Sunday, March 22, 2020

Thank you, Internet

Much as I may grumble about our normal relationship with digital technology, at this abnormal time, the Internet is crucial for me to do my job (teaching online), get information, and stay in touch with friends and family. The typosphere is confronting the pandemic with ingenious combinations of typewriting and online communication.

For instance, in Baltimore, Sefu C. posted on Instagram, offering to write to new pen pals:

If you want a letter, I’ve got time & stamps & so much to say to you. 

In L.A., Garrett L. created the hashtag #covid19correspondence, commenting:

Write a letter to someone who’s sequestered or isolated. Give them a tangible reminder that there’s a real world out there, where they’re being thought of, and ask them to do the same. The physicality of real correspondence may be the most tactile contact some people have.

Sean B., in Calgary, retyped some thoughts by fellow typewriter lover Gabriella M., in Vermont:

Meanwhile, Hannah R. posted a wonderful selection of her collages, which incorporate typewritten words. You can order them through Instagram; you get 5 for just $20.

Maybe you'd like to type up a page and submit it to Daniel M.'s new project, One Typed Page — or just visit and see what's on the minds of some fellow typists.

What have you been up to?

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Fox no. 23 typewriter (1908)

I dug out my 1908 Fox no. 23. Why? Because I needed a dose of pure pleasure. Don't we all?

There are many beautiful typewriters, but there's none in my collection lovelier than this one. It's a great Art Nouveau design to begin with, and this one is in outstanding condition.

I bought this typewriter on eBay maybe 20 years ago. It came with a base and cover, and as I recall, there was plenty of fluff and dust in the typewriter, but it basically blew away, and underneath, there was an almost perfectly preserved machine, with great paint, decals, and nickel. I had the platen redone by Ames.

What's it like to type on? It features an easy basket shift and snappy action. There is a switch in the back that allows you to adjust when the escapement will trip; I find that if I put it on one setting (I think it's supposed to be the speedy setting), I tend to get shadowing. The button on the left front corner of the frame is for the tabulator (this is a weak point in the frame, and is often broken). The main disadvantage of this typewriter is that it has no backspacer. But with a little care and practice, I think I could get used to it.

Now to type some letters ...

PS: Want to know more about Foxes? Read Tyler Anderson's The Fox Typewriter Company, available for free download by courtesy of the author.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Typewriters of the Times: Ides of March edition

You-know-what is on all of our minds right now, but not on this blog, not today.

Instead, I present a roundup of the latest typewriter references in today's New York Times. We get it in print on Sunday—a treat that invites several hours of lazing in bed. And almost every Sunday, I run across multiple references to typewriters. Is this because the average Times reader, like me, is college-educated and well into middle age? Or is it just because typewriters are wonderful?

Anyway, here are today's tidbits.

A review of Teddy Wayne's novel Apartment, about two roommates who are aspiring writers in the '90s, includes this illustration by Klaus Kremmerz:

A review of Elizabeth Tallent's Scratched: A Memoir of Perfectionism includes this lovely quote:

The machine was "a hunky olive-green electric typewriter." Maybe a Selectric? Maybe something more exotic, like my Olivetti Editor 2?

Anyway, congratulations to the talented Ms. Tallent.

Finally, this photo from a story on the massive Alaskan earthquake of 1964 reminds us that, in times of crisis, we can band together to save the most important things. (Can anyone identify that typewriter? And, OK, you-know-what is on my mind.)

Friday, March 13, 2020

Neckermann Brillant S typewriter

We could all use a few bright colors and typewriter joy around now, couldn't we?

So here are some pretty pictures of my Neckermann Brillant S, which I took out yesterday and polished up. I also made sure that all its parts were as good as they could be, by harvesting a few pieces from my Brillant S parts machine.

Back story: Back in 2013, Robert Messenger posted some pictures of this very same Brillant. I fell in love with it and promptly found one on German eBay — which arrived in pieces due to the seller's foolishness. Being the generous man that he is, when Robert visited me in October of that year, he brought his Brillant as a gift. Thank you again, Robert!

The typewriter itself is an ABC portable (also known in the US as Cole-Steel), with a redesigned, plastic body. It was made in West Germany and sold by the Neckermann department store.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Typewriter paintings by Pawel Kuczynski

Here are two wonderful images by Polish artist Paweł Kuczyński. Follow the link to see many more of his clever paintings, lots of which criticize digital culture. It seems that he tries to practice what he preaches, as he does not manage the Instagram account for his art.

Monday, March 9, 2020

The Italian Super-Riter

Here's a shiny, gray, jowly machine that I rescued from an antique mall recently. (You may have spotted it on my December safari. I came back a while later and couldn't resist the $39.99 price.)

It's a Remington Super-Riter, although that model name does not appear on the machine. The serial number, TJ 409832, does not appear in Remington records, and it's marked "Made in Italy."

Here are the company records. Note the lower-right-corner note about machines "manufactured in Naples, Jan. 1960." My guess is that manufacture continued there for some time afterwards, using a new serial numbering system.

Recently, the machine has been put to work writing comments on freshman philosophy papers.

So how does it perform? It's smooth, but for some reason does not feel as snappy as my Remington 17's and KMC's, which are mechanically very similar. Letters sometimes pile. It may be that it just needs more cleaning, or a tightening of the mainspring. Aesthetically, I appreciate its businesslike exterior.

Here is its pica typeface:

Does anyone else have one of these Italian Remingtons?

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Scenes from a type-in

Today's type-in at Sitwell's coffeehouse in Cincinnati was a success, bringing typists from as far away as Chicago.

Thanks to Leigh Whitaker (who's "introverted but willing to discuss typewriters") for helping to organize this event, and designing the great poster for it. We never did have the typing contest—we were having too much fun chatting and trying out each other's machines.