Monday, May 29, 2017

Grab-&-Go Typing

Barefoot Lap Typing at the cigar store

Post-Script: Here's the video I made about typewriter carrying bags:

That adding machine I mentioned at the end of my typecast ended up consuming 16 hours of tinkering time over the course of two days, but in the end I can proudly say that the darned thing works like a champ! It's a Burroughs key-operated adding machine, the kind using the planetary gear mechanism that was first developed in 1912. I don't know the exact date of manufacture, as the serial number database is rather sketchy for these portable machines, but I estimate sometime in the 1920s.

Here's a glamour shot of the machine:

Burroughs Key-Operated Adding Machine

And here's a close-up of the number wheels with their complex planetary gear system. There's an even more complex mechanism behind these wheels, a rod with a series of spring-loaded cogs that slide back and forth to lock and unlock a tiny gear train, the mode of which depends on whether the number keys are being pressed down or released (when the number wheels actually turn). There's also a complex mechanism that clears the wheels when the handle is pulled.

The entire machine was jammed up solid when I got it home. The clearing handle mechanism was locked up, and all the number wheels and their gears were frozen solid. It took many hours of degreasing, lubricating, brushing, scrubbing and sweating to get things unjammed. Then some of the wheels would intermittently jam up when the numbers were pressed, while others would spin too freely and enter erroneous numbers. I finally figured out how to adjust the sliding cogs to the right position to get everything working.

Burroughs Adding Machine Planetary Gears

The body is painted metal, a bit scratched and marred, but some Windex and car wax helped a lot. It's slightly larger than what a person might want on their desk, but given its complex mechanism and the time invested in repairing it, I'm more than pleased. It's rather a lot of fun to enter all nines into the display, then add a one and watch the ripple carry-over increment all the wheels, from right to left, to zero. Kind of like a fidget spinner, for when you're bored, but slightly larger. (A few years from now, will anyone even remember fidget spinners?)

Here's the video about the adding machine:

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Blogger Ted said...

Hey, what's the serial number on that Burroughs? I actually have a bunch of adding machine age lists, possibly lists that the adding machine guys don't have. If we can pinpoint it, I'll gather what I have and you can send it to them for inclusion in their database.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

allright, just found two lists for burroughs that tracks the full-keyboard machine from 1908 to 1960. I have FULL COVERAGE :D

2:04 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

full combined Burroughs age list:

2:20 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

Note: the first list if likely *January 1* numbers, the second is very likely *December* numbers. That would mean that the amount of serials in 1932-1933 are the range between Jan 1932 and December 1933, so 2 years worth of serials.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Joe V said...

The number is: A446017.

2:44 PM  
Blogger Joe V said...

So it looks like my machine is circa 1942? Hmm ... World War 2 ... I wonder if this machine was used for the war effort? I can only wish it had some historic connection to the Manhattan Project. Human calculators were used for crunching complex calculations. The fingernail marks on the home keys and residual red fingernail residue on the edges of the octagonal keys suggests a lady used it extensively.

Ted, thank you for the serial number data; you're a wizard!

2:54 PM  
Anonymous Federico said...

I wasn't prepared for the guns in the grab-bag video. I didn't fancy you a gun owner or user. I'm curious: do you have some nerdy historical interests in firearms (they can be very interesting items from that point of view), or is there a security concern?
The mechanical claculator machine video is great as always.

11:54 PM  
Blogger RobertG said...

Thanks for showcasing the Burroughs in the video - brilliant mechanics, awe inspiring that somebody thought that up (with paper and pencil)!

8:48 AM  
Blogger Joe V said...

Federico: I'm not a "gun nut," but managed to collect a few, back several decades ago. The people I knew at the time who were "gun nuts" remind me now of typewriter collectors - you can't just own one. So they had small arsenals. And to a man (yes, they were all men), they exhibited anti-social, loner personality tendencies.

I've managed to keep my small collection, under lock and key, unloaded. I haven't shot in several years, and don't like gun ranges. I prefer to go out to public lands (managed by the Bureau of Land Management, here in the States) and target practice or plink at cans.

Mechanically and historically they're interesting; but I harbor no conviction that they're survivalist tools. The idea of the lone-wolf survivalist is I believe a uniquely American myth, not borne out in actual fact in the modern world, where in areas of armed conflict you have to choose a side, not stick it out as a loner.

In the case of intruders, or the threat of violence, a quick 911 call on the cell phone is much more effective (summoning paid, trained professionals), and doesn't come with the added risk of a long prison sentence because you believed the lies published in certain magazines regarding use of firearms in self-defense, instead of actually understanding the laws yourself.

This is why I would never conceal-carry, which is now possible in my state (and wasn't two decades ago when I purchased my firearms) - just one errant moment, you step into your local cafe to have lunch and don't notice/remember that they serve alcohol, and what you just did by walking into the place armed is a federal offense. Or you get into a traffic altercation and one moment of anger and weakness results in two ruined lives.

Despite our rights as Americans to own firearms, they are intrinsically dangerous, as are the politics surrounding them.

Thanks for reading, and for your comments.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Federico said...

Well Joe, that's the kind of thoughtful response I'd expect from you, and I assure you I was just curious, not in any way judgemental. But you sprinkled on top of it some great detail about your state law I would not have discovered otherwise, very very interesting.

I personally think that from a scientific and engineering standpoint, guns may be fascinating to look at, and if you made a video disassembling and explaining the functioning of one your pieces, I would surely enjoy it.

As an European, I'm always fascinated by the more "loaded" (pun intended) aspects of american culture, and gun violence and control surely is one of the hot topics right now.
I've now somewhat grown accustomed seeing ordinary, peaceful people flash a gun in a YouTube video, butI can assure you that indipendently of anyone politics and personal convinctions, if anyone here would see a man carrying a gun in public who's not clearly identifiable as police or military, everyone would immediately freak out and call the cops on him. And, especially if you're not living in the countryside, where some hunting may happen, most people will go through their life and never even hear the sound of a gunshot in person.

Keep up the good work, Joe!

10:04 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I love this! It reminds me of one my grandparents used to have when I was a kid. Big, green, with red, white and black keys, if my memory serves me correctly. I recently came across one more like yours, but I really didn't get the chance to check it out, as we were pressed for time. Thanks for all your cool videos, Joe! :-)

8:07 PM  
Blogger Joe C said...

I have a circa 1920s Royal with stand, and a 1960 electric coronet. Would you be interested in either one of these?

6:57 AM  

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