Sunday, June 30, 2019

Railroading to Las Vegas

Las Vegas, NM
Train station, Las Vegas, NM

Railroading to Las Vegas, Part 1
Las Vegas, NM
Antique Store, Las Vegas, NM

Railroading to Las Vegas, Part 2
Las Vegas, NM
Charlie's Spic & Span, Las Vegas, NM

Railroading to Las Vegas, Part 3

Post-Script: I need to remind myself to do more train travel, even if it's a short ride, like this wonderful weekend getaway. The price of the tickets was reasonable, the trip took around 3 hours, and the dining car offered the option of lunch, which we enjoyed. But the destination of a remodeled former Fred Harvey hotel was a great destination. And, though Las Vegas, NM isn't exactly a cosmopolitan getaway, it offered sufficient entertainment in terms of eateries and antique stores, keeping in mind we were on foot - the furthest we had to walk was about a mile.

Yes, trains are also ideal for typewriters. The idea of sitting high up in the lounge car, scenery passing by through the picture windows, is a romantic notion. But alas, our relatively short ride was occupied mainly by a leisurely lunch in the dining car, so no typing was done. But for a longer trip, a typewriter is certainly a requirement.

Here's a video about our weekend:

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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Pushing Up Daisywheels

Sears The Electronic Communicator 1, made by Nakajima.
Pushing Up Daisywheels, Part 1
Silent-Super on Holiday (Case)
Pushing Up Daisywheels, Part 2

Post-Script: There's no getting around the fact that most of us typewriter aficionados are in it mainly for the aesthetics and build quality over just the pure writing experience. Meanwhile, most non-aficionado people I've talked to during public typewriter gatherings couldn't care less about shiny black pre-WWII manual machines, for instance; they just wanted and needed a machine to reliably produce copy to keep the boss happy; a practical, reliable writing tool. In that regard these well-made Nakajima daisywheel machines fit the bill perfectly.

Sure, they sport an ungainly footprint; I have no need to type crosswise on legal-sized paper, thank you very much. Likewise, I'm not enamored by beige plastic everywhere I look. But I've got to say, when it comes to throwing down letters on paper reliably, these machines just do the job.

Because of their design, you just aren't going to have those nagging little issues that plague even the best of manual typers, regardless of how we might love their build quality and appearance. Electronic typewriters seem to function in a Boolean fashion: they either work, or they don't. There's little middle ground of so-so action, like with manual machines.

Daisywheel machines aren't without their disadvantages, let no one convince you otherwise. Their ungainly footprint is due to the fact that the print mechanism requires a wider throw than the width of the platen itself, to accommodate the drive band, pulleys and width of the print mechanism. They are also invariably chained to a power cord, there's little getting around that. In comparison, our beloved little thermal machines begin to appear a lot closer to ideal, were it not for that one sticky problem of needing to use thermal paper. Daisywheel machines are boringly efficient. If you need writing done, they'll do it in spades, but won't scratch your aesthetic itch like our lovely manual typewriters.

What I've tried to convey in this post is that there are intrinsic tradeoffs. While it would be nice to have every manual machine in our collection operate absolutely, 100% flawlessly all the time (and I am seeing a new trend toward quality over quantity with typewriter collectors), that just ain't going to happen, for a number of reasons, mainly to do with physics and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. So our expectations need to be adjusted to the reality of owning, and using, these marvelous mechanical writing instruments.

Likewise, these nearly flawless Nakajima machines have their aesthetic downsides that just aren't going to be resolved. We have to learn to live with them, if we are to use them for their intended purpose, which I think to be serious writing.

Will a daisywheel machine offer the same advantages over word processing on computers as we experience with manual machines, that of reduced distraction and enhanced focus? Absolutely. And they'll most likely do so with less fuss and bother since, in spite of their plastic bodies and electronics, they represent an intrinsically more reliable design. But you won't be going to the cabin or the woods with one, and you'd be hard pressed to use one after The Big One hits and the power grid is down and you've ran out of carbon film cartridges. But in the meanwhile, before it does hit, if you have some serious writing to do, consider one of these machines as the epitome of typewriter evolution.

PPS: No, I'm not giving up my manual machines anytime soon. But this is the second Nakajima daisywheel in my collection, and I remain impressed. Also, they're still being made today, and marketed in the US under the Swintec name.

Yes, I need a new correction tape in the Sears Nakajima, thank you for noticing!

PPS: Yes, I had issues with Flickr inverting my images, I hope it's all fine now.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

An Ideal Adventure

Congress Hotel, Tucson
Congress Hotel Typecast

Post-Script: We ate breakfast at the hotel cafe, then after loading up our gear and checking out, we headed over to the eCommerce Goodwill to pick up Kevin's Ideal model A2. I was surprised when I saw it, since Kevin has lately been collecting ultra-portables, but this one is a wonderfully crafted machine from 1901. I'll have to do a more detailed review of it once it's cleaned.

From the Goodwill in Tucson we drove over to Mesa, a two-hour drive, and spent most of the day at Mesa Typewriter Exchange with Bill Wahl and Ted Munk. A fun time was had, as Bill spent the majority of his time talking with Kevin about the Ideal, and Ted entertained me with a show-and-tell from Bill's ultraportable collection. I really need a cameraman to do a more thorough job of documenting these encounters, as I barely had time to shoot much footage with Bill.

Also, had I not been feeling so under the weather we might have stayed the evening and spent more time with Bill & Ted; but we got on the road by 4PM, and arrived home by 11:30 at night.

I'm still recuperating today, and feel like I may have to call in sick tomorrow. Oh well, so it goes.

I enjoyed using the Silent-Super for this trip, despite it being heavier than a Rocket or Skyriter. The new rubber rollers really make a difference. This is the closest it's come to functioning like a new machine since it was, well, new. A far cry from its origins as a grungy, stinky, broken typer. I've probably spent more time over the years working on this one machine than any other in my collection. But now it runs like it should. Good bones, good design.

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