially imported from India. They would have quickly been on the phone when they heard the news. They would have pressed 1 seemingly a thousand times to work their way through endless call centres – with each new call centre the accent getting seemingly thicker and harder to understand. Eventually, after talking to what felt what like a hundred different people, and racking up a phone bill astronomical in size after being on the phone for three hours to overseas numbers, they would have reached a representative from Godrej and Boyce. They would have discussed at length, each not understanding the other very well, but in the end the outcome would have been what both had hoped for. Someone to buy the boat anchor, and finalisation of the purchase of what everyone thought was “the last typewriter ever made”. It was a win-win for everyone.

Just last week, though, they would have been horrified. Another “last” typewriter had come up, and the pesky National Science Museum in London had beaten them to it. Yes, it was the last Brother electric typewriter to be made in Britain. They, like most of use, had no idea that factory was still around, but when they found out they had missed another “last typewriter”, they were a little annoyed at themselves.

But they realised that it wouldn’t be all bad. This collector of ours had, in fact, been collecting for quite a few years, and had, in that time, procured the last Smith-Corona manual typewriter from both Britain and America. So, to them, it was just another Scout badge that they could work for any time they pleased.

What this collector is now doing, I’ll have you know, is sitting at home with their eyes set firmly – quite ironically in fact – on a computer, not a typewriter, so they can see when reports come in from China that their “last ever typewriter” is produced. He has already engaged a translator to make sure the transaction of this last typewriter goes well, and that he doesn’t end up with a giant blow up Santa Claus in his parcel; believe me, it has happened.

As many continue writing about “last ever typewriters” – which now includes myself, it seems – I can tell you all one thing. I have not bought, I’m sure, for my collection the “last ever typewriter”.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

My generation and the Internet

I belong to the test generation. A generation that will be the first to experience being born with the internet and growing old with it and its consequences.

Every time an adult tells us about the internet the repeatedly tell us that everything we do in the confines of cyberspace will be there permanently. Remember, they tells us, you will never be able to get it back. Once it is there it will always be there for the rest of time. They tell us to tread carefully, tread very carefully.

Our lives will be carefully mapped out on the internet for anyone who really wants to see. There are our Facebook profiles, there are our blogs and tweets. Comments we wrote on other people’s posts, message boards and forums that we posted to. There’s the email groups we’ve sent to on Yahoo! and Google. It is all there, readily available, carefully archived, and easy to find. There is no hiding from it.

There isn’t a generation before us that has to experience this. Any comments they made as teenagers were absorbed and lost into the sound-scape that is conversation; they weren’t recorded and archived. Any writing they did was most likely confined to their English books or letters written, all of which – by now – is either rotting in the bottom of a linen cupboard or has been thrown out and pulped, recycled into toilet paper. It hasn’t been recorded for all to see and read, and comment on, online. The generations before ours didn’t have to worry about a reputation that they created for themselves online as immature teenagers. They have left their immature selves behind, forgotten, leaving just the reputation that they’ve created as responsible adults.

It won’t be easy for us. We will still be dealing with what we wrote and said online as teenagers and children. We will still be mopping up after our countless accounts to all sorts of online services, some of which may embarrass us in our adult lives. We will have come along in our motorbikes and done wheelies on the neat gravel that is the internet. We will have mucked up, but the gravel won’t erode and be raked again; it is like the Moon. In cyberspace the wind doesn’t blow, everything is permanent. The skids will be there forever with guided tours for whoever is interesting in seeing them.

How careful should we be online? No one really knows. By the time that my generation is having children it will be know what is a good level of caution and what is not. At the moment it is a bit of a guess, assumptions, hunches, ideas. Should teenagers not be allowed to browse the internet, or not be allowed to post to it? Should they be protected from themselves?

Celebrities and those in the public eye didn’t have to grow up with the internet. They came to it as responsible adults, not immature adults. Those of us in my generation that become famous won’t be getting a clean slate on the internet when they reach fame, their previous un-famous, self will be three, too. Anyone will be able to look at how this person was before they were famous, how they acted, who they were. They might try really hard to hide from it, but it will all be there, even if it is under layers and layers of new content. the old will still be there, hidden but not forgotten.

My generation will have to live with what we put on the internet now. It will be a permanent reputation that can’t be morphed into something else with the passage of time. It will be the thing that goes bump in the night, that lurks behind us, that follows us in the street.

My generation is the experiment to see how the permanent  fool-proof date retention effects the human race and its psyche. How will it effect our chances or getting jobs? Being reputable in the public eye?

Everyone has told lies and done stupid things in the past, but they did that in a time where you could move on, you could hide from your mistakes. But now the mistakes will be there for everyone to see. They might be mistakes that don’t cost us in the short run, but in the long run they might cost us our careers and jobs, our reputations.

We are the generation that is living two lives. A real life and a digital life. Before us, before my generation, those two lives were separate – they didn’t every join – but we are the generation that they will and can join, where they have already collided. They will become the same thing, they have become the same thing. Anonymity is there, but the cloak can be revealed to see the old man pushing the levers in the Emerald City.

Everything that we say or do online can, and will, be used against us.



POST SCRIPT: Before you ask what is this doing on a typewriter blog, I can say in my defence that it was drafted on a typewriter and edited with genuine ink out of a fountain pen, so I hope that it still deserves its place here.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

What your typewriter says about you

It is said that teenagers – like myself – use music to identify themselves, much in the same way that adults use bumper stickers to identify themselves. Surely – and I might be on a limb here – typewriters could have the same effect.




The Olivetti Lettera 22 is a solid, reliable typewriter. A portable that can be relied upon in any situation. The Lettera 22’s owner would also be a solid reliable person, strong willed, but willing to work in any situation. They would be a person without any frills, nothing superfluous; just like their typewriter.



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The Olympia SM-9 is renowned for its light touch. The owner would be a person compassionate, and light on – they wouldn’t be pushy or try to grab attention. A quiet achiever, just like their typewriter.




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The Imperial Good Companion Model T is built like a tank, and can take most things thrown at it. It can be bent back into shape after a hard knock and will keep going just like it did before. It’s owner might seem tough on the outside, and a bit distant, but on the inside they would be a great big softy – easily approachable and a real good companion, just like their typewriter.



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The Olivetti Valentine is all about form over function. Its owner would be the sort of person that is looking for the “look”, not the “feel”. They would be a person that is concerned about their appearance to others, and one who doesn’t use their typewriter all the time for what it was meant for – typing.




The Brother 215 doesn’t make itself out to be anything that it isn’t. It’s features are limited, but it works well. It’s owner would be the sort of person that wants a typewriter that just types. They might be a person that is easily distracted, and to help themselves they have a typewriter that doesn't distract from itself with looks or extra functions.




The Galaxie-Deluxe is for someone who wants to do everything. It is a typewriter where all sorts of heavy and light work can be done well. Its owner is probably a Jack of all trades. From letter writing, to scripts, novels to magazine features: they try it all, and their typewriter is up for every challenge, moving and growing with them.



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The Olympia Traveller de Luxe is a typewriter whose owner likes something solid. It isn’t built like a tank, and really it might be a little fragile, but on the outside it gives the appearance of something that is tough. It’s owner might be a little heavy handed but their typewriter, with its heavy touch, can take it.



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The Olivetti Lettera 32 is an everyman’s typewriter. Its owner mightn’t be anything special, or might be a hidden talent. Like the SM-9 and its owner, the Lettera 32 and its owner might be a quiet achiever, using a quality little typewriter to produce quality work.


POST SCRIPT: I know, I know. The pictures aren’t very good. Apologies, but my phone camera isn’t quite up to it. And using my other camera – a Nikon film SLR – is quite tedious to get the pictures online. So, I hope you can manage to feast your eyes, and get food poisoning, off my pictures. But I have tried to hide some of the imperfections by using black and white, but I know you’re more clever than that: you’ll see right through to the true colours, and imperfections.

Feel most welcome to add your own “What your typewriter says about you” in the comments.

Friday, 23 November 2012

A ramble on Newspapers


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Presented above is an unedited, unwarranted, unguaranteed to be accurate, torrent of dribble from my brain. All opinions are my own and possibly uninformed.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Mysterious Case of Gravity and the Lettera 32



All looks well with this Lettera 32, a typewriter that I had brought home with the SM 9 on Sunday. But eagle eyed viewers may notice that the front blue panel – if you can call it that – isn’t quite straight. The reason? The very reason that apples land on scientists’ heads. Gravity. The result of this interesting phenomenon? This:


Yes, your eyes don’t deceive you – and no, it isn’t Photoshopped. The little tab that screws to the chassis has snapped clean off. I’m guessing someone has dropped this little machine somewhere along the line, and this, being a pressure point, just couldn’t handle it. How it is placed at the moment probably was fine for the first user, but I’m a little more concerned.

At the moment the little corner of the tab that sticks out is screwed on over the main casing to hold it in place; I don’t want to keep it like this, though. I’d like to do something about it.

Does anyone have any suggestions of adhesives, bodge jobs, how to cleverly place a band-aid to hold it on, or any other method that will attach it once again?

My father’s suggestion was to have a larger washed underneath the first washer to hold it in place, but I think that there’ll have to be something that goes underneath as well. Any thoughts?

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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Cloud [SM] 9

I have a few little theories about typewriters, and for most of the time they work really well. One of the theories that I enact quite regularly is "if the typewriter is praised amongst others it is a safe buy". This theory has served me well, as it did Sunday.

You mightn't be surprised to learn that typewriter and reel to reel tape player cases can look quite similar. Especially some of the larger, older typewriters. It was for this reason that I nearly missed an Olympia SM-9 on Sunday. It looked like a reel-to-reel tape player case, but I insisted, my "just in case" thoughts kicking in, and I revealed an SM-9. Quite a stark difference from a reel-to-reel tape player, let me tell you.

This same day, at the same establishment, I also found a Lettera 32, and a Kofa 200 (which is exactly like an Adler Tippa S). What made it even better was that I cam home with these three machines for $50 - a swell price in today's world of $85 Nakijimas.

Since then I've found one real issue with my SM-9. It refuses to be taken off my desk. It just stays there, an imposing presence, begging to be used. So, in the two day and a bit since I bought it the only thing I could do was oblige. I've been using it a lot.


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Yes, that’s a real image of my desk. A red expanse of organised chaos. Eagle eyed readers might notice the original instructions for the SM 9, and a dried, hardened typewriter eraser that the machine also came with. I often wonder whether it would be worth carbon dating a typewriter eraser, or whether we should inform David Attenborough of a new branch of fossils. He could make a documentary, I reckon, on rock hard platens, erasers, feed rollers, and paper bails…

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Orwell’s Book Covers

I know this blog has the pretence as being a typewriter blog, but sometimes a little variety won’t hurt. I present some book covers – all from my own collection – of Orwell’s novels and books. I think what I like most about them is the contrast. In the differences between Nineteen Eighty-Four covers, especially; they all – except the Popular Penguin edition – have an image that you can relate to the book, but at the same time are quite different.

Besides, I think a collection of book covers always looks good together.


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You know it’s getting dangerous when…

I watch the television, now, in a perpetual state of typewriter searching. Bu funnily enough, sitting down watching, my parents aren’t amused when I spot a typewriter, identify it and have to share my knowledge with them. They just don’t seem to be interested that there was an Olivetti Lettera 32 and a Nakijima ALL in “Underground: the Julian Assange Story” – an Australian telly movie about Mr Assange’s early life. Nor do they care there’s another L32 in a promo for a new show on the ABC-TV – Australia’s public broadcaster -  but I can’t tell you what the promo is for; I was too busy looking at the typewriter.

I spot typewriters in books, too. It took twenty pages until a typewriter was mentioned in Catch-22. But Revolutionary Road was good. Frank, the main character worked at “Knox Business Machines” – and what do you think they sold?

I come out of movies talking about the typewriters in the movie – who really does care if the movie was any good?

I have a good shot of identifying peoples’ typewriters – long sold, forgotten, or thrown out – from their descriptions. I identified our school’s High School’s Faculty Co-Ordinator’s old typewriter, today, as a Hermes Baby, while she was talking about it.

“Oh yes,” she said. “It’s like this” – pointing to an Olympia SF – “ but it was smaller. And it was green, but thinner, and it had a nice hard case that fitted over it…”

“Oh, was it a Hermes Baby, by any chance,” I said.

“Yes! Yes, it was.”

Okay, the title of this post was a little misleading. It’s really only dangerous if I happen to identify a typewriter in the wild, a typewriter in the wild with a price tag, a typewriter in the wild with a price tag in my budget! That, my friends, is when the danger begins.

Typewriters on Display

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Orana Steiner School, a place where for some reason I’ve yet to determine I turn up every week day, holds a Spring Fair every year. This becomes quite a profitable exercise, and tends to rake in over $30,000 every year. So, naturally, they keep putting them on.
Each year the Class Nines and Tens have the honour, not that they’d call it that, of hosting the German Cafe. Each year, too, there is a theme. This year they chose newspapers.
It’s a twist of fate that I also happen to be the editor of news at The Student’s Standard, Orana’s student newspaper. Mind you, I’m not a very good editor, and I’ve got a lot to learn. Because people think Jasper and Newspapers in the same sentence (which has nothing to do with the fact that there’s a special arrangement where I collect The Canberra Times from the library every day for my own personal consumption), I was asked about providing some typewriters to have on display, and helping with layout on their own German newspaper they were putting together.
I’m really happy when people find a way to put typewriters out in public. And so I’m always willing to help. I provided five typewriters, no questions asked. While I’d like to, I can’t claim ownership of the Underwood 5 in the picture above. That’s one of my teacher’s. He’s had it in the staff room on his desks for a while, so naturally it found its way into the “display”. So, you ask, where’s your fifth typewriter, Jasper? That’s a good question. I didn’t know the answer until we were packing up. It was tucked under the table, obviously not needed. It was an Adler Gabriele 25 – not the nicest looking thing – so I’m not too surprised they didn’t put it on display when an Underwood 5 became available.
From what I could tell, people appreciated them quite a bit. One teacher asked me if I knew where to get ribbons, as she had an Olympia Traveller de Luxe just like the one on display. I’ll be writing down an address for her tomorrow. Of course, sometimes the appreciation does come in the form of words describing the anatomy of the male genitalia typed on the paper in the typewriter itself, doesn’t it? Especially when there are plenty of teenage boys coming through. Mostly, though, they were '”just for display”. The Class Tens had precise instructions to not let anyone type. Not that I wasn’t open to letting people type on them – “go for your life”, I’d say. But they didn’t want any harm to come to them, so they obviously really did care about them.
What did happen, though, was that my mother came in to type a message for me when I packed them up, but was promptly told off. She politely – I hope – informed them that she had quite a bit to do with me, and would be allowed to type at will.
I had a few offers made on them, but what would really make me rich would be a dollar for every time someone asked me “what do you do when you make a mistake?” I’d be sitting on a fortune for life, but if we included “what do I do when I get to the end of the line?” as well in this money making scheme I’d be setting up a major banking corporation as a cottage industry!
Here is the line up of typewriters that belonged to myself. The only photo of the Underwood I took by itself is quite terrible, and so it isn’t included here.
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A very German machine for a very German cafe.
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Keeping the German Presence strong.
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A kind gift from Mr Robert Messenger himself. The last British made Imperial portable, I think. While not quite German, it still looked at home.
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A journalist’s typewriter. But not a very good picture of it. A machine that you’d actually have a chance of finding in a real newsroom once upon a time, even though it ain’t really German at all.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A Recent Acquisition

I really haven’t been around to write for this dilapidated little blog. Maybe that’s a sign that I have the remnants of a life, and just don’t have enough time to write about them here. Every time I think about writing a post I tell myself that I’ll do it later, and then, in classic style, I don’t do it at all. So I have had to employ the very old ploy to post for no reason: The update just to update.

Of course I’ve tried to hide that this is, in fact, the case by calling the post “A Recent Acquisition”, but you’ll see through that thin veil of deception, I’m sure.

In my blogging absence I dabbled in buying a typewriter online. I was struck with beginners luck and of course, I didn’t win it. It was an Olympia SM-something and it came up for sale on Gumtree. Gumtree, to the uninitiated, is an online market place more like the classified pages than the local auction room. People run their own “auctions” via email, but it doesn’t have the same feel to it as eBay. This Olympia had the second most beautiful phrase in the price box: Negotiable. The most beautiful would be ‘free’, but I’ve yet to find one like that. The description – as usual highly vague – said that the highest offer by Tuesday [by email] would get it. I offered $35. I assume that someone has a nice Olympia somewhere in Canberra that they paid more than $35 for.

It showed me that it really isn’t like buying typewriters in the “wild”, which is where most of my little collection has come from. There’s a thrill in the “wild”, and yes, there’s a thrill online, but it isn’t the same sort of thrill. Online there is this painful waiting that you have to put yourself through, but in the “wild” it’s right there. Are you going to buy it or not? What’s the price? And you either pull your wallet out or leave it in your back pocket. Then, in some sort of vain, narcissistic victory lap, you get to carry your prize around the rest of the market, garage sale, car boot sale, Trash’n’Treasure, swap meet, school fete or pokey little second hand shop somewhere out in the sticks. Or at least this is what I found the other day...

No one would every buy an Olivetti Valentine with the intent of writing the next great novel on it. Someone would buy an Olivetti Valentine to put it on display and look it thinking to themselves, “Hey, that’s a bloody good looking typewriter”.

So, I may as well cut to the chase, I bought a second Valentine last week. We were walking into Sydney’s famed Rozelle Market, and there, in the very first stall, was a Valentine, with a case and with an all important price tag. A few hushed seconds to process what I saw and I realised that, yes, that price tag read “Typewriter: $45.”

Sydney must not be as nearly as “trendy” as Melbourne, where any typewriter in red, green, orange, blue, purple, an occasionally gun metal grey will sell for spectacular prices. Sydney mustn’t be in the market for the “most sought after portable typewriter today”. They must think that those sorts of prices are just for mad men, and so they ask for amounts that are much more reasonable.

For five whole seconds I thought long and hard about the decision. In the next two seconds I was informed by the stall holder that he was “pretty firm on that price”, well, I thought, I was pretty firm on buying it. And so I got to carry around the red case for the rest of the visit to the market, a sort of trophy for my efforts.

In hindsight I didn’t need another Valentine, one was enough. But sometimes, well, a bargain does something to your mind and you just end up coming home with it. Besides, they’re different. I don’t have double ups at all. One’s a Valentine S, without tabulator, the other a Valentine, with tabulator. I wouldn’t like to be greedy and have two of the very same thing, now, would I?

Pictures are coming, as soon as I get a chance to give it a clean up and a nice polish.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Thoughts on the Blogging

Blogging really scares the hell out of me. There's not barrier, no little safety net to fall back on in case you say something libelous  wrong, misleading, or worst of all: if you say something that makes you look like an idiot. And that includes spelling mistakes.
The typewriter, in contrast, is a nice slow device, it plods along happily, and it doesn't thrust itself - or the writing it helps to produce - into other peoples' faces on the other side of the world. But blogging is bloody well instant, it is so instant that it can be scary. Not so much in the Typosphere, which I would say is the nicest online community out there, but in other places it certainly does. I really can see why quite a large number of people want to sit back, relax and go slow again.
My problem with a blog post is I write it quickly, and not very well; but I don't want to be sitting around and waiting, I don't want to "sleep on it". This is my own demise when it comes to freaking myself out with a blog. "What will people think of this?", "Will I look like a moron if I say that?", "Can I say that?", "Am I making that up?", "Do I sound pompous, up myself, obnoxious etc etc etc?". These are all questions that I ask before I press the ominous orange button marked PUBLISH. It is a commitment that is made as soon as that mouse has hovered, the finger has come down, and the computer has realised and sent it off into the land of the internet.
But what can you do when you do write something terrible? Can you remove it and pretend it wasn't there? For a typewriter this is easy - it's called a matchbox, but on the internet there are moral questions that get asked. No one would like it to end up like the world in Nineteen Eighty-Four, where the constant editing of  every written record to keep with the current, preferred version of events, but is that where we could lead if everyone just removed things that made them out to be a bit dodge on their blog? It seems like the right thing to do is to leave what you write up, and to not remove it from immediate view. As soon as you start removing things gaps appear in a timeline of posts, and people can't go back and see how the blog has evolved.
I've noticed that most of the other fine blogs, which of course are much better than this one, in the Typosphere all seem to have all their posts - none seem to have been removed. Of course I don't really know because if they'd been removed I wouldn't really be able to tell, would I?
So I think I'll leave all my posts where they are. There are a few that I would like to just send into the bin, but most of the interested parties will have read them by now, so what, really, is the point of removing them? Is it self satisfaction? Is it destroying the evidence, even though there are witnesses to the crime?
Luckily, at least for me - possibly not for you - I haven't been scared right off of a blog, and will continue, as my profile says I do, to produce "a lot of really poorly written blog posts".

A Humble Style Manual from the end of the Typewriter Era

I've given myself a quite undeserved break from writing this little blog. I'd barely started and then I took off into the never-never and didn't touch the thing for more than a week. Throughout that time I was looking out for something to write about. There was the option of the post on the excitement (at first I didn't think it was that sarcastic, but later on I did) of opening a brand new typewriter ribbon (I'm lucky enough to be able to get them locally), there was the idea of discussing carriage return levers, there was the idea of discussing the fact that the desk really is a shrine to the self - this post is still in the works - but finally I came to this, today.
Today I was walking past the high school library. A little room, five computers in the middle and lined from floor to ceiling with books. It's the sort of library where talking is quite acceptable, and shouting is quite normal. As I was heading past, I wasn't even going to go in, the librarian, who also doubles as our English teacher, poked her head out of the door and asked a question it is impossible to say no to.
"Would you like an old, free book?"
Of course I would, so in I go. It turns out to be a 1988 copy of the Australian Style Manual.
Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers: Fourth Edition, as its full title reads, is something that I've been coveting for some time. No, I tell a lie. I've been coveting the current edition, but I wasn't going to turn down a slightly antiquated copy, was I?

It's the sort of book that not many 14 year old high school students would want; they wouldn't be interested in Chapter Four: an entire chapter dedicated to the use of italics. They wouldn't dabble in the appendixes. In short they would find the whole thing really, quite truly, boring. But not I. I think it is one of the most interesting little books I own.
I already have a copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage from 1965, but this isn't really a style guide. It's a collection of Fowler's own musings on the finer points of English. There are entries titled "Wardour Street" and "Polysyllabic Humour" - despite being very good it is a bit all over the place. This is why I was excited to receive a copy of a the Style Manual. Something a bit easier to use. But what excited me more, the more I went through it and discovered more about commas than I will ever need to know, is that it was published just at the end of the age of the typewriter.
Anything to do with typewriters automatically gets me interested, that's a fact. So when I saw that there were mentions of the typewriter, however brief, I was even more interested.
It's always interesting to see how the typewriter was used in its glory days. It's all good and well finding out how we are using them now, but to see how they were used then? That's what I like to read about. It's the way that you used them, too. How to set out a letter, how to prepare a manuscript (article 13.5 if you're interested). The culture around them, a culture that, I suppose, we're, here in the Typosphere, evolving and continuing.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Reason behind Key-Chopping?


Image (8)

POST SCRIPT: I’ve been reading your comments and a few have mentioned that my scanning isn’t very good. Is the typecast above any better? I’ve been experimenting and while I haven’t reached what would be considered good, I’d like to know if the one above is any improvement. Of course there’s no improvement in the content: it’s still a poorly researched, poorly written post.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Beauty of the Manuscript



There is a simply, rugged beauty in the heavily crossed-out typescript. The lines interweaving all over the place; the different coloured pen ink; the non-descript arrows running down the margins and across lines of text; the constant mark of “stet” in a little circle above a crossed out word; the crossing out of crossings out with a wonky line; and the notes in pencil to see page so-and-so.

In about every mass-media article about the typewriter being ‘rediscovered’ they mention the “distraction free” writing, and the way it makes you “think” as a writer. It isn’t only that. You can actually see what is being written. There it is. Oh, look at that: what a poor choice of word. You can see the whole sheet of paper at the same time. None of this scrolling business to find a passage. You can spread the pages out across a desk top (the kind that doesn’t have a taskbar). But its the editing, the revision, that I really find joy in.

Crossing stuff out. The destruction of words. It’s enjoyable. My father calls it “cutting the crap”, it’s discovering what should have been written in the first place. Any word processor doesn’t handle red ink like it’s red ink. The closest thing is tracked changes. An inferior copy, a cheap imitation.

Writing cannot be done in my mind without the feel of a fountain pen traversing typed copy.

It’s why I struggle with a word processor. I can’t see the layers of revision. I can’t go back to something I’d written earlier with the simple mark of “stet” enclosed in a bubble. The typewritten manuscript allows every stage of improvement to be seen, and where it came from. That’s why it’s fascinating looking at manuscripts. Typewritten, handwritten, it doesn’t really matter. As long as they’re messy.

The typewritten manuscript allows a little window into how the writer writes. Whether they like it or not. The reader can see so much: where do they put they’re page numbers – the centre or the edge? Do they even use page numbers?  What colour pen do they revise in? Do they have small margins or big ones? Do they indent their paragraphs?

The sheet of manuscript presented at the beginning of this post is the first page of the second draft of my anti-homework essay. It’s a long awaited project. It’s supposed to prove that homework is in fact no good, but I think what it will prove is that I’m good at whingeing. This single sheet shows that I keep having different ideas, not really show where I’m taking the essay – even in the second draft. References are still sought, and it shows that I don’t really know what I’m talking about. It’s fantastic to see all of this at once.

In one-hundred year’s time I sincerely wonder whether anyone will be interested in looking at the neatly laser printed, word processed manuscript of Fifty Shades of Grey. I don’t think so.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The ever-continuing search…

30-9-2012 -- Typewriter Search 130-9-2012 -- Typewriter Search 2

Security in Typecasts

30-9-2012 -- Typecast Security 
EDIT: As maschinengeschrieben  pointed out, this has already been discussed on the all-knowing Typosphere. My apologies for being behind the times, and not knowing it, and not bringing anything new to the discussion.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

In longing for the $15 typewriter

We are all gathered here today to mourn the sad loss of our dear friend – the fifteen dollar typewriter….

I was out today, and every time I go out I’m on the lookout for typewriter to breathe new life into. Today, I saw some – desperate mechanical souls really. They had been sucked into the trap of the vintage dealer. A band of ruthless souls that claim they appreciate the old and antiquated, but are really just there to make a profit. Today, I saw one of their stalls at the Old Bus Depot Markets here in Canberra. Upon a table, nestled amongst printer’s blocks and overpriced paper, was a Hermes Baby. Ladies and Gents, I’ve wanted a Hermes Baby for quite a while, but the ticket prices was $125.00 – completely out of my budget, and far too much as far as I am concerned. What’s more, I knew fairly confidently how much they had bought this typewriter for. It had sold on eBay here in Australia just a few weeks before – at around $30. It was fairly distinct. The case had been ‘embellished’ with an awful folk-style painting.

Vintage dealers are the sort of people that belong in Melbourne, another city in Australia. If I lived in Melbourne, and I was still a teenage typewriter enthusiast, I’d own three typewriters, not twenty, and I would have had to pay around one-hundred for each. Not only that they’d be Japanese, Nakijima junk. Vintage dealers are the sort of people that also, amongst their ‘wares’ sell decapitated typewriter keys, and typewriters with glass keys for the purpose of the barbaric act.

Before I get too carried away, some ‘Vintage Dealers’ are good. They’ve just adopted that name to move with the times, not to become part of this new-age funky-atomic-retro clan that can’t write prices below one-hundred.

I think that eBay has its hand in this as well. It becomes easy for anyone to see what these Vintage dealers have their typewriters  online for, and want similar prices at garage sales and on eBay. It isn’t about getting rid of unwanted stuff anymore – it’s about making a profit on a typewriter that you bought at K-Mart in 1982. Speaking of K-Mart typewriters, I saw one today. There was more rust than paint on the little blue Nakajima, and the price tag read “Early K-Mart Typewriter – $95”. It was a joke. The same dealer had an orange Brother 210 for $165, without a case. For both these typewriters he probably paid twenty dollars.

Once upon a time there were typewriters at very reasonable prices. I don’t own any typewriters that are considered exceptionally rare. The most I paid was for an Olivetti Valentine – knowing full well it typed terribly, but knowing full well that they’re nice to look at. But I paid ten dollars for lots, twenty-five for others, and in a stroke of luck 10 cents for one. Mind you, it didn’t have its ribbon cover and is classified topless. What ever happened to these utter bargains?

I do hope that the supply of typewriters isn’t running out. No, of course they’re not. It’s vintage dealers selling them back and forth amongst themselves.

I cling to the hope that all of this will blow over. I know that bargains are out there to be had, and I don’t give up all hope. I am just disheartened when I see stupidly priced typewriters. A $165 Corona 3? That’s a bit more understandable, but not for Japanese portables. I hope that eventually the mainstream will drift off this ‘vintage atomic retry funky’ business, that they’ll drift away from ‘vintage grunge’, and something else will come up; leaving the true collectors and enthusiasts behind.

I’m not into typewriters for making investments, selling them to people, or making profits. I just like them. They’re business model around typewriters is perfect, despite me not liking it: they’re trying to manipulate my desire for a Hermes Baby, Corona 3, or Lettera 32 (roman typeface).

But in five years, hopefully, the vintage-atomic-retro-funky market will have collapsed. I hope.

DHIATENSOR: Time Catches Up with it?

It has been said that the Blickensderfer was so far ahead of its time that time didn’t catch up with it. That’s the typewriter, but what about its keyboard? DHIATENSOR, which is the name of this blog, is the “Scientific” keyboard found on many Blicks. Right now I’m telling you all things that you would already know, but what follows is my notion about this keyboard.

The smartphone: a great invention. Allowing me to do so many things. (For a take on the smart phone I wrote for our student newspaper see here: Yet, the smartphone is sticking with QWERTY, a keyboard designed so typebars don’t jam. Last time I checked there weren’t any typebars on a smartphone.

So, here’s my plan. The DHIATENSOR keyboard would be great for the smartphone. The most commonly used letters are on the bottom row, and the less frequently they’re used the higher they go up. Doesn’t it just sound like something that would be fantastic for those piddly little keyboards on every iPhone and Android known to the world?

For me it sounds like a great idea, but this could be out of ignorance. I don’t really know too much about the Blick and its keyboard. I do know enough to say that they’re very impressive. There are probably drawbacks to using this keyboard, the biggest one is that it is unlikely that anyone would adopt it, and that it would only work on Android; as iOS doesn’t allow users to change their keyboards as far as I know.

In theory it seems like it would all work, but in practise would DHIATENSOR really help the smartphone world?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

On the Roll


21-9-2012 -- Continuous Roll

Composed on an Olivetti Dora

Below is a picture, with all the other junk, rubbish, and lying-on-its-side-white-out-bottles on my desk, of the roll set up:


Please, forgive my cruddy pictures. My camera cost all of six dollars second hand, and only operates at four megapixels. The conditions aren’t good, as misplaced stuff resides, inhabitants, dictates the surface of my desk. And besides, it’s a terrible use of flash photography.

The roll holder, at the very top of the picture, not to be confused with a toiled roll holder, sits on a little shelf on my desk, usually home to my laptop. The paper then traverses the great space into the awaiting carriage of the typewriter underneath, in this case the Olivetti Dora.

At the end of the day, the set up is good, but the actual use of the roll is not.