Thursday, March 31, 2016

Val's visit and poem #1

I enjoyed a brief visit yesterday from Valentine Brkich, writer, dad, typist, and blogger. He's attending the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop in Dayton and took the time to pop down to Cincinnati to talk typewriters with me. In this photo, Val enjoys the feel and sound of my massive Optima M10.

In other news, just the other day I was wondering whether there's such a thing as National Poetry Writing Month. Well, there is, and we have reached it! Billimarie Robinson says she'll be creating a poem every day for the month of April. I'm joining in. I hope you enjoy my little typed wordclumps. Even better, give poetry a try yourself.

Here's poem #1.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Electratype app

Last year I reviewed three "typewriter" apps for the iPhone. Now I've heard from a reader, Antonios B., who has told me about an app for the iPad that is pretty impressive:

It's called Electratype and it is a fancy-note writing simulation of Selectric typewriters of the late '60s and early '70s. It makes sounds, it includes a significant range of fonts and simulated stationary and it exports png images. Characters can be superimposed. Line length and position on the page can be adjusted at will. It even simulates a function which Wikipedia informs me was an actual function of the Selectrics, to correct by applying a white ink on the page...I send you three image samples of the products of Electratype.

The Correcting Selectric's method of correction was actually more sophisticated: a sticky tape actually lifted the ink off the page. Of course, you could also use correction tabs that worked the way the app does. Anyway, the results of the app are very good:

You can learn more about the app here.

Monday, March 28, 2016

The Emergency Typewriting Kit

PS: OK, it's actually called the Emergency Typewriting Kit, but I wasn't about to retype the typecast!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Joy in Boston

The type-in at Barnes & Noble in Boston's Prudential Center last weekend was an extensive affair ...

... ringing with the happy sound of mechanical writing machines.

My visit to Boston was an eventful one: I read a paper at the American Comparative Literature Association conference at Harvard, and met various interesting people there; I spent time with old friends; I visited historic sites and antique shops; I stuffed myself with good food; and of course, I attended the type-in and book signing.

Even before the event, I scored some typewriter jollies. One antique shop had several shelves of the machines (unfortunately, overpriced and sometimes gummed up):


A café in Cambridge featured these three beauties in a display case:

And in a Concord curio shop, a beautiful volume of La Nature from 1877 featured an article on the Sholes & Glidden:

I suppose the Type Writer must have seemed as exotic and implausible as this velocipede.

But on to the type-in. The shop had plenty of copies of my book on hand; I read from the section on letter writing and signed some books.

I soon got to meet various delightful people, including Abraham S. (left in the photo below, author of La Vie Graphite) and Emma Furrier (center, daughter of Tom Furrier of Cambridge Typewriter, whose post on the type-in you can find here).

The venue was found by Arthur Grau (at left in the photo above), who also brought the greatest number of machines. Arthur, who recently moved to Boston from Hawaii, runs The Type Bar, offering "hand typed letter art mailed anywhere." Arthur is featured in my book along with the former name of his project, Universal Babel Service. It was a real pleasure to meet him.

Here's Tom Furrier typing his blog on a beautifully restored Corona Four that he brought for the event.

The machine has a fresh platen and looks like it's straight from the factory.

Abraham brought his handsome and trusty Olympia, which has been blessed at a Welsh monastery:

Some typewriters were less handsome but still trusty, such as this Royal Tab-O-Matic made in Japan:

I brought an Empire Aristocrat (which felt a little awkward in the home of the American Revolution), equipped with carbon ribbon.

But the machine that really caught my attention was this Erika M, brought by local college student Michael. I've been looking for an M with a QWERTY keyboard, like this one. They didn't make portable typewriters finer than this.

But back to the humans. The Erika was enjoyed by some appreciative girls.

Quite a few participants brought their favorite typewriters for the event. Other people of all ages stopped by to check out the commotion, and often got absorbed in the typing.

All told, this was a great event that reaffirmed my faith in the power of the typewritten word.

Arthur, me, Tom, and Abraham (photo courtesy of Abraham)

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hackers, makers, typers

This is a makerspace.

Kleinsteuber's Machine Shop, Milwaukee, 1860s. That's where a maker named Christopher L. Sholes, with the help of like-minded tinkerers, invented the Type Writer.

Regardless of any mechanical ability I have developed over the last few years of repairing typewriters, I will never be the innovator that these men were. But I sure wish I could be a fly on the wall at Kleinsteuber's, watching them work. 

The closest thing to Kleinsteuber's in 2016 is a place like Hive13 (a pun on Cincinnati's 513 area code), which calls itself a hackerspace but welcomes all kinds of creators and tinkerers, digital and mechanical.

I was glad to be invited to Hive13 the other night to give a talk. I showed the members and guests some highlights from early typewriter history, various types of machines, and what people are doing today to modify their typewriters aesthetically and mechanically.

I brought along three typewriters: my Sholes & Glidden, my Commercial Visible 6, and my USB Olympia SM3 (created by Jack Zylkin of Philadelphia's Hive76). Everyone wanted to see how they worked. Mechanical engineer Jim Dallam brought a Smith-Corona Silent-Super and a Monroe mechanical calculator.

These folks do not have a passive relationship to their digital devices, or to technology in general. They had lots of good questions for me.

A major piece of equipment in the Hive is a CNC wood cutting tool ...

... which can produce objects like this.

This piece is used at maker fairs to illustrate various kinds of things that can be produced at Hive13. Its centerpiece is a glass "finger of Galileo."

In my book I write:

The maker ethos is one of sharing and innovation: open-source plans, collaboration, borrowing, transformation. This approach has struck a chord. Maker Faires attract tens of thousands of visitors. In over a thousand hackerspaces and makerspaces around the planet, makers socialize as they create new objects. They emphasize generous interactions among people inhabiting the same physical space. This certainly isn’t a rejection of the digital—makers eagerly work with cheap circuit boards and 3D printers to create computer-guided gadgets. What the movement rejects is the passive incomprehension in our everyday relation to high technology; makers take charge, learn by doing, and use their imagination.

Jack Zylkin told me:

Like the slow-foods movement and the self-publishing movement, the maker movement tries to break down the perceived barrier between who makes a product and who uses it. It sets out to debunk the perception that high technology can only be created and disseminated by big specialized companies, like fire from Mt. Olympus, and bring the creation of technology back to the people who use it.

And in my final chapter, I imagine the future:

I’m envisioning a typerspace where insurgents gather for a make-in. We can either set up an assembly line or work on individual projects. We consult digitized original factory drawings, 3D schematics, and a constantly-evolving wiki where those who’ve done such projects in other typerspaces around the world share their experiences and questions. Our printers and other machines generate parts that are supplemented with standard screws, springs, and gears. Eventually we turn off the digital equipment, admire our freshly built Crandalls, Blickensderfers, and Alpinas, and enjoy a type-in over coffee or beer.

I can't wait.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

St. Vinnie smiles upon me

As explained on The Typewriter Database, this Brother design is designated as type JP-7 and was introduced in 1975. The one I found dates from 1977.

I've found that Armor All wipes are a convenient way to get a good shine on plastic or paint. 
The stuff does take a while to dry.

Now the Kmart is ready to speak to someone else. Its companion at The Urban Legend Institute, the Olympia SM9 in the background, also dates from 1977.