.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

Monday, November 15, 2010

What is the typewriter on the left? I'll tell you!

The typewriter on the left in the blog header photo is a PREDOM!

Here is the PREDOM. We bought this machine from Your Typewriter & Computer a while back; the experienced staff there got it from a previously bought-out business and had never seen one before.

Now, those who guessed FACIT were kind of close; this machine is descended from the LUCNIK, which was a license produced machine. However, this machine is properly NOT a Luzcnik by the front label that omits, finally, that name and shows the final name variation of this line.

Here is the label on the front of the machine, which is a model 1012 and which we're pretty sure was built in 1986.

Here's the serial plate that's under the left side of the carriage. Our records here (NOMDA blue book) show the PREDOM standard as having been available for several years in the mid-1980's.

The front of the instruction page shows three PREDOM standard and one portable model.

So there's the answer to the mystery - and we're pretty sure that this is (and has been) the only PREDOM standard on any collector site anywhere. It's now no longer hiding in plain sight!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Underwood 450

Many of us like to keep track - well, try to anyway - of the various Underwood labeled machines (and Olivetti-Underwood, and Underwood-Olivetti) that correspond to various other models produced by Olivetti, just for reference. That is, except for the Underwood 250 series machines which were made in Japan by Silver-Seiko, for reasons we don't know.

Here's a very attractive one. This is an UNDERWOOD 450, and it's probably no accident vis a vis the model number that it correlates to the Olivetti Studio 45. Look here for our European Typewriter Project page on Olivetti portables. The serial number makes us think that this machine was made in 1972, if it runs in with the Studio 45 machines.. and there's no reason at this moment to suspect otherwise. This machine has a nice crisp action, lever set tab stops, great keytops and a fantastic two-tone black and white color scheme that I myself just love. I do have a Studio 45, and I can tell you that visually this Underwood labeled machine is much, much more appealing. So if you're looking for an Olivetti machine out there, keep aware that there may be an alternate decor and/or brand out there and see if you can't find the machine you want, but done just a bit better!

Olympia ephemera

Original OLYMPIA vinyl window cling, obtained at closure of Baker Typewriter Company, Elyria Ohio some years back. I got the best stuff - George Baker's Royal Line Book, an Olivetti-Underwood dealer book, a number of other things paper wise and this very cute window sticker. I've never shown it until now. Click to get a larger view!

American Can Company

Many of our readers are aware that one of our favorite makes around here is the Harris Visible / Rex Visible. We've unearthed more information about them than any other make, it seems, and had more input from fellow collectors world-wide on this than probably any other product line. Those who followed the old Davis Typewriter Works site will recall that one of the first two machines we worked on "live" was a Rex Visible, which was a variant labeled "Sold and Guaranteed by American Can Co." on its front frame. Click here to see that original project. And, you can click here to see the whole Harris / Rex story.

When American Can took over the sales of the Rex Visible, it had already been marketing, for some time, a simple lever-operated adding machine known as the American. I have an odd derivation of this machine, seen at left; this is an American Combination Register. I've never seen another one. Clearly, it's an American adding machine with what's clearly labeled as the American Cash Drawer, and it is what is known as a combination register or "Adding Machine On Drawer" style (AMOD) simple register. Many companies made such things - R.C. Allen, NCR, Allen-Wales, and even Smith-Corona. But this one is not only seemingly very lonely in the world - it's also undocumented.

Here is a fairly recent find - a manual for the exact style of machine! Interestingly, the manual whose cover is shown here doesn't use the exact same terminology; it's called the "American Adding Machine and Cash Drawer Combination." Each unit is labeled separately - "American Adding Machine" and "American Cash Drawer." My example clearly states "American Combination Register" on the front of the adding machine portion.

But look at the bottom of this manual - "American Can Company, Typewriter and Adding Machine Division, 104 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois." This is the first piece of any ephemera in our collection, and the only one we've actually seen, that states the name of this operation exactly.

Here is the center illustration in the manual. Those who saw the original article we did on this machine know that I had no idea really what the odd little, seemingly added-on device on top was; it's the Sales Classifying Attachment, used to mark on the tape which clerk performed the transaction and to identify department for product.

The manual does one thing for us - it tells us all the features of this machine, and we can work it now. It doesn't give a publishing date, though, although a sample statement in the back to show how the register prints out is dated March 31, 1920. If true, or roughly close to the actual date of printing for this manual, then it was printed very close to the failure of the Rex Typewriter concern as noted on my site.

In any event, the American Combination Register is now NOT the only indication of its own existence, which is quite gratifying to us.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I'll TELL YA' what's wrong with this thing!!

Hi again everyone!! We were pleasantly surprised by all the responses to this feature! Really better than we had hoped. Thanks to everyone that posted an answer, AND to all those who viewed the blog and are awaiting the "solution"

But first, since I have your attention, I'd like to begin with this brief analysis of the preamble to the Constitution. HAHAHAHA no not really.

Essentially almost all of the guesses from first to last were correct! Here is our "response" to whats wrong with it, in the order that we noticed these things when we first saw this very machine, and then bought it.

First off, it is VERY VERY unusual to have a machine this late with only 42 keys. Really, by this time virtually ALL large portables, heck almost ALL portables PERIOD had 44 keys. This machine is way too recent to have only 42 keys. Notice that is identical to any other contemporary SCM machine, except for missing those two keys. Heck, even the shield behind the keys through which the key levers pass is clearly made for only 42 keys. So that's the FIRST thing we noticed.

Lets cover WHY that is first. Yep, this is indeed a LARGE TYPE FACE machine, and because the slugs are so big, there isnt room for the two other keys! Note that the segment is also only machined for 42 keys, if you can see that in the pic! If not, trust me. It is. Really. This is actually a large type face machine intended for primary education!

The other give-away was also guessed correctly, the scale numbers. These clearly indicate a larger type face, so that guess was correct too! In SCM machines, a large type face PRECLUDES use of a rapid space key too, by the way.

Also guessed correctly was the variation in shifted symbols on the number keys. A division symbol would certainly have been needed, and was provided in this "font" style.

The half space button is actually common on this particular generation of SCM machines, BUT it IS an uncommon feature, so that should get at least half credit for observational powers!!

Now for one wrong thing that is tiny, but cool. Remember that shield I mentioned behind the keys? Look again at the right side of it, adjacent to the correctly spotted only two position ribbon selector(yes, thats another wrong thing!! No black/red ribbon on one of these babies!!). If you look very closely you will see the characteristic 3 dimples that appear in this shield when used on earlier SCM SUPER-5 variants. The dimples would be colored in to identify ribbon selector position. Many machines of this era have this "left over" shield, and some Sears machines from this age still use only it, without the large plastic slider! BUT, this is one of the things that clearly indicates the SUPER-5 heritage of these late SCM GALAXIE machines. New body, yeah, but essentially a Super 5 inside!

So thats about it! We hope you enjoyed this, and we also hope you are looking forward to the next installment which will feature another machine with "something wrong" with it! (Its right over there across the room staring at me right now, and lemme tell ya this things MESSED UP!) AND HEY-- maybe you yourself have a machine that would be good for this feature, eh? Oh come on, strap on the miner's helmet, spray on the bug-b-gone, light the torch and go down to your basement and look around! See any machines in your vault that would do well in this feature? Let us know!! We would love to feature your machine here!! Gotta go now, UFO number 425 just parked and they want their large font machine back. Wouldn't you think that UFO-people would have something more sophisticated than ditto machines for primary education? Who cares, they brought more Chardonnay.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What's wrong with this?

Time for something fun. We've all seen those pictures intended for children where something is wrong in them, and the goal is for the kids to find what it is. Then they circle it, and check the upside-down answer on page 78 or whatever. Well, this is kind of like that, only please do not attempt to actually circle anything with your over-sized HUSKY pencil, and don't turn your computer upside down to look for the answer.

Obviously, then, there is something wrong with this picture, more precisely with the TYPEWRITER shown in it. And NO, what's wrong with it is NOT that is doesn't work! (Come to think of it, that would have been good though...) Nope. It's something else.

We've all heard of, and likely taken, IQ tests. Meant to measure intelligence on a broader lever, these tests are still common in schools for estimating intelligence. BUT, there are OTHER kinds of intelligence. Anyone ever heard of EMOTIONAL IQ? Yes, there is such a thing. Apparently. Mines a 3. Is that good? Well, whatever.

This exercise is going to test your TYPEWRITER IQ. Yes, there is such a thing, if only because I just made it up. There!! So what is YOUR typewriter IQ? Well, try it out on this new, recurring feature. Post your ideas and/or comments and lets see who guesses correctly. Even if you aren't a machine "student" you certainly have a good chance of SEEING something, or SOME THINGS in this picture which ought to seem odd. No, I didn't photoshop it. No, we didn't manufacture it ourselves out of our huge rumored to exist warehouse of Smith-Corona machines and parts. (What a complete surprise that it's an S/C/M machine, eh?) No, it wasn't delivered last night on the regular UFO shipment, that one only brings typing paper and crystal meth. And Chardonnay. Don't ask.

So have at it! Look over this machine which most if not all collectors wouldn't even give a second glance, and POST what it is you note!! Or, just keep it in mind and look for the answer, which we will post up early next week. Have fun!!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another unusual Bulgarian-made portable

Readers of my site are aware of the range of Bulgarian-made portables loosely affiliated by the name MARITSA, which is the name of the river that runs through the city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria. That city was the location of the "Typewriters Works" (sic) .. later called "Plant for Typewriters" .. which made two general ranges of typewriter over a yet unknown time period.

The two ranges were, first, a series based on the West German PRINCESS line, apparently after having acquired the tooling from Keller & Knappich, and second a range based on the Japanese SILVER-SEIKO small machines. Although neither of these Bulgarian-made series is common, they were in fact distributed at times the world over and an attentive collector almost anywhere can snag one. To learn more about these machines of both ranges, click here to see my long-standing web page.

This machine adds some information to the story, and yet asks questions we cannot answer. This machine, clearly Bulgarian-made even if not labeled as such, is a Montgomery Ward Model 101. Most machines distributed by this well known department store and mail order company carried the SIGNATURE name, but not all. The machine has its instructions, and is serial number 11176474. Now for the details.

The instructions for the machine include photos labeled "OMEGA 11," which in itself isn't surprising considering that very often any Plovdiv-made machine will NOT have custom instructions made for this or that end seller. What's really interesting is that the machine also has a warranty card -- a card addressed not to Montgomery Ward but to Cheromi, Inc. This company was one of a string who owned rights to the brand name OMEGA for typewriters, and in point of fact only had these rights after May of 1977, when the descendant corporation of General Consolidated conveyed rights. Cheromi gave rights apparently off and on to Allyn Distributing through 1994 when rights were finally assigned to Corpex International.

(At left, the manual that came with the Montgomery Ward 101.) We are assuming at this point that this machine is labeled as Ward's model 101 because prior to this, the Signature 100 was sold for years (and that machine was the small, flat, very simple original Brother manual portable relabeled for Ward's.) On the rear of this new machine is a label, with the following information:

Wards Manual Typewriter
Model # 101 DCG8001
Serial #97 3155

On the label, it's important to note that everything is printed in except the "3155" of the serial which is actually stamped. More research is underway on Ward's internal and - or catalog identification numbers to make sense of this label.

We might have a good date on the first use of Omega by Cheromi, since Richard Polt spotted an Omega 11 in identical color with a serial number about 1000 below this machine that went on e-Bay a short while back. It carried instructions labeled for the MARITSA. So we have a machine actually labeled OMEGA 11 with MARITSA 11 instructions, and within 1000 or so units a machine labeled for Montgomery Ward, carrying OMEGA 11 instructions.

While still puzzling in some ways, this machine does one thing; it pushes our conception of known Plovdiv production of the Princess-derived machine even later than we'd thought. We're almost sure it didn't appear in the 50's now, or probably even the 60's. More work must be done, but finally this unduplicated and somewhat rare machine has cracked the door a bit wider.

(Note: Serial numbers of machines on my site are as follows. Maritsa 11, tan color, serial number 11263536. Bundy, blue and white, serial number 11118151. Omega 30, blue color, 30242061. First two digits of serial are always Plovdiv model number.)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Imperial Good Companion 6

Here is a machine that I've been after for some time- actually, it's from a family that I've been after any one of for a long time. This is a British-made Imperial Good Companion 6, which is hard to find here in the U.S. since none of these was ever sold directly here. This example is serial number 6AG 816 and was manufactured in 1962. A similar 6T model, with tabulator, was also offered.

This general design for Imperial portables dates back to the early 1930's and incorporates a geared type-bar mechanism not unlike that found in Remington / Remington-Rand portables from the early 20's until 1949. On the Good Companion, the gear rack portion of the mechanism is fairly hidden by the distinctive type bar segment which is large and raised, apparently to provide better type bar alignment.

Here we see the machine, with (forward tilting) ribbon cover raised and a type bar at the print point. The black geared arc is visible sticking up through its slot in the segment. The action is taken off of the primary key levers by links that then actuate a series of bell cranks mounted in an arcuate, intermediate segment; the cranks are visible below the resting bar for the type bars. Interestingly, while the primary key levers at the center of the keyboard are essentially straignt, as key levers further from center are examined they display more of an angular nature from keytop to hinge as the hinge section is perhaps only half the width of the typewriter; outer key levers angle quite severely in toward the center as viewed from directly above, or below.

The touch of the machine is light - much lighter than superficially similarly designed Remington machines. None of that "over the top" feel Remington portables are known for exists with the Imperial, making it a lighter and speedier feeling machine. That said, the type bar blow isn't nearly as hard and getting dark impression isn't as easy. The carriage shift moves more back than up, due to the design that essentially results in type slug impact on top of the platen, and this means that gunk or poor lubrication results in somewhat slow return of the carriage to lower-case position since gravity isn't as much of a help as it is in most carriage shifted machines. We're particularly fond of the design of the carriage return lever, which hinges down for storage in a unique way but flips angularly sideways (not unlike Halberg-derived machines) for line spacing. Its chromed slipper spoon appearance is very pleasing.

Overall we like this little machine, even though it is somewhat devoid of features for a machine this late. The keytops are comfortable, the look is very 60's and so can be made to fit in a wide range of (retro or modern) decors, the sound is very quiet, the touch is light and the machine operates well. It took us years to get one in good shape and we're glad we waited.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

OK, get this for a coincidence. We have had this kind of luck more than a few times in our antique careers, but never more, well, significant than this time.

While Will was far away buying the machine you saw in the previous post, my wife and I found and bought the machine you see here.

That is to say, while Will was buying the last standard machine associated with the Smith Bros. second company, we were buying the very first machine associated with their FIRST company. So, in ONE DAY, we have Alpha and Omega, so to speak.

Once again, as has happened to us so many times with significant machines, this was found in a large antique mall, which usually does not yield a lot of typewriters. This time, this "first variant" Smith Premier No. 1 (no platen knobs) serial no. 22577, was there, along with several other typewriters which we did not buy. One was a mint Royal Arrow with instructions, another a Consul 232 in sky blue, also very nice. An Underwood standard, Remington portable, and a couple others rounded out the selection. Even in this "EBay era", it can still pay off to get out and look on foot!

But how weird is this? On the same day, in the same state, Smith Premier No.1 and SCM Smith-Corona 76 Secretarial? One of those almost every serious collector has certainly heard of, the other probably almost no collector has heard of. They represent the bookends of a family history, spanning nearly the entire era of standard sized manual office machines. One of them, we have seen very few of, the other, only ever ONE of so far. Which is the "rarer" machine? The 76! More collectible? The Premier to be sure. But for Will and I, being interested in the stories and the people and companies behind the machines, the 76 is a significant find too. Maybe somewhere the Smith Brothers are smiling tonight, as for the first time ever a No. 1 and a 76 sit side by side together.

The last Smith-Corona Standard.

The machine you see here just arrived at the Works today. This is an SCM Smith-Corona Secretarial 76. This model name and number might not mean much to most readers, but this will: This is the final Smith-Corona manual standard (office, upright, whatever you want to call it) typewriter model. We're sure of it.

We knew when it appeared on e-Bay that it was late, and a check of the NOMDA serial lists revealed a cutoff of serial numbers at 6200M in 1966 and only references vaguely to any model numbers; by the 1985 date of printing of the NOMDA Blue Book at hand, SCM was long out of the manual office machine business. We knew that the machine was close to the appearance of the last model shown in Beeching, but we also knew that nothing definitive about any models beyond 72 or 75 was printed in any serial reference anywhere.

Smith-Corona dealer Jay Respler helps fill in the details. According to Jay, who has the complete Smith-Corona serial number listing, the final year of Smith-Corona standard, manual typewriter production is 1969 with the serial range of 7023966 - 7035812. The machine we just bought is serial number 76E12-7037845, which made Jay ask if we got the last one ever made! Jay's records indicate then that this machine was in all probability made in 1970 and that it is surely almost the last of its kind. The decor matches none of the 75 models we've seen so far and may be a last gasp at minimal redesign (mostly re-coloring, actually) for the new decade but we're not sure of that yet.

Jay recalls, concerning the end of production of Smith-Corona standard machines, that SCM considered itself as having made standard ELECTRIC machines for much longer after it dropped the manual and large original electric designs (and in fact we can back Jay up on that with advertising) because the company essentially took the mechanism of the electric portable and placed it in a larger body, calling it a 'compact office machine.' This would be the Model 8000, introduced in 1976, if we interpret Jay's observation correctly. Jay adds that Brother was big trouble for Smith-Corona, and eventually the competition led years later to Smith-Corona having to move production of (by then) electronic daisy wheel machines to Mexico.

All of this adds to the yet-not-fully-told story of the wind DOWN of Smith-Corona. So often we focus on the wind-UP and forget that history has a whole life cycle that we historians and researchers need to cover. What you see here is very likely the newest, last Smith-Corona manual standard machine you will ever see and it provides a bit of historical closure to this whole product line. And don't worry - this one needs some work, so you'll learn what's inside of it right here and become somewhat familiar with it.

The next post by Dave will show something he was buying about 20 miles south of his home, while I was over 180 miles away picking up the Secretarial 76 you see here. Stay tuned!

--edit to correct actual serial number, reposted.--

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Adler J5 / ribbon vibrator

The Adler J5 you see here in pieces was displaying an odd problem; operation of the keys caused the ribbon selector switch to move wildly throughout its travel, and the ribbon selector switch had no 'notches' or detentes in its travel. Clearly something had gone wrong, and a look at the bottom of the machine revealed that a spring steel piece that provided resistance to an appropriately shaped tang on an extension of the ribbon selector and vibrator assembly had become bent to the point that it could not be re-bent without first having been removed from the machine.

The carriage is easy enough to take off on this late-1970's Adler portable. Removal of the drawband from the carriage is easy even without pliers, and there's a slot to insert the retainer on the end of the drawband into the carriage rail assembly. Once that's done, two screws are all you need undo to release the whole carriage and escapement assembly from the machine - it lifts right out vertically. Then, with ribbon cover off, you will note four screws total holding the plastic exterior body shell ('mask') to the frame, which lifts off with a bit of wiggling to clear the ribbon selector lever on the left and the tab set/clear lever on the right. These operations left the machine in the condition seen in the photo.

Here we see the machine, lifted up, and we're looking up under the left side. Right by my thumb you can see the offending bent piece. Once you find the screw holding it down, you'll need a very thin long standard screwdriver to get the piece off. It was easy enough for Dave and I to get it bent back to the proper profile and test operation of the lever without the screw inserted; once the screw was back in (perhaps the trickiest part, and made much easier due to lack of clearance by using a magnetic screwdriver) the reassembly and test went without a hitch. Yet another archive machine returned to fully operative status!

Friday, July 30, 2010

ABC project behind the scenes

The blog has gone a little quiet all of a sudden the last few days, largely because fellow collector and long time collaborator Thomas Fuertig and I are engaged in yet another enormous research endeavor concerning the West German-made ABC portables. We're investigating all of the various changes the machines took over the years, as well as model variations that came later and the movement of production to Portugal in detail never before attempted. You will see the results here when we're through! Illustration from 1957 ABC brochure courtesy Thomas Fuertig.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ode to the Generation 3000

O Ignored and ignoble one!
O how maligned thou art!
How base, low, and reprehensible!
See how unreviewed and unappreciated thou have been?
See how those who type manually and/or portably have turned their backs on you?
Thy fate is certainly undeserved, is it not?
To think, thou art one of the last manual typewriters in manufacture, available new, un-blemished and un-used, and with instructions.
And are those who would look upon you and yet not purchase you un-moved by your singular position, being available through such fine and well establish-ed institutions as Dr. Leonard's and Carol Wright?
Yes, you have appeard in more than one guise, but even as "Rover 5000" thou art new and shiny, smelling of recent manufacture and machine oil.
Un-typed upon, un-previously owned, un-marked and un-stickered with "Larry's typewriter repair and Ice Cream shop-- 531 N. South Street."
And now, thou have become unavailable except as clothed in an Olivetti guise. The good Doctor and Ms. Wright choose to carry you not, it would seem.
Glad am I that I have come to know your notchy operational characteristics, and glad too am I that you now reside in my collection next to typewriters of much higher station than you would ever have.
Thou art a Chevette, a Pinto, a Sparkomatic, yet thou doest type well and/or true, as thy alignment test would attest to.
Thou art not flashy, but plastic-y, light in weight but heavy in history, as one of the last in manufacture.
O ignored Generation 3000, or Rover 5000, or Olivetti MS25 Premier, or whatever name you choose to go by, we are glad to have known you.

Collegiate update

Our German friends at Historichesbuero have responded with some data. Thomas Fuertig informs us that the Collegiate I now have is also sometimes seen in Germany as the Neckermann Brilliant S. (Look here for more Neckermann Brilliant cross labeling instances.) The machine was never sold in Germany with the name Collegiate and so it's considered rare there - and it's rare here too considering that I've never seen one before! This machine is actually, in its original branding and in this decor, the early version of the ABC 1001. Look here for more ABC variants.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

John Cameron Swayze's COLE-STEEL

We have decided that some sort of restorative action or preservative action is needed on the exterior of the case of the Cole-Steel formerly owned by John Cameron Swayze, pioneering television news man, which is in my collection. This machine, serial number 2-24954, is in a leather case (top of the line) and is finished in Tomato Red. The machine shows signs of very hard use; however, the machine was very well maintained and operates quite nicely. Swayze was featured in magazine ads for the machine wherein it was called the "Cole Portable"; he stated that the machine had been around the world with him and was still in great shape. The machine was won in open auction on e-Bay quite a few years ago; I decided to put some information here since the original AOL site page which featured the machine is long lost. Note that it still bears both labels on the machine and case, typed and taped on with Swayze's address as well as a luggage tag. This is the only machine I own attributed to anyone of any notoriety and I intend to make certain it's well preserved.. as it has been for all the years I've owned it.

Newly discovered ABC variant

Just arrived here today, after an unopposed win on e-Bay is the COLLEGIATE, serial number 501963. I recognized the machine as some sort of variant of the ABC when I saw it on e-Bay (and that's "Cole-Steel" to those familiar with the variant normally seen here in the USA) and put in a large bid. The machine is different from all other ABC machines, and thus Cole-Steel machines in its exterior styling. A quick search of the European Patent Server produced lucky results; this styling was patented for use on the Koch's Adler ABC machine in 1960.

Here is a cropped view from one of the three drawing pages supporting the 1960 patent for Koch's.

This machine has 44 keys typing 88 characters, in an English keyboard format. Interestingly, the machine has no touch regulator and no ribbon selector and can thus be considered somewhat of a stripped model as compared with the other ABC / Cole-Steel machines normally found. The margin release doubles as a jam clear key, through use of a key lever extension that acts on the ribbon bail. As is clear in the photo, the Collegiate is in a very attractive "Hammertone" light green which is also found on the ABC / Cole-Steel. What differs is the casing in which the machine is contained. We have no data with the machine and have not on preliminary examination discovered any affiliation with the "Collegiate" name but will continue looking. It's very fulfilling to know that even at this late date there are yet-unseen and unidentified machines out there to find.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Form / Function; Will's five picks

Dave's recent post comparing form vs. function for typewriters generated a comment asking about five top picks -- that is to say, five great looking machines with details of the operation of each. Dave told me that I should give it a whirl, even though it was his topic, so here we go. In no particular order after the first one..

1. ABC / Cole-Steel This typewriter, introduced in the 50's in Germany and before the end of that decade here by license, was styled by Prof. Wagenfeld in a very modern and smooth style for that day. In fact, the styling of the machine isn't what we'd think of here as "50's" .. it's in advance of it in some ways, behind in others and frankly just timelessly classic. What's even more impressive is the total perspective approach that Wagenfeld took with the casing which means that the machine is attractive from all angles and elevations. Normally, the carriage side or rear of a typewriter is fairly uninspiring but on the ABC the machine is appealing stylistically from all 360 degrees of view. The optional hammertone paint colors available make the move from attractive to almost stunning. Operationally the ABC is a smooth, accurate machine with a fairly positive key action, fairly solid carriage operation and decent if not excellent auxiliary controls. It could be said that the machine looks better than it types, but it would be really difficult to match the styling with any typewriter that would fit the size envelope.

2. Alpina The Alpina in its most commonly seen form is attractive enough, but in the two-tone color schemes found on late versions is exceedingly attractive. There is something about the top cover styling combined with the other lines and curves on the machine that give it the exact, perfect 50/50 combination of stylistic elegance and mechanical impressivness / mass that you would hope for in the perfect portable. Once you take that exterior and combine it with the incredible quality and feel of the Alpina's internals, you have a combination that's very hard to beat. The only reason I put the ABC above this machine overall is that the ABC's styling is just that much more refined, thought out, and complete that it gets the nod.

3. Smith-Corona Super 5. I can't stand these machines with white keytops, but I love 'em with green or any other color. I prefer the earlier ones, like the original Silent as introduced at the end of 1949. I don't like the later pastel colors. Having said all that, you can mark me down as actually liking the styling of these machines. Compared to many other offerings, its elegance lies in the degree of understatement.

4. The late Underwood portables. See here. You can't get much more overstated than some of these, stylistically (especially some in the round-top variant) but all of them are somewhere from cool to fantastic, style wise. Unfortunately, I'm not a fan of these machines and their intrinsically weak shift feel. Definitely obvious why Underwood had lost the lead in sales years back and no amount of fabulous style could get around that. That said, I think they're very highly collectible and I look for them.

5. Consul 221. See here. This may seem an odd pick, but frankly this machine looks like it works and like it feels. Although ZB clearly didn't understand anything about colors that would work in Western countries' households before the end of the 60's, it got everything right with the 221. In either the two-tone white/gray or the gray/blue (see both at the link) the machine is attractive and modern-looking. (Modern in a late 60's sense, that is.) The combination of lines, the spaced letters spelling "Consul" across the front, the block keytops, and the cleanliness of the carriage details and controls (very cleaned up from previous models) gives a wholly satisfying look and a look that says that the machine is ready to work. Work they do- they're not Super 5's, but they're solid, tight, more precise than any other Consul machine, and as ruggedly attractive as earlier models were awkward. This might well be an award for "best style recovery."

I could go on and on, and could easily go to standards (Is there a better looking standard typewriter than the Victor No. 3?) but we did say five form/function comparisons. What would be interesting would be to try this the other way - are ugly typewriters always below average machines? Maybe that's another blog another day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Assorted form vs. function typewriter analogies

My last blog post got me to thinking about the topic of form versus function in more detail, so i thought I'd share some of my thoughts on that with you. By all means, respond in the comment box with your thoughts on this matter!

Sometimes I think that people believe that Will, my Dad, and I have a huge warehouse somewhere in Nevada filled with "Super 5" variants, which we are leaking into the market at inflated values, and this is why we talk them up so much. Not so. (All I'm admitting to here is that the warehouse is not FILLED with them.)

The reason we are so fond of them is that we have all USED them extensively, LONG before word processors existed, and are familiar and comfortable with them. Now, do I think that from an aesthetics standpoint that they are the best too? Absolutely not. In fact, I think that as portables go, they are actually less than average looking. Really, I do. But, if I want to or need to type something out, my Tower President is the machine I would go for every single time.

To make an analogy: I own a lot of tools. My wife says too many. (We differ on that. She asks how many screwdrivers can I use at one time. I ask how many pairs of shoes she can wear at one time. Standoff.) One of my UGLIEST tools is a Snap-On 18 inch long half inch drive breaker bar. I got that tool from a Snap-On tool salesman after I told him that I hated Snap-On tools. He gave the thing to me to convince me, I guess, that it was superior to all my Craftsman tools. I hated that thing from the beginning. I tried everything I could to break it. All of the guys knew that when it was time to try to break something really big or really stuck loose, that I would get that thing out in hopes of breaking it.

It never broke. I still think its ugly, I don't like the rounded style handles, but now, when I need a breaker bar that I can trust, I get that one. It works. It is not pretty. But for getting a task done, it will absolutely do the job.

I do not hate the S/C Super5's at all, but I think many, many machines look better. My Royal Quiet DeLuxe looks MUCH cooler. But the S/C's are analagous to that Snap-On breaker bar. The job will get done, efficiently, reliably, year after year. Do I leave my Tower out on display? NOPE! Odd, that I don't display my most used, trusted machine? Maybe so!!

It should also be noted here that often times, Will and I look at machines from a mechanical standpoint, and maybe people think we are completely devoid of any kind of artistic or aesthetic appreciation. Not so, but for example, given Will's engineering background, well, what would you expect!! Same for me, I tend to be mechanical first.

We've both got some machines that are visually striking, even beautiful, that are absoultely positively TERRIBLE at the job of TYPING. But, we can truly appreciate both their external beauty as well as their questionable engineering. So don't think that we necessarily believe that function is all there is to collecting. Looks play a big part too for us, even if we don't tend to mention it.

Look at it this way. We cook a lot around here. If we need to do some serious chopping and cutting, out come the "good" knives from the drawer, while the other ones in the pretty block on the counter stay put. What kind of comparisons can you make like this? Let me know!!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Ideal A in detail

In 1900, the firm of Seidel & Naumann introduced a machine that it labeled as the IDEAL, and which was designed by American engineer E. E. Barney. Barney would later become something of the "front strike visible" guru at Union Typewriter, working for a number of that operation's subsidiary companies. For a review of the Ideal branded typewriters over the years, look at the website of the European Typewriter Project and navigate to the Ideal page under "Germany."

The photos here are of our family's Ideal A, serial number 13023 which was built sometime between the first two examples seen on the ETP site and which are owned by Tilman Elster. That means a 1904-1908 time frame, so this machine is both from the front edge of the mass-production "visible writing" generation and over 100 years old. If we consult Dirk Schumann's "tw-db.com" site we get a date for this A2 variant machine of ours at 1903 or maybe 1904.

The Ideal A is one of the most unusual typewriters ever manufactured due to its inclusion of what I refer to as composite shift. Typewriters normally use motion of the carriage to shift cases and figures, or else they use motion of the type basket / segment for this purpose. In the case of the Ideal A, both the segment and the carriage move simultaneously when the shift keys are depressed; the segment moves up, and the carriage down, against a very strong pressure. The silver tab on the front left top is the shift lock- you pull it up to lock the shift with shift key depressed. Another unusual feature is that the carriage return lever is mounted to the right of the keyboard, on the frame of the machine instead of on the carriage. This is accomplished by a shaft that runs parallel to the frame on the right side, along to the rear of the machine and to the front of which is connected the lever. As typing progresses, the lever moves from a position in which the long part of its shaft is roughly just outboard of vertical to a position above the keyboard with the long part of the lever pointing roughly at the ten o'clock position. Operation of the lever first causes, by a roller contact, the movement of a bail on the carriage forward (toward the typist, but invisible underneath) that causes the spacing action to take place through a linkage from the bail to the right side of the carriage to the ratchet. When all travel of the bail, and thus line spacing is complete, the roller will move to the end of travel on its small mounting and the linkage will contact a tang that allows it to move the carriage out to the full return position with full lever travel. The lever can be used to continue line spacing with the carriage fully returned, but with this arrangement can't just return without line spacing.

There is a touch regulator of sorts on the machine - a metal strip is held against one of the intermediate levers in the escapement trip mechanism which can be tensioned heavier or lighter by use of a thumbscrew.

Unusual too are the type bars, which are forked at the connection end; the split rides along a crescent-shaped guide as the type bar moves to the print point which does in fact have a print alignment fork that shows very heavy wear. No doubt this style of mounting and type bar may have been superior to individual mounts with no alignment guiding or fork as in the original Monarch Visible and the L.C. Smith & Bros. machines, but it's fairly primitive looking to us. Note that this machine doesn't have a segment like modern machines, but rather individual mounts for the type bars; often we use the term 'segment' now for convenience when originally the term was 'basket' shift for machines that moved the 'type basket' (colloq).

The machine types decently well if not solidly. The type bars have a lot of slop and lost motion in the direction of travel when not near the print point, due to the simple four dowel and intermediate link setup for the key lever and type bar mechanism - but impact to the print point is solid enough. The machine almost asks you to follow the keytops all the way down which is not correct technique for modern typewriters. (Note: Yes, we know - this isn't a modern typewriter!)

Overall, the Ideal A is one of the most impressive looking typewriters you're ever likely to encounter. The open sides with the IDEAL name cast in are especially noteworthy as is the style of the case, if you're lucky enough to have it (and we do which explains partly why this one's in such good shape.) Operationally the machine isn't up to modern standards as we know them but then again it was invented before those modern standards of operation were set in stone and adhered to by any company that wanted to compete. Viewed in proper context, the Ideal A was clearly a very high quality machine capable of heavy use. It's now apparent to us, having very early and very late Ideal standard machines, that quality at Seidel & Naumann was top priority and the fully operable examples we have of A from 1903/4 and D from 1946 prove that clearly.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The End of Remington

At the recent collectors' convention I had the chance to mention, fairly in passing, my long-ago reporting on the very end of the Remington concern of long fame and found that a number of my colleagues weren't totally familiar with the admittedly obscure case. Since the end of companies is historically as important as the beginning, I'll give a brief discussion and then some links.

In 1979, Sperry-Rand Corporation spun off the business machines / typewriters / office portion of its business to a newly formed Remington-Rand, Inc. At about the time that happened the company had developed a single-element or "golfball" style machine along the lines of the well-established IBM Selectric; the Remington machine was known as the SR-101.

Now, the subsidiary of Remington in Holland was still around and was known as Remington Rand Holland BV. The initial arrangement was that the US firm would receive machines made by the Dutch subsidiary for sale here. In 1981, both firms declared bankruptcy; however, in June 1981 the subsidiary entered new ownership which then both began to develop a sales network of its own and cut off Remington Rand from receiving the machines that it had proprietary rights to. Further litigation and the horrible quality of the SR-101 doomed both companies.. but not before Remington in the US managed to get some SR-101 machines built in Italy under license. You'll also find, by the way, manual portables made by IMC but carrying the name REMINGTON distributed all over South America. Through the mid-80's Morse Distributing was bringing manual Remington standard machines into the US, according to NOMDA records and there are also records for Remington-Rand daisy wheel electric machines. It isn't clear at this juncture just which machines were licensed by which firm although it's a safe bet that any sold in the US were related to the US firm. One wonders if the IMC-derived manual portables in South America were creatures of the US, or of the Dutch, concern.

All of that stuff (those really late machines) however is minimal in impact and unimportant historically; Remington had really ceased to be any kind of a motivating factor many, many years before (perhaps even many decades before, really) and the Sperry Corporation spinoff that created the two firms carrying the Remington-Rand name in 1979 was really the end. To parallel Beeching's style in matters of this sort, at that time death had occurred and everything after was just the occasional twitch as far as the Remington name was concerned.

If you'd like some minute details you can look at this link and then you can look at this link and you'll see just what the situation for Remington Rand was at the time of the spinoff and SR-101 debacle.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Alpha and Omega, sort of

At the recent gathering that Richard Polt held at and around his home, I was treated to the sight of a Barr typewriter. The Barr, I thought... One of the biggest research articles I ever wrangled together (with the help of innumerable friends in the hobby who can always be counted on) was on the Barr; the history, the variants, the options, the colors. The whole nine yards, as always on one of those big projects, but on this one it was really big and the original article that first appeared around November 2004 ran eight pages.

I'd just gotten an early Barr (serial 2521, in red) a month before or so and was really intrigued by the machine and its design. Moreover, the machine's apparent superiorities in terms of quality vs. cost of manufacture made it seem as if it should have gotten a better shake. So the whole huge article gets done, and later there's more information and before you know it there are more Barr machines pictured on the net on that article than pictured total before, everywhere. But I only still had one!

Yes, there are colors and options and model variations and so on but I'd never pursued another one. However, at the meeting I was reminded that I had always .. "always" .. thought that I'd like to get a machine as late in the overall production (from Weedsport, to be sure) as my red one was early.

So you know that when I saw a Macy's Portable No. 1 show up "Buy it Now" on e-Bay and I was the sixth person to view the page, I naturally hit the BUY button. The price was fair... probably even good. Especially if you consider I wanted one very late; this one is serial number 39840 which is about as late as my red one is early.

We'll be featuring more on this machine from a technical standpoint -- that is, design, manufacture, and operation -- in the very near future. You can consider this to be "Barr 201" if you consider 101 to be the original article. So keep checking back.

Royal Quiet De Luxe ramblings

One of the topics in the Portable Typewriter Forum that has always interested me the most is the discussion/debate about what kinds of typewriters people can get who really want to use them. Usability, robustness, ergonomics, aesthetics, all these come into play when selecting a typewriter to use frequently.

One of my favorites has long been the Royal Quiet DeLuxe you see here. This is the two tone version with the glass key tops. Designed by Henry Dreyfuss, this machine has never failed to get noticed when out on my desk.

I think it is a known fact that Will and I are two of the loudest proponents of getting a Smith Corona "Super 5" variant for heavy usage, but this machine is almost completely different from those, in looks, feel, size, everything. The glass keys and the two tone paint make this variant seem much more elegant, even refined, as compared to the bigger, heavier "Super 5's". It's action is completely different, too. Not in a bad way, but different. Both of us can flat out BLAZE on this machine if we want to. There is no doubt in my mind that these machines, in whatever variant, are great to use frequently.

Perusing E-Bay, I have noticed the very high prices that some of these command. The later ones without glass key tops go for less, but even those can approach 100 dollars! What is driving this pricing, I wonder? Style? Royal's reputation, lasting even to today? I don't know. They're distinctive, to be sure, and very functional. And I'm sure that I have seen them recommended on the PTF as regular users, at least I THINK I remember that...

This machine was purchased years ago from a professional typewriter repairman who has since gone out of business. Therefore, this machine works perfectly. I've put a lot of miles on it, and it still works every bit as well as it did when I got it. Looks just as good too. There are always several on E-Bay, so if you're willing to throw the bucks it will likely need to get one, I'd recommend one from a usability standpoint. And it doesn't hurt at all that they look good too.

Talk about coincidence....

After testing the link to the original DTW site content (on Alan Seaver's mirror right now) to see that it worked, I happened to notice that the very first ever entry on that site was made July 19, 2006. Of course, today is July 18, 2010 and it's a total coincidence that it's at the "four years since" mark that we launch this blog. This blog is really a creature of our re-enlivened passion for typewriters (AND the hobby, AND the people involved) and the timing of its creation was natural, not deliberate.

Still, it's kind of weird.

Everest K3; an introduction

In June, Richard Polt held what has come to be known as an epic collectors' convention in Cincinnati, Ohio. Among many other things that happened there was the very kind offering by Alan Seaver, who I had long wanted and waited to meet, of his Everest K3 typewriter. I in fact settled the deal for a twenty, being very appreciative of his offer and hoping to at least partially compensate the fuel cost that a five liter Mustang might generate moving such a machine over about a fifth of the continent. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Some back story is needed; years ago, while commenting generally on the rather poor and rather large Everest K2 portables, I was met with a message that Alan had a K3. I hadn't heard of that model before, and when he told me that it was a rather flat machine and unlike the K2 or in fact any other Everest, I was intrigued. Years passed without any chance of seeing another one until Alan decided to generously allow me to have his.

The Everest K3 (launch into review here) is a compact if not flat machine which surprisingly incorporates segment shift. The example seen here is serial number 1101320, which according to the British OMEF Typewriter Age Guide means that the machine was made in 1962- the last of three years in which the K3 was made. Everest had at that time been bought out by Olivetti and production was running down; the standards and the larger desk-model K2 portable ended at this same time. The K3 is a fairly well made machine, with metal body and interesting plastic (lucite?) paper support. The segment shift action is positive in feel and in point of fact the machine is superior to a few contemporary flat machines, as for example the flat Royals from Holland, in touch. Clearly, if an Italian-made small portable were to compete with the Olivetti Lettera 22, it would have to be solid and segment shifted. The machine does occupy about the same footprint as the desk model K2, incidentally.

Having said all that, the machine is not in overall fit, finish and quality excellent but rather "acceptable." That may sound like a disappointment, but it's a lot better in its class than the K2 which is universally disliked for its dead feel. Seeing further that the K3 is the final new overall design from Everest, I'm inclined more to view the K3 as a collectible machine and not as a workhorse.

Back in action with new content!

For those of you who have been awaiting (or, perhaps, dreading) our return to "new content" action on the internet, the time has arrived! Dave and I have decided that the blog format - easily constructed and easily read - is probably the most popular format right now for such direct-to-web content as I've provided in the past; this new blog is the result.

Expect all of our new repair work and historical investigations to appear here (unless they appear in ETCetera.) We'll be making a number of posts here soon with some unusual typewriters.. and we have a large backlog of machines that members of my Portable Typewriter Forum are sure to enjoy. Stay tuned!