Sunday, August 12, 2018

Book review: Border Districts, by Gerald Murnane

Robert Messenger on Murnane: post 1, post 2

Here's a fascinating New York Times interview with Murnane. I read it after reading the novel and writing this post. I suggest that you read his work first, too, if you want to be introduced to his world without too many preconceptions. Also quite interesting is a video interview that you can find on one of Robert's posts.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Typing myself a letter ... indirectly

When I opened the mailbox yesterday, I was excited to see an airmail envelope. Could this be a letter from one of my typospherian correspondents in Mexico, Germany, or many other countries?

But no—on closer look, it was retro-styled mail from a nonprofit organization.

I almost tossed it in the recycling, but decided to rip open the envelope and found a fundraising letter from FINCA, which promotes microloans and other economic solutions in developing countries. The letter was adorned with an image of a Polaroid, with a "typewritten" message on it ...

... But wait! That's my Remington Noiseless font!

It is a very odd experience to be one of thousands of recipients of a mass mailing, and then to discover my own creation within the mail, based on the typing of my first and dearest typewriter.

Remington Noiseless is a popular font, and I've run across it in unexpected places before, as I did on a recent trip to Oakland.

If you'd like to have it, please help yourself.

As for microloans, they have mixed success.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Panic not to this docile juice

Ian Brumfield alerted his followers on Facebook to this bit of artificial intelligence. The RPC-4000, a computer system incorporating a Royal electric typewriter, was programmed to write poetry and generated these verses.

I actually think this is a delightful piece of nonsense. Does it stack up against today's AI? I don't know. Someone who likes talking to computers, please ask Siri, Alexa, Cortana, or some other entity to compose a poem, and let us know what happens.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Achilles' heel of a Brother electric typewriter

You may know my theory that every typewriter model, no matter how sophisticated and wonderful, has an Achilles' heel.

This is certainly true of the Brother Electric 3000, a rather obscure little machine from the '70s (it's a Brother type JP-8, for those in the know).

As you can see, the carriage return is still manual on this little powered portable, but it does have a repeat spacer and a tabulator. It's a compact machine with a cover that fits neatly over it.


So what is its Achilles' heel?

Well, I found an Electric 3000 a couple of months ago for sale locally, offered for just $12.95 because it wasn't working. I figured it was worth it, if only to discover an unfamiliar typewriter model. It hummed as soon as you switched it on, but the keys were completely unresponsive.

When I unscrewed the top plate, I found the reason: it was missing the belt that connects the electric motor to the large wheel that turns the fluted shaft, which in turn activates the typebars.

More precisely, the belt was there, but it had crumbled into unrecognizable flakes of brittle material! You can see those flakes at the left bottom corner of this photo. The two parts that are supposed to be connected by a belt are circled in red.

A wide rubber band was a decent temporary fix, and proved that a lasting belt was just what I needed.

After some poking around on eBay, and with the help of an eBay seller who specializes in these things, I located a flat, 17-inch-circumference belt. I doubt that anyone sells belts like this especially for electric typewriters, but you can find various kinds of small belts made for turntables, film projectors, etc. They may be new old stock.

If you need one just like this, you can buy it here.

The belt slipped right on, and the typewriter was good as new. I put it up for sale at Urban Legend Typewriters and earned some good money for WordPlay Cincy.

But was this just a freak occurrence?

No! Just a few days ago, I got the following e-mail:
I have a beautiful Brother Electric 3000 that has a working motor and carriage but the keys will not strike.  Do you have any hints on what I can do to get it in working order or should I just trash it?
Sure enough, when the owner opened up her Brother, she found the same fragments of a crumbled belt:

A fresh belt is on its way to her, and I hope it will do the trick.

Moral of the story: Hey typewriter manufacturers, use materials that will last for at least 100 years, OK? We're going to need these things when the Internet collapses!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Guest post: Continental Silenta

Thanks to Klaus Mielke for this glimpse of a typewriter that is interesting both technically and politically.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

This is The One

Mr. E knows my mind. He was the only one to guess which typewriter I selected yesterday.

An early L.C. Smith with an intact paper table decal for $45 is a good deal. What you can't see in the photo is that everything was working, and typing just felt good. Here's a view from the back. Yes, it needs cleaning, but note that the decals are still gold. A good sign!

As for some of the other guesses:

The 1921 Remington portable whose owner traveled to the Far East was cool, but I wouldn't know quite what to do with a beaten-up case with fragile labels. At $99 it seemed a little expensive. Apparently others agree, because it's been sitting in the mall for over two months.

The Underwood Crest is a rare model, but I already have one. Actually, I decided last year that I'd donate it to Urban Legend Typewriters (to raise money for WordPlay Cincy). And you know what? It has sat around in the shop longer than any other typewriter, ever. I guess I didn't love it, and no one else does either. It is not a terrible typewriter, but none of these late Underwood portables is great, and there is something about that green color that isn't appealing. So $52 might not have been a good investment. It was also really dirty in some parts you can't see in the photo.

The Woodstock was priced right at $33. But that depressing gray paint ... and it would have needed lots of work. I already have one of this model in black that I enjoy a lot.

Having brought my treasure home, I wasted no time in cleaning it up and equipping it with a fresh ribbon.

Now it's for sale at Urban Legend, along with 6 other machines I've refurbished. (And the Crest, but it has been put in its case to wait for a time when this world is ready for it.)

Giddy up!