Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Remington Torpedo (Dynacord) typewriter

This image on eBay caught my eye recently. A "Remington Torpedo"? With such an enticing, bulbous shape? Advertised as working well, with a wonderful touch? I hesitated a bit, but couldn't resist long before hitting "Buy It Now."

When the typewriter arrived, I could barely lift the box. This thing is heavy — portability was not a consideration for its designers at all — and very large, even bigger than an Olympia SG1 or Adler Universal.

The typewriter was dirty, the carriage would not advance when you typed or hit the spacebar, the shift went way too far down, and the backspace worked only intermittently.

Fortunately, I was able to resolve all these issues, and I am now able to tell you about this unusual machine.

The typewriter features a 46-key keyboard. At the upper left is a margin setting key (you move the carriage to the current margin, depress the key, and move the carriage to the new margin). To the right of that key are the tab clear key, the tabulator bar, the tab set key, and the typebar unjammer key.

To the left of the keyboard are three ribbon position buttons. The middle one lets you type in the middle of the ribbon. To put the typewriter into stencil mode, you hit the top two buttons simultaneously.

On the right is a space for a control that does not exist on this machine, for switching from regular to
e x t e n d e d  typing (more on that below).

On the left of the carriage, behind the platen knob, is a smaller knob that you turn in order to clear all tab stops.

The lever you see above is matched by a similar lever on the other side (they're easily visible when you raise the ribbon cover). When the levers are pulled forward, as above, the carriage can be lifted right off.

Here is the machine sans body shell, with the carriage on and off:

The underside of the carriage shows a clever construction that mounts the mainspring horizontally, instead of vertically as on most typewriters:

The depression at lower left is where the mainspring goes when the carriage is on the machine:

Rear view, showing the shiny, heavy back panel that protects some of the delicate mechanisms:

With the back panel removed, you can see some of those mechanisms. The little rod indicated with an arrow limits the movement of the loose dog; if it's in the wrong position, the escapement either will not advance or will advance too far (2 spaces at once).

Here's a closeup of a linkage, when the rightmost typebar is in the raised position.

The serial number, 2037840, dates my typewriter at 1963 and identifies it as a Torpedo Dynacord.

From the Torpedo serial number database:

2053001 upwards19641
From the Dynacord serial number database:

2064000 19656
2080001 19666
2081001 up19676
II and IV
26310001 [2631001?] up19676
Classic 18
1363001 up19676
From the numbers, you might think that Dynacords are plentiful. But Torpedo had a habit of putting all of its models into the same serial number sequence, thus obscuring the actual numbers produced. Based on my experience, and after a recent Web search, I say that these typewriters are quite rare. The Remington-branded version exported to the US must be especially unusual. (Remington acquired a majority share in Torpedo in 1931, which explains brandings such as "Remtor," which you'll find on some '30s Torpedo portables.)

Presumably the Dynacord name was licensed from the German amplifier manufacturer, which is still in business, but the online Dynacord company history makes no mention of typewriters.

The Peter Mitterhofer Typewriter Museum in Partschins, South Tyrol, Italy, possesses a brochure for the Dynacord V:

"All the operational elements are arranged ergonomically. This leads to a flowing work rhythm. All keys are adapted to the curve of the fingertips, so they are especially easy to use. The keyboard does not glare ... The distance between the carriage and the type guide is adjustable, allowing up to 15 copies to be typed at once." (My machine does not have this feature.)

I have found very few photos of Dynacords online, but here are a couple of handsome blue-and-silver examples. Both are exports: the first has a Danish keyboard, and the second sports the friendly Torpedo name variant used in Britain, Blue Bird.

I love the fact that this British seller called this a "portable"!

Apparently the same color treatment was available in the US, to judge from this snippet of a 1960 issue of The Accountant that I found on a search for "Dynacord typewriter":

Both of these blue-and-silver Dynacords have some features that mine does not. To the right of the keyboard you see buttons for changing from regular to  e x t e n d e d  spacing. On the right of the carriage you see a paper injector and a control for adjusting the position of the carriage, as mentioned in the brochure. Both of these typewriters have decimal tabulators.

The Mitterhofer archive also includes a brochure for a later version of the Dynacord, with more modern, angular styling and faux-wood paneling. I have not found any actual photos of this model.

Here is an ad for this model:

Addition (2022): Stefan Nürnberger has posted photos of a later Dynacord on the Typewriter Database. Here are a few:

Here are some examples of '60s Remington portables with the Dynacord name:

The Dynacord Classic 18 (made 1965-1967 according to the serial records I quoted above) is a descendant of the Torpedo 18, usually seen under the name Remington Mark II. It's a very nice typewriter. The model shown above it may be one that was usually called the Remington Streamliner.

As for the electric Dynacord (1965-67), I haven't found a single photo or illustration of one with that name, but I bet it's identical to this Torpedo electric shown in two brochures owned by the Mitterhofer Museum:

Will Davis has identified the Byron Mark I (1957) as the last attempt to design a new standard manual typewriter from the ground up. I am not enough of an expert on Torpedos to say for sure, but I wonder whether the Dynacord is an even later effort. Although I've sold my Torpedo Solitaire, a mid-'50s example of a Torpedo standard, and can't do a point-by-point comparison, I think the mechanisms are different in many ways.

The Dynacord is an impressive machine, but it may be that the '60s were the wrong time to introduce a new, high-end manual typewriter — just when every secretary in the world started to crave a Selectric.

Who has more information to add?

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Book review: Ben Greenberger, Where Typewriters Took Me

PS: I found an address for Mr. Greenberger and his wife in Portland, Oregon (where they moved after his retirement), but my letter was returned as undeliverable.

Here's where you can buy the book.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

“Screenless Summer"

Sorry — obscured words are: concept - What - "Reality" - fails - ambiguity - anyone - something - obvious - life - pronounce - finished. (I can't rescan these pages at the moment, for dull reasons.)