Friday, June 22, 2018

Phoenix Type-In Preparation

Adobe Rose, Howling Coyote, thermal fax paper and holder

Well, it's almost that time. Time to hit the road and make the drive, over the Continental Divide, into Arizona, to attend the 2018 Phoenix Type-In. I've attended this event once before, several years ago, and was inspired enough that it prompted me to start organizing Type-In events here in ABQ.

This time I'll be accompanied by fellow typewriter nerd Kevin K., who will also be bringing a small assortment of typewriters from his collection.

Last week I began the preparation work for attending this event. Not only did I have to decide on which machines to bring, but also on my agenda is doing video interviews of some of the more notable members of the Phoenix contingent of the Typosphere. So I had to assemble a video kit capable of doing 2-person interviews, including those what-if items like spare batteries, memory cards, etc. Because Murphy is alive and well, especially when on the road.

It's expected to be rather warm in Phoenix (understatements being my forte) and this being the off-season, we booked a nice hotel room for a good price. Still, I hope we don't have heat-related issues. There are common-sense steps to take, like don't leave sensitive items in the car when parked outside. And bring plenty of water for the trip.

Kevin and I had discussed making a thrift store tour of small towns on the way to Phoenix, just in case we find some hidden gem of a typewriter waiting to be snapped up. A quick perusal online reveals a handful of thrift stores in Flagstaff. We might still do that, though stopping in every small town on the way is not my first priority. Still, it might be fun to do a bit of thrifting, just in case.

Along with the typewriters and video gear, I'm bringing some typing paper rolls and associated paper roll holders, for people to try out. I've also made a new holder just this week, for using 2-1/4" adding machine paper. Trying it on my Royal QDL, that has an elite-sized typeface, it will permit 22 character-wide lines, sufficient for things like short poems. I'll also be taking the 1/32" thick rubber sheet, which can be threaded into a typewriter behind a sheet of paper and used for dampening the sound of a hardened platen roller. I'd like to get peoples' feedback on how it works in their various machines.

It will be fun meeting once again those typewriter nerds I otherwise only see online. See you there.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Albuqwerty Type Writer Society Meeting

Albuqwerty Type Writer Society Notes

You can't call these meeting minutes. More like rambling, random typings. Scraps salvaged from the aether, as Kevin and I, the two founding (and thus far only) members of the Albuqwerty Type Writer Society have spent a recent evening together on the front porch of his Neo-Victorian mansion, nestled in the north Rio Grande valley of Albuquerque; typewriters, scotch and cigars at hand as we discuss typewriters and whatever else comes to mind.

We have an interesting relationship. Both our wives have the same first name. We both like antique mechanical objects, especially typewriters; although Kevin also has considerable experience with British motor cars. We like geeking-out on these things, while at the same time we seem to avoid controversial topics such as politics, sports and religion. Perhaps typewriters are our religion? Well, I think we both have enough experience with friendships to know there's a certain line you don't want to cross, for the sake of the friendship.

We've met like this on a number of occasions, and it usually follows a similar pattern. We chit-chat, we break out a typewriter or three, we discuss issues we're having, or acquiring new ribbons, or restoring platens - or a plethora of related topics. Then the drink and cigars follow, with more of the same, into the wee hours of the morning. We'll both be in conversation, typewriters at the ready. One of us will be talking intently, the other listening, when suddenly the listener will attack the keyboard and bash out some crucial thought worthy of preservation. It's usually something random, but deemed important enough at the time to document. All the while listening to the other talk. And then the roles will reverse.

We will, over time, swap machines, trying out this one then that one, giving our opinion as to its feel and action. Our typed comments will become a mixture of both our thoughts, an amalgam.

One of these recent evenings we starting talking about forming a local organization dedicated to typewriters. We eventually came up with this name, and Kevin's working on a logo. It's not a formal organization, with Robert's Rule of Order and all that falderal. Just a name to put upon a local community of adepts. Well, I use the term "community" loosely, since thus far there's only us two. But perhaps we will formalize the thing and publicize it, seeking more members. But thus far it's a club of two. Revolutions have been started with less.

The typing shown above is but one example from our most recent meeting. I'd been talking to Kevin about the old grocery store in our neighborhood we call "Creepy Albertsons" (to distinguish it from the newer Albertsons) and the entertainment I derive from late-night visits. He was skilled enough to capture some of the details of the conversation.

Kevin had been playing 78s on his Zenith phonograph when he played Dinah Shore then Doris Day records back-to-back. It was hard to distinguish their voices after all these years.

Then we talked about what key typewriter bells might be tuned to; and if one should use a digital guitar tuner to determine each one's key.

These are the kinds of things that result from our meetings. Nothing earth-shattering. No solutions for world hunger or the ecology. Just good times spent together bonding over common interests.

In the subsequent video I made about our gathering (embedded link below) I discussed the importance of community to our passion with typewriters. Iron sharpens iron, so goes the old saw. Each person brings something new to the discussion, a unique perspective or skill. We all learn from each other. And it's wonderful to fellowship with like-minded individuals.

I'd encourage you, if you're a typewriter aficionado, to seek out others in your local area. Create a club or loose-knit community. Organize Type-Ins. Make you voices (and type bars) heard.

Here's the video mentioned above:

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Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Manuals, Electrics and Creativity

Adobe Rose, Howling Coyote, thermal fax paper and holder

See that lovely creature above? No, not the fake coyote, the Royal. Her name's Adobe Rose. I sat down at her this morning and typed out some extensive notes, in preparation for a video, on the subject of creative writing with manual and electric typewriters. I used the roll of thermal fax paper and liked the results. Very dark imprint, which she seems to do easily; better than many other machines in my collection. And a rather clear imprint for being elite-sized typeface.

But these thoughts didn't start today. They were the result of a late-night typing and socializing session I spent last night with fellow typewriter nerd Kevin.

In keeping with my renewed promise to blog more often ("Captain's blog, star date 60618.2"), I'm taking these raw video production notes and throwing them out to the typosphere - warts, typos and all. You can provide your own spell checking.

Being as how the piece was from one continuous roll, I've taken the liberty to divide it into three parts. Afterwards, you'll find a link (malicious advertising) to the resulting video. Enjoy.

Typecast022a
Typecast022b
Typecast022c

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Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Do You Need to Type?

Cigar Store Rooy Typing
"Do You Need to Type?"
Post-Script: More musings on the art and technique of blogging, written on the little Rooy portable at my local cigar store lounge.

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Monday, June 04, 2018

There's Hope Yet

P1090434a
"There's Hope Yet"

Post-Script: On the subject of the AlphaSmart, there's been some discussion recently on the Flickr AlphaSmart forum about alternative devices that offer a similar non-distractive work flow with a great keyboard and battery life. So far, you can't beat a used Neo on eBay (or wherever).

I'm wanting to start making more impromptu blog entries, spur of the moment, off the top (or side, or wherever) of my head. This motivation was prompted by a recent blog entry by Ted Munk, who spoke of the apparent decline of typewriter blogs, from their heyday in the mid- to late-aughts. Part of this is that blogging in general is in decline; but also our attention is being redirected to social media. I wonder also if mobile platforms are just more cumbersome for both consuming and creating blog content.

Whatever the reason, I've decided to get my act together. I know with my focussed concentration on YouTube these last few years, my blog now plays second fiddle. Whereas it once was the primary medium into which my creative thinking was expressed, it's often been used to just advertise a new video over on YouTube; there's rarely new content expressed herein.

There are often little thoughts that break the surface of my consciousness, not big enough to warrant a full-blown (or even half-blown) video production, but something worth tossing into the pond of public discourse in the Typosphere. Little thoughts that might prompt further discussion about things. Or just little observations that might, for no other purpose, serve as entertainment for a few brief moments. These often have been discarded or abandoned. But perhaps they deserve to be preserved here in. The life of the blog doesn't have to be just big articles. There's also little snippets and observations. It is a log, right? A web log.

My older blogging methods were rather meticulous about using a flatbed scanner for type-casts, to eek out the last bit of quality in those images; I've always wanted those images to look like ink on paper, where you see not just black letters floating against a nondescript white background, but you also see the texture, wrinkles and folds of the paper itself. But having to fire up the scanner is often a chore, and chains me to the office computer.

Lately, I've been trying to photograph these pieces, either with the camera in my iOS device, or using a dedicated digital camera. The challenge is always the light, especially evenness of illumination. Even the least bit of shading, from one side to the other, is exaggerated once the levels are tweaked in post-processing. Like today's example; I had flood lamps on either side of the sheet, with a white reflector card helping to even out the exposure. Even so, you can detect that left-to-right shading.

I've decided, on this matter of photographing type-casts, that perfect is the enemy of good enough. It needs to be legible, for certain. Good contrast between the background paper and the ink. It needs to be sharp, both in focus and lack of motion blur. But a bit of geometric distortion (key-stoning, from shooting off-axis; or pincushion) is okay I think. We're not archiving documents for the Library of Congress.

I like more and more the way Ted Munk makes his type-casts, with narrow typed columns and hence large letters on screen. Very legible and readable.

I keep threatening to make a dedicated copy stand for these pieces; perhaps that's the way to go, so I can guarantee even lighting. But would that end up being just as involved as firing up the flatbed scanner? I'd still have to import the images into my computer from the camera and do some post-processing, like levels, rotation and cropping. Well, by using a camera to digitize them, I have the option of not only importing them to my computer but also to my iOS device where I could do the post-process and upload to Flickr, as an alternative method. The only place where the copy stand would be impractical would be blogging while on the road.

Okay, enough about the minutia of the process. What's important is to make the process streamlined, efficient and effortless enough that one (this one) can focus on doing it as often as possible. With results that are "good enough." You might not always like what you read, but hopefully you'll come back more often and visit, to see what I've been up to.

Typecast via Remington Quiet-Riter.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Rooy Portable: Flat Out Fun

P1010808
P1010809

Post-Script: I'm impressed that a typewriter this thin can perform as well as it does. What's also interesting are the similarities to the Hermes Rocket/Baby, especially the carriage return lever and ribbon covers. I suppose attempting to achieve certain common design goals, such as an ultra-portable, results in similar design solutions.

Here's a photo of the Rooy folded up; note the 35mm slide for size comparison:

P1010807

You might have noticed the brass carrying handle. That was my add-on, since the original plastic handle was badly worn and broken in two pieces.

Aside from being in desperate need of cleaning and degreasing, I had to repair the ribbon spool drive system. The spools would not turn as I typed, the sprockets under the spools were a bit too high to engage the drive pawls. It turned out that a set of retainer springs was oriented incorrectly, perhaps installed incorrectly at some time. The spring motor was too slack, as the carriage would quit moving near the right side as the drawstring would go slack. I had to disconnect the drawstring and wrap it one full turn around the spring motor, then thread it again under the platen (while under tension) and reattach it to the right side of the carriage.

The feet on the bottom were badly worn, so this afternoon I cut a set from a thick neoprene washer and glued them on. The machine will not slide, regardless of how hard you return the carriage with that short little return lever.

This machine uses 7/16" wide ribbons, rather than the standard 1/2", in smaller sized spools; so I've ordered some to use. In the meantime I've resorted to carbon paper for these initial typings.

Speaking of typings, the keyboard on this machine is AZERTY, rather than the conventional (for America) QWERTY, evidence of its French heritage. It also has shifted numbers and a shifted period, along with numerous accented characters. Fun to type on while using carbon paper!

Here's a video I made, reviewing the machine:

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Monday, May 21, 2018

Big Chief Gas Station

P1010718
“Big Chief Gas Station”
P1010714
P1010711

Post-Script: Photos via Panasonic Lumix G7. I was also shooting video on my recently acquired Canon R800 camcorder. Yes, an actual camcorder. I'll be making a video about this soon. Here's the This is Not a VLOG video for today:



Typecast via Remington Quiet-Riter and roll of thermal fax paper.

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