May 2009


You know summer’s coming when you start filling up the pool……

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…..the kiddie pool on the back patio, that is.

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It’s just too much luxury for one family, I think.

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All right people, I’m taking the plunge. No, I didn’t decide to spend my paycheck on lottery tickets, and no, I’m not applying to be on America’s Next Top Model (although, if they were looking for potato chip eating ability, I’d win hands down). I’ve decided to start on my first project machine. If I can successfully clean, de-gunk and get this machine singing again, I’ll be pretty proud of myself. I got some good starting advice from Dean in Kentucky (better known as Writertypes for all you eBay surfers) so I think I’m in good hands. This guy knows his stuff when it comes to manual machines. So, the machine is my Olivetti Model 21 (basically a Studio 44 in a more modern chassis) and it suffers from about a dozen sticky keys. Otherwise it is in pretty good shape. I finally managed to get the chassis off after a little bit of tricky maneuvering (thanks, Dean), and started brushing away the loose dirt and dust. Next step is cleaning as much as I possibly can with alcohol and a brush. After that, we’ll see what happens. I’ll get this baby some of its mojo back soon enough. I’ll let you all know how it progresses. Here are some pictures of the patient:

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Well, I finally got to the library to pick up my prize(s). I think in all I have about 150-200 issues. They go back to around 1970. There were bound volumes going back to the ’30s, but I ran out of room in the car (and I think my wife would have been none too happy). All in all, a pretty good haul. I promised my better half that I would get a bookcase for them, so she can have her floor back.

 

the whole collection

the whole collection

Here are a few covers from the collection. Most of the back covers have been ripped off by library staff. Not sure exactly why, but what can you do?

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I love the ads from that era. Come on, you know you want a 1971 Toyota Celica!

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The local library in my town is generally not bad. They have a fairly decent selection, and they are part of a county-wide consortium of libraries. If they don’t have what you want (which is common), they can get it in a few days from one of the other ones that do.

Whenever I take my daughter there, I let her look in the children’s section while I browse the stacks nearby. I always go to a particular spot where they have every National Geographic magazine published since 1970. Being a shutterbug, I have always loved the photos in Nat Geo. Especially ones from the 60’s and 70’s. The grainy color photography just has a look that I’ve always loved. Say what you will about the magazine itself, but some of the most iconic images of the 20th century have been published on those pages.

You could imagine my shock when I went there yesterday and saw that they were gone. All gone. I looked around and saw many of them in bundles of 10 or 20 stacked on the floor. The only ones on the shelf were less than 2 years old. I went downstairs and found the person in charge to try and find out why they were taken down. “Oh, we’re going to be getting rid of them,” she said, “because we need the shelf space.”

I asked why would they get rid of them, since they actually are a valuable source of reference as well as great photography. Besides, I told her, they are actually worth money. Many people collect Nat Geo. I was told that since all the information they contain could be found elsewhere, mainly the intertubez, they are not needed in the library any more. All periodicals in the library will only be from the last year. So then I said,” Well, since just about every thing you have in this building can be found elsewhere, mainly online, why not just get rid of every book in the place, add a dozen more computer terminals, and lay you and your entire staff off? A public library is more than a collection of pop-up books. Besides, what are you making shelf space for, other than the latest flaming piece of garbage by Dan Brown and other throwaway ‘best-sellers’ that are taking up an increasingly larger portion of the first floor?” Needless to say, she didn’t get where I was coming from.

So I told her that since they are going to be gotten rid of, then they can come to me. I gave her my information, told them to leave the covers intact, and call me when I can pick them up. I just can’t let them be thrown into a dumpster like so many discarded pieces of paper. Holy s#!t, was I angry!

I have always loved old magazines. I love looking at the old advertisements, the photography, and even reading the articles to see how magazine writing has changed over time. They are mini time capsules, giving us a glimpse into a previous moment in our culture. Frankly, I think they are worth much more than people give them credit for.

So, hopefully, I will soon be the proud owner of many years of Nat Geo. Let’s hope they keep the covers on.

A short video about one of the last typewriter repairmen in Chicago.

I was able to make a trip down to Cambridge Typewriter in Arlington this morning. It’s something I’ve only done twice before – to drop off & pick up my SM9 when being refurbished. This time, I was on a fact-finding mission. I had a few specific machines I was hoping to test drive, get some questions answered about my ‘project’ machine – the Olivetti 21 that has been sitting for over a month now, and just take in the smell of the place.

Man, they have a lot of machines there. The owner, Tom Furrier, was very helpful, and answered all of my questions thoughtfully, even the inane ones. Then I took a look at what he had on hand, picked out a few machines to test, and got to it. Here are my initial impressions:

The first machine I tried was a Royal Quiet DeLuxe from the late 1940’s? – the ones with the first post-war angular chassis, but still with the glass keys. I was surprised at just how small this machine was in person. Ebay listing photos don’t give a good sense of scale in general, and I was a little taken aback when he pulled it from the case and placed it on the table in front of me. He had just serviced this one, and it was in overall excellent condition. The action was medium to me (after using many different machines today, I have to say the action on my SM9 is what I would describe as heavy. Not in a bad way, just requiring more force to get a crisp letter on paper), and maybe a little stiff. It may be just this particular machine, but it did give nice, crisp type. Not bad, I thought, but the keys felt small on my fingertips.

Next was a Corona from the 1930’s. The ones with the lacquer finish (this one was maroon) and the subtle, curvy top. Not the flat top ones – that was next. This machine had a decent overall feel, but seemed not so smooth. I was told this one had probably seen a lot of use over the years. Beautiful machine aesthetically.

Next was a flat top Corona, probably from the same era. He gave me this one specifically to show me the action. This was a great machine. The sound of the bars smacking the paper was the exact pitch you imagine a typewriter to have, and the bell was perfect. Nice, low-tax feel. If I wanted a really old machine, this would be a great one to have. Beautiful black lacquer finish, in overall excellent condition.

I had asked if he had any Hermes or Olivetti machines around, and he didn’t disappoint. First was a Hermes 2000, but it hadn’t been serviced yet and had some sticky keys, so back in the case it went. Next was a 3000 with the second-generation metal chassis, not the sloping, curvy one. This machine was in excellent condition, so I put in a piece of paper and started typing. Oh. My. God. He noticed right away the difference in how I was typing and said “See what I mean, you’re using about half the force as you would on your Olympia.” I could have typed on that machine all morning. Then he told me that the action on the 2000’s is even better, and I knew I had to have one. He acknowledged the problem of brittle platen knobs on the 3000’s, and said he hasn’t seen the same issue on the 2000’s (hmmm…2 things to recommend the 2000 over the 3000). He did say that many people prefer the basket shift of the 3000 to the carriage shift of the 2000. “But it’s like driving a stick shift instead of an automatic – eventually you forget you’re even pressing the clutch pedal”. I have to agree.

As far as an Olivetti, he had a Lettera 33. Same exact mechanicals as the Lettera 32, just in a different suit. This was the first travel, flat top machine I have ever tried. I have to say it was pretty darn good. Medium to low-tax feel, nice crisp type, decent overall sounds and experience. I could see bringing one of these on a trip, sure. No Hermes Rockets in the shop to compare it to, though. He said those things go just days after he gets ’em in the shop.

I had him take a look at my Olivetti 21 (essentially a Studio 44) and he felt it just needs a thorough brushing and cleaning, then some light oiling with sewing machine or ‘light machine’ oil. He even showed me the types of brushes he uses. I was there for almost an hour in total, and would have stayed for more, but I didn’t want to occupy his time any longer. I saw he had the newspaper open to the Sudoku puzzle on his desk, and I wanted to let him get back to it. I was a little light headed when I left, more inspired than ever to learn how to fix these things.

For me, that was the equivalent of seeing Kiss when I was 16. Funny how your definition of exciting changes over the years. Now I just have to get my hands on a 2000 and if it’s as good as Tom says they are, I think I will have achieved Omnipresent Galactic One-ness.

Wow, and the weekend is not even half over! Life is goooood.