Monday, June 20, 2022

The Corona 3 Folding Typewriter

Corona 3
On the Corona 3, page 2
Corona 3
On the Corona 3, page 1

As I indicated in the video, there were various versions of the Corona 3, including some with an integral carriage return arm, rather than the pinch-style of this one. Some also had automatic ribbon reverse, whereas this one has the S-curve ribbon threading path (where the ribbon threads counterclockwise on the left spool and clockwise on the right) and the spool nuts are used for manual reversing -- the nut is tightened on the intended takeup spool and loosened on the intended supply spool. It certainly gives you the feeling that you're intimately involved in the machine's operation, reminding me of a manual-transmission car.

There are 28 typebars on this model, though some international versions had up to four additional "dead-key" typebars for accent symbols. These machines also came in a variety of colors, though black was by far the most common.

The heritage of the Corona 3 comes from the Standard Folding version, made by the Standard Typewriter company from 1906 to 1912, when the company was renamed Corona. In 1925 Corona merged with L.C. Smith to form L.C. Smith & Corona Typewriter Inc.

Robert Messenger has a nice article on his blog about the history of the Corona 3 folding typewriter tripod, here.

The July 1988 edition of Et Cetera magazine has a detailed article about the Corona 3, here; and the June 1990 edition has an article about the designer of the Corona 3, here.

It was certainly fun to read back into the early days of typewriter collecting, in these back-issues of Et Cetera; wherein they recommend the Corona 3 as a good "starter" machine for neophyte collectors, due to their commonality (the collector market has certainly changed since then).

Using the Corona 3 in Practice

So, what's it like to actually use the 3-bank Corona? If you're a touch-typist, you'll find it necessary to place your right pinkie finger atop the right FIG shift key, since there are no other keys to the right of the "L". In fact, Corona made an accessory finger-support bracket for just this purpose, that clamped to the right frame member (these are about as rare as the telescoping tripod). Aside from that, I find myself typing more pedantically, using a slower, more deliberate keystroke. Part of this is so I don't outrun the machine, but also because I'm less than accustomed with the locations of the various symbols, and the necessary use of the FIG shift keys. I've made numerous typos due to instinctively hitting the CAP shift instead of FIG shift when accessing the more commonly used symbols.

Just to refresh the reader's memory, for every key except the bottom right two (,&, and .), unshifted gives you lower case letters; CAP shift gives you upper case letters; FIG shift gives you symbols and numbers. For the ",&," key, unshifted is a comma, CAP shift is the ampersand (the sole exception to symbols being accessed via the FIG shift key), while the upper comma is accessed via the FIG shift key. For the lower-right period key, all three positions yield a period. The apostrophe is a FIG shifted J, while the question mark is a FIG shifted C (which leads me to pretend that the word "question" begins with a c-sounding phonetic, just as a memory aid).

Yes, you'll require a bit of practice in order to get accustomed to the 3-bank keyboard. But yesterday I typed three full pages on the machine, what I call my typewritten journal (essentially anything typed for no other specific purpose), and I found the experience pleasant. What I noticed was my "speed of thought" -- limited by those frequent pauses required to gather my ideas into sentences, as I compose directly onto the machine -- are slowing me down more than the machine itself, or my inexperience with the keyboard layout. This might not be true were I merely transcribing text, doing what might be called secretarial work. But for rough-draft composing, the Corona 3 presents little in the way of limitations.

As I perused various websites late last night in search of more historical information on the Corona 3, I kept coming across this image, of an officer typing on the 3 using the folding tripod. Knowing my fumble-fingers technique was barely adequate to the task, as I remain less than fully versed in the keyboard layout, it got me wondering how an officer, such as the one in the photo, would get along with the machine. He appears to be using a touch-typing technique, rather than two-fingering his way across the keyboard; and I'm assuming military discipline would require error-free text. Did he have some eraser pencil handy? Was he permitted the luxury of strike-through corrections on official reports? This got me to doing a bit of searching, and I came across archives of what were essentially daily action reports. Here's one example:

You'll notice the correction made on the third line from the bottom. So it certainly seems that typos, to a certain extent, were tolerated in these daily action reports. Perhaps they would be retyped later at some divisional unit command level.

I also did a bit of searching through PDF files of US Army officers manuals, looking for the topic of typing etiquette, but came up empty before the hour got late and it was time for bed.

Though my machine is from 1929 and not The Great War, I feel some kinship with those officers and men who knelt over their typers, making reports on the day's combat. I certainly feel blessed that I can do so in the comfort and peace of my home.