Friday, January 24, 2014

Underwood at the Fair

Another bit of 'flatware'.

A very clean and optimistic looking postcard showing the giant Underwood machine at the 1939 New York World's Fair. This was I think very much an Underwood thing, these giant machines. Maybe they refurbished their old one to look like a modern machine, but also quite likely this one was built new.

And the reverse of the card here also, with informative tidbits.

The overall optimism for the future that radiates from the fair imagery is quite uplifting. To get a feel for the (very diverse) event, there is actually an amazing amount of color film footage on the net.

Oh. And still haven't got an Underwood :)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This beautiful desk for a dollar

From Popular Aviation, December 1939 this advertisement by Remington:

Around that time, this beautiful desk is advertised quite a lot in several magazines.

Seems a bit off, to sell a desk for such a relatively low sum as an incentive to sign up for the monthly payments for the typewriter that would total to a much more substantial sum than a dollar. Offering the free booklet is one thing, but to list the carrying case as a special bonus of this combination offer is a bit rich. Overall the commercial strategy of Remington here in this ad shows perhaps some similarity to today's shopping channels' methods.

Having said all that, a desk is a desk. For only one dollar. Made from fibre board (sturdy though) in a neutral blue-green and finished with black and silver. In a very modern, up-to-date design too. The illustration is suggestive the desk could be shipped as a flat pack for home assembly. (Ahead of their day, they could've made a business out of this type of furniture.)

Of the typewriter plenty have survived to this day. Likewise for their cases and there are even copies of the booklet floating around still.

Did any of these desks survive?

Given how widely these were advertised, I suspect that Remington did at least sell some of them. On the net there are loads of images of the Noiseless, of its case and even of the booklet. There are of course some images of older Remington desks (purpose built typewriter desks, decades earlier), but none of this beautiful desk for a dollar.

Now I do wonder, are there any photographs or surviving examples?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

How to use the auto-brake - instruction card

In addition to the instruction leaflet to be given to a customer with the HMV102 machine, another instruction label was tied to the brake lever. This contains important directions to make sure the user would know how to use the machine with this advanced, new auto-brake feature. (When new, an additional factory inspection 'OK' card would have been attached to the carrying handle also.)

The overall instruction leaflet was loose with no obvious place to store it in the machine, so it is almost always lost. On my machine also; no instruction card. The small auto-brake card however was still attached to the brake lever with its little cotton string. Like the machine itself, the card looked a bit 'frayed'. (The almost always missing 'OK' card was also no longer on the carrying handle.)

Whilst the machine itself cleaned up very well so far, the instruction card still looked its age. Even after trying to straighten and iron it out, still a bit tatty.

Now I do like to get a machine back complete and clean looking, including the instructions. So scanned the aged card and with some basic cleaning up in an image editing program, a pristine new card was printed. Printing the image (PDF) on thin card stock, double sided gives four cards. These can be cut out using the outline guide around the text-side.

With a hole-punch and two small squares of paper glued on for strength a new card. A loop of new, similar string to loop over the brake lever. The His Master's Voice 102 gramophone again with clean and readable (yet somewhat cryptic) instructions on using that advanced auto-brake feature. (The string just long enough for the card to hang safely in the horn opening, where the original probably survived all these years.)

For a British machine the label is a surprisingly metric 4.0 x 8.0 cm with 1x1 cm chamfer. The re-enforcing square is again a reassuring half-inch square patch :-)

Friday, January 10, 2014


The machine's now been entirely taken apart, cleaned up, oiled and put back together again. It really does look the part now. Having a blast playing with it!

A lot of the techniques for cleaning and bringing back typewriters and their black leatherette or rexine cases can be applied here as well. It basically is a 30-ies portable's carrying case with a very robust mechanism bolted into it. The motor of course has a spring that is more scary than the average typewriter carriage spring and the reproducer or soundbox is tricky, but otherwise pretty straightforward mechanics. (The auto-brake takes some puzzling though, very very clever.)

His Master's Voice portable model 102 wound up, filled again with new needles, ready to play records.

Looking at it like this, there is some similarity to the arrangement of a recent, popular music player. That recent electronic portable music player has the same rectangular shape and a wheel in the lower square.

Then thinking of the later models with the large touch screen, there also is a theme there. Black with chrome seems to go well with portable music players :)