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.