Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Thermal Typing Madness


Post-Script: Today I took the EP-20 in its carry bag up to the cigar store ("up" in ABQ meaning uphill, easterly, closer to the Sandia mountains) and had a chance to work with it, along with the roll of 8.5" wide thermal fax paper. Nestled in my lap, the paper sat comfortably on my knees behind the machine, though it would work better with some bracket to keep the paper from falling on the floor should I move the wrong way. Yes, I do have the wooden paper roll holder, but it's too bulky to take in the little carry bag with the machine. I'll therefore have to fashion some kind of wire bracket thingie sometime soon.

I had to remember to give the paper a "service loop", so it would be free to feed through the machine during a carriage return, else the line spacing can get wonky.

In actual practice, I would keep the machine powered off (I was using D-cells) until some thought struck me, at which point I'd turn it on and start typing. The correction feature of the 16-character LCD display is pretty handy for ironing out most typos, though a few snuck through anyway.


I thought I was going to do some profound writing, but being seated next to the TV in the cigar lounge that was blaring some obnoxious court show, it was all I could do to remember my own name. I did end up with some journal notes, not a total waste of time.

After I got home with a bit of writing, ready to archive in my notebooks, I figured out the best way to bind these long scrolls of paper is to hole-punch the bottom edge, crosswise to the paper along the 8-1/2" width, then insert in a 3-ring binder and fan-fold the paper scroll so it fits snuggly in the binder. It can then be unfolded to be read. The width is enough to permit being punched by two of the three holes in a 3-ring binder punch, sufficient to be securely bound.

I don't think this little thermal typewriter is a real substitute for a good manual typewriter, but what it has going for it is: light weight; small size, nearly dead-quiet operation and quick response between pressing a key and seeing the characters printed - better than most daisy wheel typewriters I'd estimate. Its negatives are being electric (though the D-cell batteries work well enough) and having to use thermal paper; the original carbon film ribbon cartridges are not being manufactured, and online are exorbitantly expensive; another reason to treat it as a thermal-only machine.

Here's a printout from Ted Munk's Canon Typestar 4 thermal printing typewriter, that I tested when in Mesa, AZ last week. The Brother EP-20 predates the Typestar machines. Note the Typestar line offers more fonts and font sizes than the little Brother machine:


For more details about this machine, see the video:

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Targus Bag & R.I.G. Typing


Errata: 3rd paragraph should read "AlbuQWERTY Type Writer Society;" in my haste to upload I failed to make annotations.

The Rocket fits snuggly in the Targus bag:

A toy typewriter for sale at Rust is Gold:

Their unique parking lot sign:

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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Eggnog Latte?


The espresso shot:

The Creamland eggnog:

The finished result:

Post-Script: This blog posting was brought to you by fond memories of the past heyday of blogging when, even with a blog dedicated to specific subjects like typewriters, it was common to also just post about any old thing that struck you. Kind of like what people now do with Base Fook. Why the heck not, I says. So there you have it. Nothing profound, just eggnog warmed up in the microwave, with espresso added. And a typewriter. Because.

Now, you sticklers for accuracy out there might be wondering about the caloric impact of eggnog, versus just the normal (for me) coffee drink of raw sugar and whole milk with espresso. Well, this particular beverage wasn't as sweet as my normal coffee (but the spices made up for it), so it probably has less sugar; but there's also other stuff in the eggnog besides just sugar. So it's probably a wash. Don't do this because you think you're going on a health food kick, no sir. Because eggnog.

That is all.

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Test-Typing Munk's Collection

The Triumph Perfekt from Ted Munk's collection.

Test-typing someone else’s typewriter collection is often a messy business. You aren’t thinking about finely crafted prose or pristine impressions of ink upon paper. Often - or at least in my case - it’s more like a hurried flurry of poorly typed letters, hardly representing real words at all.

Such were my attempts at test typing on some of Ted Munk’s collection of typewriters, during my recent visit to Mesa, Arizona.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a video summary of my trip to Arizona:

First up was the Canon Typestar 4. This is a machine resembling in form an early 1990s laptop computer. The Typestar line features a small LCD display for editing-as-you-type; a carbon film ribbon cartridge (that’s no longer in manufacture, but examples can be purchased online at exorbitant prices) and a thermal printing feature. It’s this latter ability to print onto a roll of thermal paper that makes these machines still viable.


In actual use, we had an issue getting the text to show on the small LCD screen as we typed; it may have been due to some cryptic setting on the machine. As a result, and because of the location of the thermal print head, it’s somewhat like using a blind typewriter, where you can’t see what you’ve written until after a line advance.

Still, the laptop-like feel of the keyboard, and diminutive form-factor, made for a writing experience somewhat like an AlphaSmart device, with the added benefit of a print-out on thermal paper. No, this isn’t considered an archival medium, but for rough-draft writing it’s more than adequate. You’d want to transcribe your draft onto archival typewritten text once back home; or into a word processor for more formal editing.

In use the machine is nearly dead-silent; you wouldn’t have an issue typing in a quiet coffee shop or on an airline tray table next to a finicky flier. Powered by four D-cell batteries, it’s a nifty little unit. There were a number of machines made in the Typestar line. I couldn’t find a convenient online synopsis of the various models’ features, however. Perhaps Rev. Munk has some resources.


The Brother EP-20 is like a small brother (pun alert) to the Canon Typestar. It too used a now-obsolete carbon film ribbon, and also features thermal printing. Its keys are more like calculator chicklet keys, but the machine is even thinner than the Typestar. It’s thermal printing isn’t as nice as the Canons, obviously more dot-matrix in appearance, but essentially dead quiet.

The tradeoff with the Brother is an even smaller form factor for less sophisticated text - which may not be a bad thing, considering thermal-printed text is essentially a temporary medium anyway.


The Royal Companion is a cute little depression-era machine that takes up a small footprint. Ted’s sample has a wonderful finely textured black finish. I was enamored by the small size. It’s kind of like a miniature QDL. The typing action was pretty darned good, too. I can see why it’s one of Ted’s keepers.


The Remington Scout was an interesting machine. The type bars lie flat for storage, then are raised up by a lever for use, resembling in my overly-active imagination like a ready-to-strike velociraptor in Jurassic Park. This example has a wonderful Art Gothic typeface.

Of special note is the function of the carriage return/line advance mechanism, where the main lever rests toward the rear, with a separate lever for advancing the line spacing.


The bright red Olivetti Valentine stuck out on Ted’s shelves like an Italian starlet in the spotlight. This was my first time seeing one in person (typewriter or Italian starlet) and I was duly impressed. From online reports, I’d expected the feel of the keyboard to be less than impressive, but I was surprised at the touch. If they’re all like this one, I can see why they’re so popular. Of course, you’re not going to go out typing in public with one of these unless you’re purposely trying to attract attention to yourself. Best to spend time with your hot little Italian in the privacy of home.

The Triumph Perfekt was the biggest surprise of the day. I loved the no-nonsense curves of the machine and its solid build quality. But the feel of the keyboard was most impressive. First, the slope and spacing of the keys was perfekt. But the action of the keys was great - kind of like a cross between a Hermes 3000 and Olympia SM-something. The resistance of the keys was steady and consistent throughout the entire keystroke. Smooth. Wonderful. I was smitten. Reading back on Ted’s blog, he picked up this beauty for all of $10. The typewriter gods certainly smiled on him that day.

It’s nice to see and use in person machines you’d otherwise only read about online. And I’ve gained a bit more insight into Ted’s typewriter collecting preferences. Another good reason to associate yourself with fellow typewriter enthusiasts - we all can learn from each other.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Road Typing

Common Grounds Coffee Shop in Payson, AZ

Post-Script: We arrived home this evening after enduring a loooong line of traffic in Gallup, NM, due to a traffic accident; it added about an hour to our trip.

It was nice having the Rocket back, after Bill did his magic to it. I did a bit of journal typing at the hotel breakfast room before we left. One of the wait staff stopped and told me she loved the sound of the machine, and was surprised at how small it is. Along the way we stopped in at Common Grounds Coffee in Payson, AZ for a cuppa, where I worked a bit on this article, during which a fellow patron also commented on the typewriter. She mentioned that she had an old pink Corona back home, I encouraged her to break it out and start using it.

While my wife drove the first leg of the journey back home, I tried writing in my journal (with the new Rotring 600 mechanical pencil), but the vehicle's movement made my handwriting even more sloppy than normal. Another good reason to do road typing instead. I like the feel of the machine on my lap, as I pause, look out the window and think about my next line of text. There's no hurry, as the miles fly by; and the machine is plenty patient - it's not like batteries are being spent.

It was great seeing Ted, Bill, Cameron and Erik again. This business of smuggling typewriters back-and-forth across the Continental Divide could get risky, but no black helicopters were noted. I prefer the drive rather than flying, despite the time it takes, as I don't want to risk flying with typewriters; plus, there's more junk you can stuff in your car than what the airlines would allow you to take onboard.

Okay, time to start uploading video footage and see what kind of story I can piece together.


We brought our entire espresso kit with us. Because that's what you can do when you drive instead of fly. When you're coffee snobs like us!

Holbrook, AZ
Holbrook, AZ

Sometimes it's the little things that count. (Holbrook, AZ)

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Update Just to Update


Post-Script: I had a pleasant distraction while writing my treatment for the Cold Hard Type project, which was that the co-owner of the Rust is Gold coffee shop asked me to type some index cards with names of coffee beans that they roast, for a photo shoot she was doing. I was happy to oblige.


They have a cool motorcycle display, that changes every once in a while, as a local club meets there.


One of the adjoining booths sells '70s HiFi and guitar stuff. Pretty cool.


As you can see in the top photo, I wrote my treatment on the Royal Mercury (the more recent one I'd acquired), but this typecast today was written on the old Underwood Portable.


Yesterday, while working on the video about the typing platform, I pushed my office chair back and tipped over the folding tray table, with Underwood atop it, which crashed to the floor. Luckily it is hardwood with a rug on top. The machine doesn't appear harmed at all, which surprised me. Gotta be more careful!

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Thoughts From the Man Cave


Post-Script: I was given this worn copy of Collier's New Photographic History of the World's War some years ago, by a colleague at work. It was in dire need of restoration back then, and hasn't improved with age. I recently saw a copy in better condition at an antique store, but for some reason didn't purchase it, which I now regret.


This book isn't reportage or journalism, but rather a collection of propaganda images - "Photographs By the Official Photographers Accompanying Each Army" the cover reads. Here you won't see explicit dead corpses of once vital youth, though that was certainly a reality. There is instead a hint of the horrors, as we see troops wearing gas masks, and aerial photos of gas attacks from a distance and the flare of napalm - "liquid fire," as the caption reads.


The book's intent, as I see it, was a carefully trod path between mere nationalist patriotism and the horrible realities of industrial-scale warfare upon the fragile humanity of young soldiers. It hints at the unspeakable while honoring the dead with images of parades and brave youth, doughboys and bemedalled officers alike.

One eye-opening fact I gleaned from this book was the reliance upon draft horse in the logistics of the war. Page upon page of horse drawn wagons and carts seemed at first out of place with what I thought I knew about the conflict, until I stopped to consider the newness of motorized transport in the second decade of the new century. One wonders about the need for supplying feed, and care, to these armies of horses, and the carnage they inevitably must have underwent.

Another interest I've had in that conflict was the Zeppelin airships. Here we see the wreckage of the L49, which landed essentially intact and provided the allies with vital intelligence, later serving as a model for the U.S. Navy's U.S.S Shenandoah. It has been speculated by airship historians that the reason the Shenandoah later broke apart in a violent line squall over Ohio was because the L49 that she was patterned after was a so-called "height-climber" model, specially lightened so as to increase her ceiling but also rendered structurally weaker. The German pilots evidently knew how to fly her in the dense lower atmosphere to stay within safe structural limits, but perhaps the U.S. Navy was a bit more cavalier in their pilotage of the Shenandoah; at least, that is what is speculated by experts such as Douglas H. Robinson.


None of my immediate family served in the Great War; my great-grandfather was too old, and my grandfather was a rancher and thus exempt from the draft. Some years ago, there was a series on PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) here in the States about the Great War, within which it was speculated that the remainder of the 20th century, up to and including the fall of the Soviet Union, was really aftermath, unsettled issues, arising as a result of the Great War. Perhaps. History is complex, more so than we can comprehend within the grasp of our limited purview. But it certainly was a foreshadowing of even greater horrors later in the century.

Though it was billed as "The War to End all Wars," it didn't live up to that title. Somehow, we've managed to sweep the horrors of previous conflict under the rug of today's new crises, along with the broken lives of past survivors, and concoct reason enough to engage in the next war.

PPS: On a brighter subject, I enjoyed typing with my recently acquired Royal Mercury, which remains in pristine condition - though it has a bit of a line slipping problem, perhaps caused by hardened pressure rollers. Which reminds me that there is no perfect typewriter, we just have to learn to live with a certain level of imperfection.

I'm sorry I was unable to attend the Phoenix Type-In today, as I couldn't get free time to depart on Saturday to get over to Phoenix in time for the event. But my best wishes remain with the Arizona contingent of the Insurgency, hoping you all had a great time.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Typosphere Care Package

The Underwood atop the typing platform on my workbench.

Ko-Rec-Type pack, Olympus Pearlcorder, headphones and cigar accoutrements. Had the garage door open to air it out while smoking. And a fan blowing.

I missed my opportunity to get a free gift from 1988!

This must be where all the letters go that you type, when they don't show up on the screen!

Only a bit of residue from the Ko-Rec-Type. Mostly blows off with a can of compressed air. It goes down more reliably than those rolls of correction tape.

Some results from today's Afghan box camera testing, along with typewritten notes.

I'm thinking about an americanized name for these devices, other than "Afghan box camera", or "camera minutera". I kind of like "wet box camera".


I considering getting a set of small bookshelf speakers for the garage, but had a good time today with Ted's tapes just wearing headphones. And I can blast it without bothering the neighbors, or my wife!

Thank you Ted for the care package. Now I'll have to get busy, acquire an analog video capture device and get you some footage of those experimental videos from the late '90s - early aughts. And maybe even an episode of "The Joe Show" from the late 1980s.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Dead Words, Dead Leaves, Dead Letters


Post-Script: Leaf-typings, a week post-mortem.
Typecast via SCM Skyriter.


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