July 2009


I’m hosting a typewriter lovers meetup at my palatial estate in Amesbury, MA on Saturday, September 19th. You can sign up through the Yahoo! Groups portable typewriter forum. The emails of the people to contact are there if you are interested. I will post directions the week before the event. Come, bring your favorite machines, have a burger, and enjoy all the typewriter talk and general dorkiness with us! I have 4 definite guests so far, so I have room for 4 or 5 more before we have to start stepping over each other to get to the bathroom. It is a modest estate, after all.

I was just checking out MyTypewriter.com, so I could drool over all the machines I can’t afford to buy. Not that I would buy anything from that site anyway – they must be on crack if they think the prices they are charging are in any way fair. Oh yes, I’ll gladly pay $895 for that Hermes Ambassador, and oh, yes, I’ll also blindly hand you an extra $100 to get it in “Excellent” condition. Maybe some people fall for that, I don’t know. There is an Ambassador on ebay to be had right this minute for about $100, including shipping. I guarantee my guy at Cambridge Typewriter could get that thing in “Excellent” condition for another $200, tops. Pay $300 or $995 for the same machine? Hmmm…that’s a tough one. I’ll have to consult my navel and get back to ya.

Anyway, my main gripe is that along with selling refurbished machines, which I consider (notwithstanding their pricing screw job) a noble goal, they also sell typewriter jewelry. Come on, people!

Now I know most people who are looking for a pair of cufflinks that say “TAB” on them are sitting there thinking “You collector wingnuts are, well, wingnuts. They look so retro funky cool! I need some way to show my vintage cred, especially since I can’t wear fur any more. Lighten up, nerds!” Regardless, it just seems wrong to market near-extinct vintage machinery to a crowd that clearly values these things, and right next to it be willing to chop them up if a sale presents itself. I dunno, maybe I’m making too much of this, but I doubt it. I know business is business, the economy is bad, baby needs a new pair of shoes, blah, blah, blah, fucking blah. But why would people be in a business where they are destroying the very inventory they will need to stay in business? They ain’t making any more Underwood 5’s, ya pricks!

This had to have been one of the last models made by Smith-Corona. We must be talking early 80’s here. I got it for $6, just to see what the last gasp of manual typers was like. Man, is this thing cheap! I have nothing against plastic per se, but ultra-cheap plastic is just not acceptable. One of the tab levers crumbled in my hand.

100_0870 Since it is a relatively small and flat machine, I’m guessing this was the end of the line for the Skyriter lineage. If so, then it came to a sad, sad end. I can’t imagine this thing lasting for more than a few term papers in the hands of a college student. At least I can get the sticky keys unstuck and let my daughter play with it – that’s about all a machine of this build quality is good for. A toy.

Like I said, I was curious what the last days of the manual machine were like. It made me instantly feel even more grateful for my SM9 and Olivetti 21 (which, by the way, I finally got around to fixing). Those were machines built to last a lifetime – machines meant to crank out thousands of hours of serious typing, typing, typing. I think I’ll go pound out a few pages of my story, now that I think about it. Happy Summer!