Friday, March 16, 2018

Get ahead faster, improve your homework

To convince you it is a wise decision to purchase a typewriter, several manufacturers advertised not so much the machine itself, but rather the benefits you will experience.

Royal's effort here starts somewhat negative - this is not an appealing advertisement. Sitting down browsing a Popular Science magazine, this is not a headline that will instil much positive feelings when looking at the admittedly attractive machine.


A few months later, the headline is much more upbeat. Instead of noting a negative, it touts the possibilities. Much more likely to make you view the advertised machine and its make in a positive light.


A bit later still, with this advertisement they really manage to argue for the purchase of such an expensive machine for the family. Especially when the argument is that will help school results of offspring, there will be a willingness to spend the money.


Well, that does convince, doesn't it.


Well, maybe not. Today however similar arguments are used to advertise the modern-day equivalent products, such as the laptop or the tablet computer. Perhaps not quite as crass as in the old Royal magazine advertisements, but usually it is shown that the product can be used for homework.


As could this portable typewriter, it still can. The modern-day tools can however do so much better in many ways. How would the equivalent product of 80 years hence have improved further in helping the family 'get ahead' and to help make homework faster, I wonder...

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Much simplified oscillating engine

The instruction manuals of the '20-ies and '30-ies contain a lot of mechanical machinery. Next to the trucks, cranes and large excavators, they have a range of workshop machinery and engines. These models do look their age, they are very 'period'.

A neat example is this oscillating steam engine.


This is from the 1923 (Dutch) printing of the Meccano Instructions booklet for sets 1 to 3. It is built here with early '20-ies parts. For this model the book actually added some explanatory text to the single picture, but to be frank it confused me more than it clarified.


Despite its simplicity, it does nicely catch the essence of the oscillating engine. A short, stocky engine like this would have been used as a stationary engine or more likely fitted as a ship's engine (e.g. driving paddle wheels.)

As usual, the model needed some tweaking and small modifications to get enough clearance for the cylinders and to get it to work smoothly. But then it shows the two cylinders' oscillating motion on the crankshaft very well.


This drawing from the 1922 printing of the Lichtenbelt textbook on the marine steam engine shows the general arrangement of a single cylinder of such an engine.


Very simplified - an enjoyable little 3D puzzle :)

Friday, March 2, 2018

Using a crisp Portable (and not smiling)

Another scene from an older black & white movie. This is from a bigger-budget feature film of 1939, she is using an early 'twenties Remington Portable.


As she inspects the machine and then goes on to type a note on it, she still is not really smiling.


How can you be using a clean and crisp little Remington Portable and not have a smile on your face. She definitely is acting, must be.

As proof that she can smile, even laugh - later in this film she does actually laugh. (At the time that was noted as quite an event of itself.)

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Colored in black and white

By chance spotted another colored machine in a black and white movie. Any typewriter that isn't black does of course stand out, even in a monochrome film.

This fairly clearly is a two-tone Remington Portable number 3.


Near impossible to determine the color-scheme, but the character closely examining the typeface in the scene is (clearly) Charlie Chan. The typeface does play a role in the story, identifying the machine where an important note was written.

This scene is from the '35 movie 'Charlie Chan in Egypt'. Whilst most of the Charlie Chan movies are fairly decent, simple whodunnits that are still quite watchable, this instalment in the series is a bit more dated than most. Despite its generous rating on IMDb, I would say this one hasn't aged well. The far-fetched story, the acting and the cringeworthy performance of 'Snowshoes' likely make the film unpalatable to modern audiences. It all does make it a product of its era.

Let's just say that there are better Charlie Chan movies to watch today.
(Even if they're without any sightings :)

Friday, February 16, 2018

Damaged label!

Hadn't had it happen to me yet - but last week the needle jumped the groove and pirouetted onto the label.


This type of damage to the label is sometimes seen on shellac records. It's mostly on older records, early 'twenties or before. The heavy reproducer with its needle is knocked out of the groove and slides over the record onto the label, scratching a groove where it goes.

Having seen it happen now, it makes a bit more sense that it's seen mainly on older records that would've been played on gramophones without an automatic brake. When the spiral of a record hurries to the central run-out (fast - to trigger the automatic brake mechanisms), the heavy reproducer of the older gramophone is thrown out of the groove.

This record already had one such damage, so could have known it was sensitive to this with probably a very shallow groove - letting the HMV101 gramophone run out only seconds too long gave an awkward scratching sound. And another spiral on the label.

Play only on auto-brake instruments - or listen to a digital version of the same recording :)




Sunday, February 4, 2018

From Quill to Typewriter

The piece from the editor so titled is actually not about the typewriter.


Naturally writing technology progressed also prior to the writing machine, hadn't considered the milestones of progress of the pen itself this early. (More recent and better known of course the fountain pen and the ubiquitous Biro.)

The article does make me see the simple metal nib pen in a slightly different light - an artefact of technological progress and product of the industrial revolution.



Incidentally, the closest item to a typewriter in this October '30 issue of the Meccano Magazine is this Braille typing machine.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Colored streamlined five

Typewriters are shown in many films, being the 'every-day' objects that they were. Most are fairly standard and recognisable machines. In the '37 film 'Rhytm in the Clouds', it looks that a less common machine is shown.

The film itself is a low-budget, fairly simple comedy with music and some romance. Typical of its genre/time; unpretentious, light entertainment. (If curious, the film can be found on the net - a.o. on the Archive.)

Around 8 minutes into the story, the songwriter (Warren Hull) is sitting at his typewriter in his swanky apartment. It looks quite clearly a Remington portable #5.


When the story again is at his apartment around the 40 minute mark, the machine is shown more clearly and it definitely is a Remington streamlined #5 portable typewriter. (Swanky, spacious apartment - with a white phone too.)


What is notable and unusual is that the machine shows quite light in the film. The regular black #5 typewriter would show very dark in the picture, but this machine definitely is not black.

Remington made #2 and especially the #3 portables in many colors, but the #5 came in black. Only by the late 'forties was the #5 made in crinkle grey, but this scene was filmed in '37. Did it also come in colors? It did come as a Smith Premier machine with a red top-cover. The machine shown is however not red, as reds would have shown darker with the film used at the time - as well as the whole machine being light.

A brief search on the hive-mind that is the internet turned up the Remington teaching typewriter:


This is a streamlined #5, but finished in a greyish shade of tan. That would be about right for the light shade in the film. (For larger images; there is currently one on offer at Etsy.)

Did the prop department of Republic give the songwriter a beginners, teaching machine? In the last scene with the machine, the camera briefly shows the keyboard - no visible signs of colored columns of keys. Maybe they went to the trouble of painting a machine to match the general luxury of his apartment - for a low-budget Republic production, that however seems a bit too much.

So maybe the wealthy songwriter did get a colored keys teaching machine :-)