Friday, March 29, 2019

Typewriter podcasts

I am usually slow to notice trends. A few years ago, I was probably the last person on earth to learn that there was a subculture called "hipsters" that was being associated with typewriters.

As for podcasts, I vaguely thought they were a circa-2000 phenomenon, associated with the original iPod. But I've been hearing a lot more about them over the last year, and I've started to listen to a few while driving or repairing typewriters (usually I do not do all three activities simultaneously). Of course, quality varies, but in principle, podcasts are an ideal use of the Internet—not unlike blogs. Both blogs and podcasts offer the individual creator a lot of control, and the opportunity for the audience to encounter an extensive creation without being deluged by ads or swallowed up in a feed of other stuff.

Typewriters, too, are part of the podcast universe. Here are a few notes on three such efforts:

TYPE O + VE (pronounced Typo-positive) is produced by Australian Scott Kernaghan, also author of the blog The Filthy Platen. Scott works at a hospital and is a busy man, so his episodes aren't frequent, but they are all interesting. They include interviews and "Filthy Labs," where Scott delves into materials and techniques for typewriter maintenance and repair.

Typewriter Rodeo is a frequent mini-podcast from a successful poetry-typing team from Austin, Texas. Each little episode is a recitation of one of their poems. They've also published a great book!

Austin Typewriter, Ink. is another podcast from the Texas capital, featuring Everitto, The Shy, and Gimmeit. This local group has shown wonderful enthusiasm and initiative recently; check out their website and Facebook page. The podcast is being published about once a week, and it's infectious fun, with lots of joking around and personal stories, plus hard-core geeking about all things typewriterly. This is the "Car Talk" of typewriters.

What other podcasts are out there? Qwerty Rotten Scoundrels seems to have disappeared. Other podcasts have "typewriter" in their titles but aren't really about the machines we love.

As I was composing this post, I discovered that Ted Munk recently wrote about this topic, too. I encourage you to check out his words of wisdom.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Typewriter review: 2019 Royal Classic

Here is the typing test sheet that came with the typewriter:

Here are my reviews of the Royal Scrittore II and Royal Epoch.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Royal Classic 79104P typewriter

I just got wind of a new manual typewriter, the Royal 79104P, also known as the Royal Classic.

Royal says:

Continuing with our long history of manufacturing quality typewriters, Royal introduces our new "Classic" manual typewriter in traditional Black!

The Royal Classic features a sturdy metal housing & provides the essential functions to compose a novel, write lyrics or send an old fashioned letter.

A computer will never be as beautiful as a vibrant typewriter, so take a step back in time with the Royal Classic!

Another retailer writes:

This is a portable manual typewriter for on-the-go authors! The Royal Classic Manual Typewriter features metal construction, a wide 11 in. carriage, 88 characters, and a black and red nylon ribbon. It's ideal for those who prefer a retro look or easy typing without electronics.

The official retail price is $299.99, but I see prices as low as $147.83.

So, what should we make of this new offering?

The designation "79104P" doesn't exactly trip off the tongue, but it's a pleasure to see the old Royal logo proudly adorning a typewriter, more than a century after the first Royals were introduced (in 1906).

The streamlined body is attractive, and will look familiar to those who know the We R Memory Keepers Typecast Typewriter, which was sold for about a year by Michaels crafts stores. The shell was designed by Curt R. Jensen.

Although Royal speaks of "sturdy metal housing," I doubt that the entire shell is metal; my guess is that there is a lot of plastic on and in this typewriter.

The manufacturer of this machine, as of all manual typewriters I'm aware of in the last few years, is clearly Shanghai Weilv, a small Chinese factory that offers several models that can be branded with various names. The mechanical design has no relationship to classic Royal portables.

As for quality: I haven't tried a 79104P, but I've tried similar products from this factory, such as the Royal Epoch, which is probably mechanically the same. The quality control is very deficient, when compared to machines from the golden age of typewriter manufacturing (roughly 1930-1960).

But who knows? Maybe they've improved their quality. I would love to hear from someone who has tried this latest iteration. And efforts like this keep hope alive that someone will decide to produce a truly high-quality manual typewriter for the 21st century—a machine that will cost more than this one, but will last for decades and be a pleasure to use.