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.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Paper you can Bank On

16-9-2012 -- Bank Paper

Composed on an Olympia SF

What not to buy

Ladies and gentlemen, do not buy the following typewriter:


It is a Canon Typestar 6.

It was a streak of stupidity that came over me today. A powerful knock to the head that induced the extraction of a ten dollar note from my wallet in exchange for this thing. Before you all call me an idiot I have some last words before you do so: Yes, I know, I’m an idiot.

In a feeble attempt to justify it, I had notions of turning it into a computer connected ‘thing’. Whether it would post tweets on Twitter or print my emails I didn’t know, but it all sounded like a good idea. That was until I got home. First signs were bad, and the first impression’s everything. The first impression that I’m talking about? Oh, just the little technicality that it didn’t turn on.

The fuse was fine. The switch still worked. The connexions seemed all okay. Despite all this the confounded screen refused to light, and the thermal print head did not make its own first impression. I tried a few more things. Checked voltage, measured amperes, but it drew to a close. I conceded defeat. My dream of an inter-house AP style newswire would have to wait another day, and for another typewriter.

My hopes that it would work were really optimistic, something that hindsight allows me to say. I had this very frivolous notion in my head that it would all work perfectly, and the reason that it had been discarded was not because it didn’t work, but because it had been superseded. You know you’re in a bad way when you’re filling your own head with propaganda.

What will I do with it now? The thing is that I haven’t quite removed all the frivolous notions out of my head that suggest that it could still work. The Jasper’s Brain Ministry of Information is still pumping out utter nonsense. I hold dear the hope that I, with time and more experience, will be able to get it all working again. That said, I don’t think I’ll be taking anymore risks with untested electronic ‘typewriters’.

More hindsight recollections: don’t buy electronic typewriters. Stick to machines, not measly printers. And don’t let the evil money removing gremlins rear their ugly heads again.

Optical Character Recognition

As a high school student I am subjected at regular intervals to parent teacher interviews. I’m not too concerned about what the teachers say, I’m more interested in what the parents say about me. The thing is though, they won’t tell me. Not outright anyway.

Apparently at a very recent interview my parents voiced their frustration at me continued use of a manual typewriter (namely my beloved Brother 215), and they were very vociferous about my continual cycles of drafts – retyping – second draft – retyping – final copy. It is made especially bad by my continual rants about homework, and how it has no learning benefit, and if I was dictator I would ban homework, and put the Olivetti L32 and Brother 215 back into production. These rants get very simple replies from my parents: “all that retyping you do makes more homework for you”.

As an obnoxious teenager I announced that I ‘couldn’t write on a computer keyboard’. I raised a metaphorical pinkie and announced that I needed a typewriter to write my homework. It was mostly a load of nonsense, but at the time it sounded good.

Surely there’s a compromise, a way that I can keep using a typewriter and not have to retype everything over and over. The first obvious thing that springs to mind is the USB typewriter, but shortly after that comes to my brain thoughts of my measly savings account and how it would be in negative territory after I bought one, or the kit, come to my brain as well. Then there’s always outsourcing typing to India. I just scan it in, pay some miniscule amount of money, and then they send me back a Word document, all typed. Yet, this isn’t very ethical. The next obvious thing is Optical Character Recognition, OCR.

OCR is one of those things that works really well in theory, but can create problems in practice. I’ve been experimenting with it and I’ve found that PDFs are next to useless and create far too many mistakes, while high-res images work quite well; as long as you haven’t overtyped or ‘corrected’ anything on the typewriter. Could I do my entire homework by typewriting it, scanning it in and OCRing it? No, I don’t think so. There’s so much time spent fixing the mistakes that it isn’t really worth it. And I don’t have time to break the text up into little blocks of high-res jpeg. Sadly, I would say that in my obnoxious, computer-shunning state, retyping is the most efficient way to do it. Yet, I may get to the stage where I take out a mortgage and buy a USB typewriter, or have a go converting one myself. I’m trying to hold out against the computer keyboard for as long as possible.

14-9-2012 -- Brother 215

Because I’m a little bit lazy, what’s above is a typecast from my post about my Brother 215. I was going to write another one, but this serves the purpose. Below is the exact, uncorrected text after it had its characters optically recognized.

It's a funny tning being attached
to only one typewriter when I still
buy yet more. I am attached to the
others, too, but not in the same way
as this one. Sometimes I will force
myself to use another machine, just
to ‘keep it going‘, hut I always
return to this one. Its worn black
key-tops and a barely functioning
baak~space are almost tomforting to
me. Other machines feel like you
have to fight them to use them, this
one you don't.
This hasn't always been my type-
writer of choice. I've only had it
for just under a year. Before this
one there was another Brother portable,
now not functioning, and before it a
uery nice Smihih-Corona Galaxie
Deluxe. Both machines I still have,
but hardly use. will then, there be
a new typewriter on the horizon-
that takes over from.this one? Maybe,
I don't know. It will most likely
he a larger machine, a hit more rugged
than this Brother would he nice.
I'm thinking something Hsmmss, a
5000 perhaps?

As you can see it isn’t too bad and it’s all recognisable, but going through and fixing all the little errors could, indeed, drive me mad.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

So-called Typewriter Maintenance

Typewriters are “so pro man”, and “like really cool”, and everyone really wants one. Everyone being fellow 13/14 year olds that I go to school with. There are some cynical ones though: “Why don’t you just use a computer?” etc. etc., but most see the joys of a mechanical writing apparatus. When a friend of mine emailed me to say that he picked up a yellow Adler Tippa for $6 but lamented that some of the keys didn’t work and it was all a bit stiff, I automatically offered to help him out with a clean and an oil.

So brought about my day of so called typewriter maintenance.


Above you can see a Nakijima ALL, the ribbon cover and bottom off a Lettera 32, and the case of my friend’s Tippa.

I had typewriter casing all over the place. Screws were housed in all manner of containers, trying not to get them mixed up between machines. At the end of the day though, there was a washer that didn’t go back into anything. I stand by the story that it was in a machine when I took the bottom off, and wasn’t actually needed.

To be honest, most of my typewriter repair and servicing is based on a bit of knowledge, with additional advice from my father, and common sense. I haven’t seen the typewriter mechanic in his own environment, so I don’t really know “the ways”, but I have a bit of a crack, trying not to create any irreparable damage. The only really solid, in writing, thing I know is this: don’t try and fix the problem first, but figure out what caused it and fix that.

A fair bit of Singer sewing machine oil was used, and there was a bit of the old WD-40-on-the-ribbon-trick being done. Some Turtle Wax was used to rejuvenate, and inject some shine into plastic. My friend then left with this very fine typewriter, without sticking keys, and polished enough so you could see yourself in it.




Although I only typed on it to make sure it was working – the usual “quick brown fox” and “all good men” – I enjoyed this machine. For six dollars it was sure a bargain. It was made in Holland, and sports the dreaded Litton industries badge, but as it must have been before the Japanese days it was actually quite a nice machine, I’m glad it has gone to a good home.

Friday, 14 September 2012

What is it about this typewriter?


What is it about this typewriter? It isn’t at all anything special. It isn’t unique – there were millions of these little Brothers, with a variety of names, made. It doesn’t even type particularly nicely. An Olympia SF beats it hands down. Then, when I have better, German, American typewriters, why would I use this? That is a question that I cannot answer.

I could not part with this typewriter. Even if I replaced it with the exact same model I couldn’t do it. My Lemair Deluxe 220 is practically the same mechanism, but I don’t use it all. The Brother 215 is the typewriter that I take places. Originally I told myself that it was because I didn’t care what happened to it. That, though, is no longer the reason. It’s because we’re inseparable.

Why was this typewriter the wall paper on my phone for quite some time? That is, until Robert Messenger kindly gave me the Clifford’s Good Companion Model T (see here: Why do I think that this is the typewriter, when it most clearly, in most other people’s minds, isn’t?

The Brother 215 appeals to me because it just types. Nothing ever goes wrong it it, it always reverses the ribbon, it always types fairly well, and it will always be ready the night before an assignment is due to bash out an all in one draft/final copy. This is the machine that I let people use. Only certain people get to go near the Valentine and the cursive Lettera 32 (another kind gift of Robert’s).

So, still, why? Just why? I can’t tell you. That’s an anti-climax for your isn’t it? If you must have something to satisfy you: it’s because I’m attached to it. This is the machine that I wrote my first high school newspaper column on. It is the typewriter that I wrote my first interview with a local government minister on (also for The Student’s Standard).

It’s obvious why writers get attached to their machines. While I make absolutely no claims to be a ‘writer’, I, too, am also attached to one machine. And this 215 is it.


14-9-2012 -- Brother 215

POSTCRIPT TO TYPECAST: Of course I rarely use the now non-functioning Brother portable. It doesn’t work. I’m sorry to have displayed my ignorance so bluntly there.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Writing on the Wall

6-9-2012 -- Writing on the Wall

Reading that again, I fear that I may have likened the internet to a giant Facebook wall. It has all the hall marks of Facebook – writing on a wall, gossiping and people with shared interests. That isn’t what I meant, I hope.

I wonder if anyone will ‘like’ this post. Sorry, I know that was a shocker.

Composed on an Adler Gabriele 25