Friday, July 1, 2022

Triumph of the XX century - eclipses every calculating machine!

Bold claims.

The general calculator is:

An aid for the entirety of calculus!

Eclipses any calculator!

A triumph of the 20th century!

One look one answer!

This is a Dutch printing of "The Complete Calculating Book" by Jean Bergmann of Berlin. (Jean Bergmann's "Universal-Rechner") The whole preface is filled with hyperbole and confidence in the utility and magnificence of this book as a calculating aid for business and commerce.

As far as can be determined it was first published in Berlin around 1917, with translations in several languages. The German editions throughout the 1920s are more common, but this is the 1924 Dutch edition (22nd printing) - published in Amsterdam.

An online 'calculatory' impulse-buy, it was in rather a shocking state. The spine was gone and the boards only loosely attached. Cosmetically, some water-damage and a lot of paint splattered all over the boards. On the book's back there was a clear ring-mark of a paint-can having been set on it. Silverfish have feasted on the exposed tabs of the pages, erasing several of the page-numbers. Overall it looked like something best kept in a shed (which is probably where it had been kept).

The book was 'patched up' a bit. The thicker paint patches could be mostly broken away with a scalpel, the remaining patches were scraped away. Combined with a scrubbing with soapy water, much general dirt and grime could be taken off.  To make the blotches of paint and the scraping-damage less visible, these were touched-up with various shades of red watercolour paint. With red ink also the large drip-damage stain on the top of the front board was made less glaring. 

The boards were re-attached to the insides, re-enforced with strips of paper. A new spine was made from 2mm paperboard covered with red 'buckram' paper and attached to the boards with cotton band. As is often the case; after finishing the job you know how it should have been done. The spine should e.g. be made a few mm narrower than the book's thickness for proper opening. That's for a next time - this'll have to keep for a while.

As a final step, the whole outside was waxed - this evens out the touched-up spots with the rest of the boards and gives it all a bit of protection.

The tabs are mostly eaten by silverfish - probably attracted to the dirt from may years of fingering the pages to find the right number. This book must have actually been used.

The only pages that would have needed translating are the instruction pages at the front of the book. For multiplications and division the book contains look-up tables to quickly arrive at the answer. For basic multiplications of money (5 ct increments) by 1 through 99 the answer can be looked up, for anything beyond that, more steps are needed. The user is expected to perform addition manually. (In Germany the book was sometimes sold with a slide-adder included.) It all makes sense, but is not always quite so simple perhaps.

The few pages of instructions are followed by pages filled with the answers to multiplications. Every pair of pages contains a 'decade' at 5 cent increments multiplied by 1 - 99 plus an additional table of 17 common fractions.

Every tabbed pair of pages then has 20 columns with 116 answers, the answer-section thus contains 99 pairs of pages, so 229,680 answers. An additional section at the back of interest payments of 44 percentage-columns with 113 rates calculated for 360 days and another 44 columns at 365 days, makes another set of 9,944 answers. To print this book, a total of 239,624 numbers had to be calculated and correctly set for printing.

The purchase price of Hfl 30,- seems quite steep. Then again, it is almost a quarter of a million answers at a thousandth of a cent apiece.

It is difficult to genuinely understand values and pricing of a century ago, but it was certainly not a trivial purchase. It was however a fraction of the cost of a calculator. As comparison prices from around 1920 in Holland; an Underwood 5 typewriter would have cost Hfl 325,- and a Comptometer calculator was offered at Hfl 687,50. 

Relating prices to modern value-perception is hard. As an extra context, a loaf of bread was around Hfl 0,16 and an egg about Hfl 0,05. It is a 'wrong' comparison, but expressed in loaves of bread, the book cost ~188 loaves, today's bread-equivalent price then in Euro's is, say, EUR 217,50. The Underwood 5 today, via the bread-reference, would cost EUR 2356,- and a Comptometer double that. (Dutch price references from the CBS.)

Smaller firms or tradesmen who would not have been able to justify the expense of a calculator would have been able to afford this book. To what extent the advantage of being able to look up multiplications in this book justified that expense is of course debatable - as it would have been back then.

Nevertheless, this type of book was one of the available figuring-tools a century ago - so a fitting addition to any small collection of early 20th century slide-rules, adders and calculators :-)

Friday, June 24, 2022

Replacing missing parts - continuing the S.I.M. typewriter repair

Apart from being very dirty, over-oiled and simply broken, the Synela portable typewriter also missed a few parts. These were re-created, or at least replacements good enough to make the function work again.

The bell for example did not ring at the end of a line - and that 'ding!' is an essential part of any typewriter :-)

The cause of the bell not working, was that the little lever that triggers the bell-clapper stayed 'down'. Similar to the Royal portable machines this mechanism is copied from, the clapper is triggered by a small upright lever that is primed by the right margin stop. This little lever is spring-loaded to return upright for a next end-of-line 'ting' - missing the spring, the bell does not work.

With some experimenting, a spring-shape was bent from a used guitar-string that fits the part and functions to re-set the bell-clapper lever. Guitar-string wire is soft enough that it can be bent, but hard enough to be springy and keep its shape.

The end should probably be shaped a tighter fit around the lever, but it'll do. Maybe it will get some black paint to make it less obvious - or another, improved version will be formed :)

Another issue was the ribbon-reverse. The ribbon transport had already been fixed with an extra improvised spring on the left ratchet, what still remained was the ribbon-reverse push-knobs. The right knob was missing - needing the remaining left knob to be pulled-out to reverse. So sort-of functional, but not as it should be.

These S.I.M. knobs are nicely made hexagonal affairs, with an 8mm head. It turns out that this is exactly the size of a DIN933 M5 screw. To make a new knob, a brass M5 screw of DIN933 pattern was filed down to a similar shape and then threaded over the tip. The original was M2 or thereabouts, for the new, brass knob didn't dare go smaller than M3. As the thread is not visible when mounted, not a big deviation.

The somewhat rough surface of the brass crew was then nickel-plated. This luckily happened to provide a 'matte' finish very similar to the remaining original knob.

Firmly screwed into the now M3 re-tapped bracket inside the machine, it looks credible. And it's functional; pushing the left / right knobs shifts the internal ribbon-transport bracket to change ribbon-direction.

After fitting the repro-knob, it also illustrated why the original right knob could have been lost. Despite being made to the same dimensions as the left knob, it sticks out of the machine much more. It looks easily snagged or be broken off - or just was considered a nuisance and discarded.

To complete the missing parts (at least those known about so far), new feet.

The S.I.M. machine has rubber feet that are held with an inner-flange between two rims on a tube. To replicate that with 3D printing and make it fit reliably would be a bit tricky. So a different design with the machine resting with its the tube-end on the feet-base and a beveled inner flange for retaining only.

The machine must have been knocked-about a bit, because the feet-tubes were not all at the same height. To be able to compensate with the new feet, two different 'sitting-heights' feet version were modelled.

Duly printed in PU-rubber and pressed onto the machine.

The typewriter can again sit on the table by itself. And 3D printed rubber-feet are also grippy enough that the machine stays put when typing - the Synela now no longer tries to sneak off to the left with every carriage advance :-)

Friday, June 17, 2022

Assembled type

Modifying the character-set on a typewriter was generally done by swapping out one type-slug with another - this one however got composite, modified type-slugs.

The uppercase symbols on the 3 and 4 were ground away and thin slivers of a different character soldered on top of it. It looks fragile, but after nearly a century they're still typing :)

Friday, June 10, 2022

Typewriters and cameras collectors museum

A couple of days after picking-up a Hammond Multiplex typewriter, finally got round to visiting the local little typewriter museum. Had been planning to go for years, but now finally got the push to do so :)

It is a small-scale 'collecting museum', with both a collection of Agfa cameras and a collection of typewriters. In display-cases an amazing array of Hammond machines! And many other machines too - a great cross-section of machines on display around one side of the building.

On the subject of Hammond machines; also shown were the small wooden boxes with type-shuttles - once available from Hammond for 4 dollar apiece. (Today less readily available - perhaps something to try with 3D printing...)

On the subject of Hammond type-shuttles; also in the collection this wooden storage-box with an extensive set of shuttles. Type for all the languages available for the Hammond - pretty special to see :)

The camera collection was likewise interesting to discover. Recognised some cameras (that's our Billy Record!) and learned more about the development and variation of these very 20th century items. Both the typewriter and the camera collectors (or curators) were present, so great information on all the exhibits.

Overall a great little museum - well worth a visit. Some rare machines seen now 'in real life' and able to see how big (or small) e.g. an old Remington up-strike machine really is. With expert information from the knowledgeable collectors themselves - and a cup of coffee too.

An enjoyable afternoon-trip, completed with a walk around the grounds of the former Jongemastate castle nearby. (The moat and the 1603-built gatehouse are still there, but nothing else of the old buildings remains...)

(Those Hammonds looked magnificent - something to aim for in the restoration of the newly acquired Hammond :-)

Thursday, June 2, 2022

Something different - a Multiplex!

It was not too far away, so a quick trip to pick it up and no shipping-risk for something like this. This was the main object of the trip that also yielded that telephone - another typewriter! This one is certainly not within my usual 'scope' of interbellum portables, but a venture into a very different type of writing machine. Possibly paid a bit much (at least more than I've ever done for a pre-war portable), but we have a grand -albeit a little tired-looking- Hammond Multiplex typewriter complete with case. 

It is the open, universal-keyboard model, probably made around 1915 or 1916. It just looks very impressive and somehow very Edwardian. And it's a completely new writing-mechanism to discover!

The case suffered from moisture, much of the glue has let go, seams are loose and veneer is delaminating.

The instructions inside the lid are still there. Oddly, for a machine sold in Holland with a Dutch keyboard the instructions are in English, French, German and Spanish. Rather a nice touch; the German text is in fraktur too.

Unexpected bonus; the missing bit of veneer from the back of the lid is still there. It is taped to the inside of the lid! The machine looks like it is straight from a shed or damp attic, but care was taken to save some bits that fell off.

One type-shuttle mounted (sort of) on the turret - a regular Medium Roman shuttle with a character set for the Dutch market (with 'f' currency symbol).

There are unfortunately more parts missing; e.g. the caps-lock lever is absent. Naturally, there is no impression-strip - that is anyways a wear-item that will have to be sourced or made. There is also no drawband - and the spring-motor seems to not tension when wound (hmm...). Both the hard-rubber spools are damaged, but for both spools there is luckily one side that is intact so it is not too much of a problem to 'fix' and make presentable.

As seems very common for Hammond typewriters, the feed rollers are cracked badly. 

Taking the machine off the base-plate, it really shows that it is a golden bronze colour all-over. That should be bright nickel, the machine is just very (very) dirty.

Another thing spotted when looking underneath - is that an extra type shuttle!? With some wiggling and tweezers, a second type-shuttle could be manoeuvred back out of the mechanism. So there were two shuttles, it is a Multiplex after all! :-)  The machine now has Medium Roman (34?) and a Medium Roman Italic - very likely the original two shuttles that came with the machine back in 1915 or thereabouts.

With the baseplate 'by itself' it becomes clear that it is held together mostly by the remaining felt. All the planks are loose. This should be a relatively minor thing to repair - glueing it all firmly together again.

Before tackling a restoration, to see if it can be made to work again, a light machine oil will be applied to all visible screws. As this creeps in, it will hopefully make them easier to undo. A quick check with some metal polish on a key-ring confirmed that - yes; there really is a bright nickel machine underneath all that dirt and tarnish...

So now a Hammond Multiplex 'new on the shelf' - or rather 'old on the shelf' - a project that will start with a slow, step-by-step disassembly and (slower yet) thorough cleaning of all parts. 

Many months of tinkering pleasure ahead :-)

Friday, May 27, 2022

Bycatch - Ericsson model BHM 1001

An unexpected bycatch when going to pick up a typewriter. (After the debacle of the ludicrous buffering of the Synela, pick-up whenever possible.) The pick-up turned out to be a vintage / thrift-store / antique shop. The youngest had been asking about a rotary-dial phone for a while and just on the off-chance I asked the seller of the typewriter if he had any. He did!

He'd just sold one, but a new shipment had just come in that he thought had a phone. Rummaging about, it was indeed retrieved from one of the boxes - youngest viewed and approved and it was bought for a not unreasonable sum.

From a quick search on the hive-mind that is the internet; this is known as an Ericsson model 1931, type 1949 Dutch telephone. This model was introduced by Ericsson in 1931, with integrated metal dial. The Ericsson type-number is DBH 1001. The metal number-holder on the front is apparently typical for Dutch-manufactured phones, from 1936 or so. After the war, many of these phones were overhauled to comply with new standards (wiring, safety) and then also given a newer, later pattern horn. 

Checking the insides, it indeed has 'modern' wiring with plastic insulation. (The horn wires have been disconnected, rather frayed cable etc.) A label on the bottom states it was assembled in 1954, so this perhaps is one of those overhauled phones - the 1931 housing with a more modern (~'47 pattern) horn and insides.

Good find - very happy youngest :)

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Typewriters on display and a very large Mercedes

Seen last weekend; several display cabinets with typewriters in a local combination-museum.

In between the cabinets a table with a group of typewriters (Brother) to experience actual typing. And indeed a boy was wondering what to do when you make a mistake - the backspace does not erase :-)

In a larger display/working area next to the typewriter-corner, was a very large Mercedes. Not a Mercedes typewriter and not from Mercedes Büro-Maschinen Werke, but it is a Mercedes to print on paper. Looking very solidly built and very heavy.

It's part of a larger printing-museum display and working area that has a lot of machines - for example this beautifully turned out Heidelberg. (These are grand machines, but probably not something that could be smuggled into the den...)

The combination-museum hosts different collections in an old industrial-building. Another, very large area is devoted to the war and liberation. The aeroplane guarded by a dog, just like the magazine-cover of the era.

An astonishingly large collection (these things are a lot larger than typewriters to collect). Especially many trucks and support vehicles, such as this primordial-looking Scammel.

And there was of course also the main attraction and reason to visit - a rather good and extensive collection of a 'brick' from its very early beginnings to the present day.

So all that - and some typewriters too :-)