Friday, June 29, 2018

Talkie art deco (use each needle only once)

When playing records on a 78 rpm wind-up gramophone, every side needs to be played with a new needle - so these needles were widely sold. Mostly in small tins of 200 needles. This is just such a tin. Très art deco.


The design and labelling 'Columbia Talkie Needles' is partly obscured by the paper wrap-around seal. As is the message to 'use each needle once only'.

The paper seal repeats at the bottom of the tin that it contains 200 needles.


When breaking the seal and opening the tin, the paper inlay again cautions against using a needle more than once.


When lifting up the paper, the reverse again repeats the message to use each needle once only!


And inside are still about 200 pristine gold-toned needles; to be used once ONLY.

(Having survived to this day, these needles may not be used for a while, or ever - not even once only.  :-)

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Carrying handle quick repair (when riveted to case)

The handles of the carrying case of older portable typewriters are often riveted to the wooden case and not screwed. Usually the 'splayed' type of rivet is used that is hard to remove without seriously damaging the case. This can make it a bit of a challenge to repair the carrying handle when that succumbs to old age and fatigue. On some old cases you see rope wound round the metal rings, or the handle is just missing.

On this case of an Adler portable typewriter, one end of the handle had given way and the other end didn't look too healthy either. Did not want to completely fit a new handle - aiming to keep the machine as close to original (albeit worn) state as possible.

Simply gluing seemed unlikely to be strong enough. With a strip of metal sheet however, tin can or similar, the leather handle-ends can be 'fixed'. (Tin snips...)

The space between the top two and the lower two layers of leather are cut open in case of any stitching in the way. Then a thin metal strip is fed between these layers, with the handle mounted in position over the rings/lugs of the case. The strip is inserted about an inch into the handle and as wide as the space between the side stitching allows. The edges of the strip can be sharp, best use needle-nose pliers to drive it into position.


The broken leather end is glued in place again. The handle now probably still won't be able to take the weight of the machine. To fix it in place, a nail is driven through the handle on a still-strong section of leather and through the metal strip. A strong, thick nail or an awl to drive the hole - then a thinner nail is inserted. This nail is then bent round like a staple (pliers). The pointy-bit of the nail should be tucked safely away...

With the glue all set and the nail in place, the carrying handle is now again firmly fixed to the case. It does show as a repair, but not too bad for a quick fix.


When handled with care, this fix should be strong enough to carry the machine for a couple of decades to come.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Type-in at an art festival...

See article about the 'editing room' tent at the Oerol Festival.

The article is in Frisian, that Google Translate actually does support (sort of). The English translated text is a bit surreal - dadaist prose generator...

But there are pictures at the bottom of the page that explain; machines at a festival for anyone to come and type up a simple story and pin it to the wall. Just type :)

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Sighting of an Adler (and a tenor)

Usually typewriters in (American) films of the thirties and forties are readily recognised as common (American) machines.

In this scene from the (German) movie 'Ein Lied Geht Um Die Welt', a slightly less common (German) typewriter can be seen. It is used by the secretary at the theatrical agent's office, sitting on her table.


It's fairly small in the image, but it is clearly the distinctive profile of an Adler thrust-typewriter. Still gleaming and shiny, it may be an Adler 7.

The pair walking away from the camera are the main characters of the film - two friends, a clown and a singer. The tall one is the clown, the diminutive figure is the singer.


The actor playing the singer in this film is the tenor (and cantor) Joseph Schmidt. The film premiered in Germany in May 1933...

Despite his small stature, Joseph Schmidt had quite a voice!  As witnessed from the record(s) found over the past couple of weeks.

:-)

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Felt for Four rubber

A simple tweak that can usually be done with an old typewriter is to replace the felt of the typebar rest. It often is compacted and may be moldy, a source of the 'old typewriter smell'. Replacing with new felt will improve the sound dampening and for some machines improves the line-up of the typebars at rest too.

This Corona Four portable typewriter types quite nicely, but is horrendously noisy. Of course the platen is the main source, but the typebars return-drop was also very noisy and all little bits help.

On these Corona machines however the typebar-rest was not of felt, but consists of a rubber tube held in a channel-strip. This tube will surely have been soft and dampening when new; today it is rock solid. The net effect is a nice, loud 'clack' as the typebar drops back - makes sense as a hard hollow tube being struck on the side is pretty much the design of a tam-tam / jungle-drum.


To replace the typebar-rest, the first step is to remove the front panel. The four small screws were corroded fast on this machine, but leaving a small (small!) drop of oil on each screw for a few months solved that completely. Now also easier to clean and polish the bit behind the top bank of keys.


A small rubber-band will keep the typebars out of the way and allow the typebar-rest to be taken off easily, by removing the two small screws at either end.


The old, hard rubber can then be pried out of the channel-segment. (Taking care not to bend the fairly flimsy metal part.) Before you do this, you may want to measure the height of the rubber in the channel.


Not having soft rubber tube at hand in the right diameter, decided to replace with felt. To make a strip of the right thickness and height, had to fold-over a thick felt with a third layer inside - spots of glue to keep it all in place. It needed clamping tight to let the glue dry and keep it in shape - does look a bit like an exotic caterpillar...


Not to worry about the length, to be cut to size after fitting, but do fuss about the correct height. The height needs to be large enough to provide enough damping, but if it's a bit too high then the typebars are too close together at rest. Then the type-slugs will foul each other and/or make extra noise as they drop back. (As I found out... : )


With the channel-segment fitted with a new felt strip that is tucked in nicely (sharp screwdriver to push it to the bottom at all sides), it can be fitted back onto the machine. All the typebars should now again line up nicely - and make just a little less noise as they drop back.


And then of course mount the front panel again (the typebars just peeking over the rim). A slightly less noisy, but still very loud little typewriter.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Then two come at once

Like the proverbial buses. A few weeks after buying a Joseph Schmidt record, I got a small rack of records via/from a colleague and that contained the same record.

Listed on the index booklet for the Plattofix record rack, at the bottom of the page the record by Joseph Schmidt: O Sole Mio and La Paloma.


This Plattofix rack probably dates from the forties', but most of the records are older. The index seems to have been filled out over a short period, the records loosely ordered by genre. Later some records were probably broken, their entry replaced with a stuck-on label written in another hand.

Again the same record, but surprisingly now on the fairly uncommon Esta label, made in Czechoslovakia with all label text in German (export). 


This seems exactly the same recording as the Elite Special record (Swiss) from a few weeks ago. The same artist and same orchestra and sung in German. Strangely though, the matrix is different - they did do a transfer.

Similar to The Typewriterdatabase, there is an online collaborative database for shellacs. (And a few other, more private sites.) On this community database site (www.45worlds.com/78rpm) these two recordings can be found first on a 1932 release on the Broadcast label. Either the recording was sold to others after Broadcast was shut down in '34, or it was a recording (Ultraphone?) widely sold for some time to any and all.

Anyways it is neat to see how a collaborative database can add information on niche subjects, this would not have been so easy to see before 'the information age'.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Technical colour, a brilliance never before attainable

When first introduced, the strips and plates of Meccano were nickel plated. This gives the small mechanical models a fairly neutral and technical appearance - albeit a bit boring perhaps.


Starting first with a bright pea-green lacquer on some parts in '26, from 1927 on then all strips and plates are a technical dark green and red. This coloured 'New Meccano' fits well with machinery colours of the time and gives the small models nonetheless a livelier appearance. These are toys after all. (Freelance monoplane in period parts by 8yr old.)


Then without any advance warning a new colour scheme is announced in a black and white advert in the Meccano magazine of November 1934. This proudly announces new blue and gold parts! To illustrate what the monochrome print cannot convey, some newly re-painted example parts alongside the magazine.


In the following December 1934 issue an article then shows some of the newly introduced parts and how these can be used.


The plates do overcome an issue with the Meccano system by then that all models are 'wireframe' and are becoming a bit antiquated. Also a completely new range of lettered sets is introduced that is different from the previous numbered range. A whole slew of complex upgrade sets is carried to bridge every possible gap between the old and new ranges.

They were indeed right - the models really are in eye-popping colour. Comparing the old dark green and red with the new colour, the system made a clear step towards being the toy that it really was and moving on from the origins of also being a system of mechanical demonstration. (Both are examples of 'most useless machines' created by the children.)


Having re-painted a small batch of parts in the blue and gold colour-scheme, these proved the most popular with the intended age-group today. At least a first seeing them, the parts 'wow' with their colour. There was a bit of a mixed reception at the time as I've read, with comments that it was not quite 'boys stuff'. Even so, am suspecting it could have been similar back then - if they ever did do some 'consumer testing' with the intended age group, the colours probably 'wow'-ed them too back then :-)

Brilliant technical colour!

Monday, May 21, 2018

Three more items, a cross-section

The large thrift shop (with that Erika M) also had a vast store of records. Bins and bins filled with vinyl. Bins with large, once expensive box sets (now for 1,-)

Just as we were going to leave, spotted a small carton on the floor labeled '78'. And indeed the box contained a small set of around 15 shellacs. All were in similar sleeves, clearly came as a set from one source. Had a quick browse and selected three of them. At 1,- per record the shellacs are expensive compared to the large vinyl box-sets, but still very affordable :-)

It's a nice cross-section of the collection in the box, a set that probably grew slowly over decades. Records were expensive. (And this was not a wealthy area...)

When getting new shellacs, part of the fun is discovering the music and finding out a bit about the discs and their context:


This is the most recent disk of the three, one by Joseph Schmidt. Already had a nice recording of him, so felt sure I'd like this one too. This looks like a forties' issue, and that could be. The actual recordings or matrices could be older, as there's a 'Broadcast 12' issue from '32 with exactly these two songs. Not mentioned on the label, but he actually sings the song in German. (A buyer 'd want to know that, I would think.) The disk was manufactured in Holland for the Swiss "Turicaphon" company, so it could perhaps be a post-war pressing. Joseph Schmidt died at the Swiss border in '42.


The next record is easy to date, as it contains the mechanical copyright notice 1927. Got this one, if only for the label design - the Polydor figure (alien?) is grandiose. And of course 'Alte Kameraden' is a classic - also back then an echo of a previous era I think. Polydor was the name used by the Deutsche Grammophon outside of Germany. The Gramophone Company's German assets were expropriated in the 1st World War, but this now-German company could of course not use the Gramophone Company name or trademarks (Nipper) in the rest of the world - hence Polydor. And the little alien.


This last record was not in its sleeve, but had spotted a sleeve with the title written on it so shuffled them about to get this one back in its sleeve. This disc looks quite old and it also sounds old - from digging around various corners of the internet it can be dated to about 1912. It has the typical acoustic recording sound of that era, the singers giving it a good effort (gusto!). When bought new this was a high-end, luxury item, a record for the new talking machine. Judging from the mostly late 30-ies and later discs in the box, the family perhaps got this as a hand-me-down or purchased it second-hand.

Listening to this record gives the atmosphere of a very different era - the time just before 'the lamps went out'. The title and message of this song: "Lasset uns das Leben geniessen"; let's enjoy life.


Three records - now with a bit of context :-)

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Sightings (and a purchase)

We went to a local thrift shop yesterday. It's a fairly large store that raises funds for the shelter next-door to it, and attracts quite a lot of visitors from the area. The place is neatly organised in sections with the different halls categorised, an area full of books, another large hall filled with furniture etc.

There generally aren't a lot of typewriters in local junkshops, but here next to the general tools section was a shelf with typewriters. A good selection, but of course all fairly modern and (to me) not appealing machines. (With the possible exception of the little Brother near the back.)


At the head of the aisle a very solid looking Olivetti 82. Can imagine that was deemed a bit too heavy for the shelf. It still is a very striking styling, almost as if a regular Lexikon 80 was given the 'low-poly' treatment. You can see some 70-ies design language already emerging, I think.


Further on in a furniture section surprisingly was a lone Erika from the late thirties'. This looked a bit forlorn, missing one spool, but otherwise it seemed in fine shape. The touch was still very light and free.


A very nice Model M - so with all the luxury features of keyboard tab setting and clearing.

This trip I actually bought something. Looked at that nice Erika M, but left the machine sitting on its table in the furniture section. ("Enough typewriters!")

For 1.50 did pick up the little banjo-style oilcan lying next to the Diaspron - should come in useful :)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Rubber, still rubber

This is amazing.

This is a little motor tyre, in the Meccano system this is part number 142c. This particular specimen can be dated to around 1930. Made by Dunlop (in England, hence it's a tyre).


The amazing thing about this particular tyre is that it is still rubber. At a guess, let's say Shore 70. Even the 1950s tyres have all gone to stone, rock-hard. The two other part 142c that were in this job-lot had turned to unrecognisable lumps of donut-shaped tarmac. This particular tyre would have experienced the same storage conditions over the past 90 years or so as the others, yet this one is pristine.

Natural rubber is a strange material...

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 :-)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

11C

Odd one out.


This one is very much electronic, not mechanical.


Also it is a departure, not an arrival.


Similar to many slide rules, it has some useful information on the back. Not conversion tables, but instructions on the more advanced use of the calculator. (As had the more simple Lawrence slide rules.)


This is an 11C (obviously...), of the 'Voyager' line of scientific calculators introduced by HP in '81. By then, the electronic calculator had well and truly rendered the slide-rule obsolete. Even though it's already 30+ years old, this specimen still works fine. Come to that, it has no dependancies on external 'networks', replaceable batteries, is low power and has no moving parts - it should remain functional for a while still.

There are collectors of early electronic calculators, and especially of the early HP scientific calculators.

Last week I got asked via-via by a collector of early calculators if perhaps knew of or had one of these that I'd be willing to let go of. I had and I was. So this particular specimen has now been passed on to a collector who was looking for one of these :-)