Monday, September 28, 2020

Birthday Hike, Beer & Tacos

Rio Grande Autumn Color
“Birthday Hike, Beer & Tacos” Part One
Pez, Hard Cider & Beer
“Birthday Hike, Beer & Tacos” Part Two

During our hike we found a Pez dispensor in the underbrush. My wife was concerned some young kid would be missing it, but I assured her that it was a surprise birthday gift!

My grandson ate six tacos, along with nachos and salsa. Oh how I remember those days of youth when nothing could squelch one's appetite!

This last Sunday we had a great time online with Gregory Short of The Poor Typist blog and YouTube channel, where we had our third weekly Live Stream. We were blessed with the presence of Ted Munk, along with artist and poet David Pedersen and fellow typewriter aficionado Sarah VanAllen. Though the topic at hand was Does Size Matter?, referring of course to typewriters, most of us agreed that we mostly collect portables. I failed to mention during the live stream that, though I don't have the room for a full size standard machine, my experience with the Olympia SG3 this last year was a revelation, in that the physical bulk of the machine, how it's sheer size fills your field of vision, serves to eliminate visual distractions, helping to focus the writing experience upon the work at hand. Also, the print position is higher above the keyboard than with a portable, meaning it's more efficient to touch-type with, otherwise you'll constantly be switching your vision between the keyboard down below and the page higher up.

Next Sunday's live stream promises to be on the topic of typewriters and travel. That should be fun, as I've had a bit of experience with this. I hope you can drop in. Visit Gregory's YouTube channel for details.

Typecast via Olivetti Underwood Studio 45.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Thoughts on a Hybrid Writing Process

SCM Galaxie Twelve and The Writer Plus, text-entry keyboard
A Hybrid Writing Process

With the basis for a hybrid writing process defined, let's compare the better known AlphaSmart Neo with the Advanced Keyboard Technologies (AKT) The Writer Plus.

AlphaSmart Neo and AKT The Writer Plus Comparing Writing Keyboards

Either device would be sufficient for merging with a typewriter into a hybrid creativity system, were it not for the connectivity issue evident with The Writer Plus device. Perhaps some enterprising person will create a replacement, that will keep the used market for these devices viable as tools for creativity. Regardless, the easier to connect Neo is still readily available in the used online marketplace.

AlphaSmart Neo and AKT The Writer Plus

I like the idea of restraining the use of the computer for as long as possible in the writing process, to minimize its distractions. These keyboard text editor devices seem to be a reasonable way to bridge the gap between typewriter and word processor, by employing the necessity for first-draft revisions into an opportunity to keyboard the typewritten text into digital format. I especially like the convenience of these devices, their immediate boot-up and remarkable battery life.

AlphaSmart Neo and AKT The Writer Plus

How far into the writing process a person chooses to use a typewriter is up to them. At the minimum, I'd expect vignettes, character studies and rough ideas to easily be documented to paper via typewriter, which has the benefit of inspiring much openminded creativity, considering the physicality of the mechanical device in conjunction with the medium of paper.

There's an obvious practical limit to a paper-based writing process in this day, but these dedicated writing keyboards might serve to bridge the gap between the two. I'm hoping to do more of this hybrid writing for myself in the near future, and also as a way to thoroughly test both the Neo and The Writer Plus (along with a third machine I've yet to mention) in a longterm comparison test. Stay tuned.

Post-Script: The text of this article was written with, and beamed from, The Writer Plus.


Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Wait, I Didn't Clean It?

I went ahead and put in a new ribbon, and the imprint is much darker. I think tomorrow I'll do a video about this blue beauty. The Typewriter Database dates it to 1973. I was a sophmore in high school the year this was manufactured. I probably was taking a typing class that year, electric Underwoods (I think) and certainly IBM Selectrics. And mostly girls. Another good reason to take typing class!


Monday, September 21, 2020

The Cult of Hermes?

Hermes 3000 at Sandia Foothills

The mysterious thing about typewriters is the more you experience, the less certain you are about what might constitute the very best machine. Oh, for sure you know better than most the difference between the low-end and the high-end of the quality spectrum. And for certain, there’s lots of middle-of-the-road machines for whom excellence has not quite been achieved in either design or manufacture, but perhaps close enough, at least for some people.

The very best is a high bar to achieve - this is especially meaningful the more time you spend thinking about all the attributes of typewriters that you appreciate. For example, I had in my collection an Olympia SG3. For many, this would be considered near the apex of mechanical build quality. True enough, it’s hard to argue with that era of Olympia in terms of construction. To find a better-built machine you’re now in the rarified air of rank opinion more than absolute fact. And you still have to consider the condition of any one particular specimen.

But what if one attribute that signifies the best, like build quality, is diametrically opposed to other attributes, like portability? Or storability? The problem with the SG3 - for me - was that I didn’t have a permanent place to use it, since I live in a smaller house and store machines in closets when not in use. Full-sized office machines like the SG series don’t come with cases, meaning they’re not “portables” in any sense of the word. I also like to write in various venues and settings. These behemoths just aren’t compatible with that requirement, regardless of how well built they might be. My SG3 also had an extra-wide carriage which, because of its excess mass, meant the carriage return action was irritatingly heavy. Just enough to not be perfect.

Down on the ultra-portable end of the spectrum we find many machines very light and diminutive, easy to tote around in either their case or a messenger-style bag. But they often lack build quality, an expressive feedback touch and a full set of features. Design compromises must be made for the sake of portability.

Somewhere in the middle of the spectrum we might come closer to perfection, or its second-cousin, near-perfection, when we consider medium-sized portables, machines that technically can be lugged around in a case via a handle, but you wouldn’t be comfortable doing so for very long. They can be stored in the closet when not in use and usually come with a full set of features.

When we begin to consider the best of the medium portables there are a few brands and models that stand out, like the Smith-Corona 5 series, the Olympia SM series, the Royal QDL and the Hermes 3000. There are also many other brands and models, less easy to find, that might rank up close to this grouping. And when we begin to consider this elite group of machines, we find ourselves at odds with our own expectations. Like not being able to see the forest through the trees, or getting so close to the base of the mountain that the foothills obstruct the grand vista, so too do we find it difficult to choose just one model that’s the very best. At least for me. The royal “we.”

What if we say the Smith-Corona was the best? Then we’d have to discount the superior build quality of the Olympia, or the smoothness of the Hermes. They each have unique attributes that make them desirable, which is why they’re on the short list. It’s hard to be a monogamist here, with so many enticing machines.
And so we come to The Cult of Hermes. Even if you don’t hold the Hermes 3000 in that high of esteem, it’s hard to argue with The Cult of Hermes as a title. Sounds like The Cult of Diana, something out of ancient history, with mysterious rituals. Of course, this is all tongue-in-cheek. We imagine a Cult of Hermes because of the adoration and fanfare given to these machines by collectors, which have helped to drive up prices on the used market. What kind of Kool Aid does a person have to drink before they too are a True Believer?

Well, it took me giving the former Nekkid-Riter Hermes 3000 to my friend Kevin, before he had enough time to give the machine a fair shake. He’d been a skeptic too. Now, he’s closer to a true believer, if there is such a thing. As he told me, the 3000 just gets out of the way during the process of writing. You don’t notice it, the machine fades into the background, nothing about it stands out as an irritant or distraction. And it’s surprisingly quiet, even with a hard platen. It offers enough features to not be lacking for anything, other than perhaps a half-space feature.

Of course, we do keep our eyes on the other prized machines in the Pantheon of the Greats. We may be a Hermes cult member, but we’re also ecumenical enough to be curious about other cults, too. Lately, in fact, I’ve dipped my toe into the Cult of Olivetti. But that’s a tale for another day.

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Late Night Musings

Olivetti Underwood Studio 45
Late Night Musings Part 1
Olivetti Underwood Studio 45
Late Night Musings Part 2

Of course, I cropped in on the typings so you could read them easier, hence why you don't get that wide margin aesthetic that I promised!

I really enjoyed writing on the Studio 45. If I take my time and type with my own personal, comfortable 2-fingered technique, it seems to work fine with few, if any, problems. And, as I mentioned, it's an excuse to spend more time with it, to develop that intimacy required to become adept at its use, that cybernetic melding of man and machine (linkages and typebars becoming extensions of tendons and muscles).

It's also further reinforcement to the suggestion that perhaps I really do like 12 CPI elite typefaces better than pica, considering the other Olivettis I once owned were all pica, and I didn't get on with them as well. Live and learn.

I do have some ideas for fashioning a makeshift "case". For one, I have a padded, insulated, zippered picnic bag with carrying handles. Something like that, with a cardboard insert and padding for extra reinforcement, would permit the machine to be stored sitting up on its rear panel, easy to grab - and - go. Second, find a vintage suitcase and add extra foam padding. Third, a custom-built box. After all the effort I went to making the box for the Nekkid-Riter Hermes 3000, I'm not sure about the custom box. But I'll let the thoughts stew around in the crock-pot of the mind and see what ends up.

Stay well and keep typing.

Here's the video review of the Studio 45:


Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Studio 45

Olivetti Underwood Studio 45
Another Thrift Store Find

After I left my grandson's barber shop I stopped in at Downtown Java Joe's, a nice coffee shop that's been around for a few decades. The building gained notoriety in one of the early seasons of Breaking Bad by serving as the hideaway for Tuco, which you may remember was blown up by Walter White with his home-cooked batch of motion-sensitive explosives. I think for the filming they blew out the windows with some special charges, along with smoke grenades and other special effects to look much more violent than it was - the building itself is fine.

Downtown Java Joe’s, ABQ

After I got home and started in on servicing the Olivetti, I wanted to carefully blow out any debris with compressed air. I placed a thickly folded towel atop my workbench stool, then placed the typewriter upsidedown, with the panels removed. Gently compressed air, along with a stiff-bristled brush, served well to clean out residual debris. There was some thin foam padding in the bottom of the body that was crumbling to dust, I removed it and blew out the residue. Later, I replaced it with adhesive craft foam.

Cleaning the Studio 45
Our old southwestern-themed living room rug has served as garage workshop flooring for a few years now.

So, how do I compare this Barcelona-made Olivetti Underwood Studio 45 with other Olivettis I've owned? It's a bit more tinny and metallic/clattery sounding than the Lettera 22s or Olivetti Underwood 21. Kind of like the difference between a later Smith-Corona Corsair compared to an earlier Skyriter. In the case of the Studio 45, it has those same Olivetti design features, but the build quality is a bit lighter and thinner. Right now it's my only Olivetti. I do like the smaller, lighter design compared to the larger, heavier model 21. And the Senatorial-like typeface is nifty. But it exudes the clatter of a later-era manual portable; this ain't no German-made instrument.

In terms of finding a place to store it, for now I'll put the Sears/Nakajima daisywheel away in its case and keep the Olivetti on my desk. It does deserve to be put through its paces, if for no other reason than to test for those nagging intermittent issues.

It's funny, today as I was driving over to the thrift store I wondered if there'd be any machines waiting for me, since it'd been so long since I've gone thrifting. The thrifting gods were shining on me today.


Tuesday, September 08, 2020

Carbon Paper Ribbons on a Deserted Island

Used Carbon Paper Ribbon

Should you make carbon paper ribbons for your typewriter? That's a question only you can answer. Let's suppose you're stuck on some "desert island" with only a typewriter, plenty of typing paper, carbon paper, adhesive tape, a razor knife, scissors and a cutting board. Okay, maybe some driftwood would suffice as a cutting board. And a pair of empty ribbon spools. Let's just suppose.

At first glance, this scenario seems rather unlikely. Maybe you were on one of those special Office Supply Junky cruises to the South Pacific. You know the kind. Hobnobbing with like-minded pen and stapler geeks; seminars on the intricacies of paper sizing in the forward dance hall; unlimited food and drinks - and pens! And then bad weather hits. Maybe the captain was busy with some lovely young ladies, assisting them in refilling their fountain pen converters and didn't see the satellite weather map. It could happen, don't laugh! And then, while you were whiling away the late night, sipping brandy and conversing about fanfold paper reams, disaster strikes, the ship is tossed to and fro and you awake on the sandy shores of some uncharted island with your typewriter satchel and barely your senses intact. What's a person to do? Simple: make carbon paper ribbons.

Of course, to make this unlikely scenario more realistic, you had to have forgotten your extra typewriter ribbons back home, and then were kind enough to loan your last ribbon to the nice couple in cabin 4B, the night before the storm.

And let's pretend that Tom Hanks isn't onboard, because if you and him got stranded together, he's much more likely to survive than you. Just saying.

If you did succeed, between looking for drinking water and foraging for food, in making carbon paper typewriter ribbons, here is what the rescuers likely would find, when they eventually found your bones:

Carbon Paper Ribbon Test

After carefully slicing and dicing the precious carbon paper into precise 1/2" wide strips and taping them together with the equally precious tape, you'd then have to tape their ends to those oh-so-precious ribbon spools, thusly:

Carbon Paper Ribbon Secured to Spool with Tape

It shouldn't have to be mentioned at this point that desert island castaways should tend extra special care to keeping sand out of said precious typewriter, between foraging for food and looking for anything resembling drinking water.

Next, you'll have to carefully thread the fragile paper strip into the ribbon vibrator. You may, between boughts of panic and despair, remember to set the bichrome control to red, and lock two adjacent typebars together to keep the vibrator in the raised position, making threading said fragile paper strip into the machine a bit easier, as you pause to scan the horizon for any sign of rescuers, who by now should be combing the waters of the Southern Ocean for any trace of survivors of the tragic loss of the S.S. Rolodex.

Threading Carbon Paper Ribbon

By now your spirits and blood sugar are trending rather low, but you've had it worse, remembering that time the Hermes 3000 was shipped to you broken in pieces by some careless online seller, the scoundrel - why did it have to be you that got stranded, why not him? Is there not any justice in the world? But small victories will save the day - you've managed to successfully thread said fragile paper ribbon into said precious typewriter, and have begun typing ... what? What is there to write about? Hmm, let me think, you think.

Carbon Paper Ribbon Successfully Threaded

Now you're in the rhythm, an idea has caught itself in your craw and you're typing furiously - if only those damned fish would cooperate!

Carbon Paper Typewriter Ribbon

But alas, you've gotten too confident, that fragile paper ribbon shreds itself into tatters as you lie on the beach, sunbaked, and sob in despair at your predicament, wondering why life has to be so unfair, why you couldn't have simply used the carbon paper like normal people do; or wad it up in a ball and set it alight with the cigar torch you forgot you had in the bottom of your typewriter satchel, along with the satellite radio you so wisely brought but so foolishly forgot you had.

Used Carbon Paper Ribbon Scraps

And that, dear reader, is why you should never, ever, embark on an all expenses paid transoceanic Office Supply Junky cruise of the South Pacific. Better to stay home and tend to your precious typewriter collection in the safety and security of your humble dwelling, and let the more daring venture forth.

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Monday, September 07, 2020

Notes on the Fourth Way

To Be Filed
Notes on the Fourth Way

Stay well, stay creative, and love one another. Peace.

Typecast via Groma Kolibri.

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