.Davis Typewriter Works

.Davis Typewriter Works

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!!


  1. I leave my S/C Super down in my workshop, sitting out on a table and after a week or two of not using it, when I do sit down to write something with it, I'm always happily amazed at how well it performs. I think it looks very plain, but as you said, it always gets the job done and does so quite effortlessly.

  2. What do you consider the five most beautiful modern machines and how do you rate their functionality?

    I think my Olivetti Praxis 48 (www.flickr.com/photos/gthawk/4197065479/in/set-72157623030622276/) is striking but it is a nightmare to work on. I love the look of my white Voss ST24 (www.flickr.com/photos/gthawk/4233247053/in/set-72157623030622276/), but dislike it's carriage shift. I find the Remington Fleetwing (www.flickr.com/photos/gthawk/4233206233/in/set-72157623030622276/) attractive and not that bad a typer. I like the look of last of the real Underwood portables (www.flickr.com/photos/gthawk/4197066371/in/set-72157623030622276/), although it's not a stellar performer. And the Olivetti DL (www.flickr.com/photos/gthawk/4197061603/in/set-72157623030622276/) appeals to me, although it's body is no where near as solid as the Lettera 33 which has the same mechanics.


  3. I meant Olivetti Lettera 32, of course, since the 33 and DL are the same.