Saturday 25 May 2013

To some of the great people from the Typosphere

It is really easy to think of people on the internet as just... text generators. You can't hear their voice, see their face, know their smiles or look into their eyes as you talk to them.

 Often on the internet I have seen horrendous things said and done to other people, which I only came to understand when I realized that the humanity of the people on the other side of the wire has been lost - and the antagonist has not been able to comprehend that they are talking to a living person, and not just a page full of text or a mindless drone character in a computer game.

However, the people I have come across so far in the typosphere have been very different. The humanity and personality of the bloggers I enthusiastically read daily is often soaked into their pages. These are real people who are not hiding behind a constructed online facade, and the typosphere has given them the capacity to be able to engage with each other with great passion and love.

I feel, that of all the online communities I have engaged with, the typosphere has been the most unique and rewarding.

So with that said, I have a few thank-yous that I want to give to some of people I've not yet met, and one that I have.

Many of us on the typosphere have been more than willing to go out of our way to help others repair their machines. I've sent parts out to people, and given whatever advice and ideas that I can. Meanwhile, others have done the same for me. And most of these people have done so with capricious generosity.

In the last couple of months I have received a few packages that have allowed me to get some great machines back to life. While I always like the challenge of improvising a repair, often the easiest and most graceful way to fix a machine is to simply find a part from a spare part.

So without further ado, I would like to thank these people:

Bill Maclane.
Bills blog can be found HERE.

Bill recently posted to a collective of parts which I have been able to use to complete and repair a Corona 3. I had originally purchased the Corona 3 as a non working machine off Joseph O'Neil over at the Typed on paper blog. The machine was incomplete, non-functioning but in quite beautiful condition.

Bill didn't ask for any money to post the parts to Australia, which was very generous of him. and I am very thankful for him doing so.

Here's the machine that Bill helped complete:
Corona 3

Barry Feilden
As far as I know, Barry doesn't have a blog, but I came across Barry on the Yahoo Portable Typewriters Forum.

After I came back from my last visit to John's workshop, I put out a call on the forum for a detent roller for an Olympia SM3/Monica etc. I honestly didn't expect anyone to have one to spare, and I started to plan an improvised substitute. But within hours of my posting the request, Barry contacted me to tell me that he had one that he could offer.

Like Bill, Barry didn't want any money for the postage. Within about two weeks a envelope arrived from the UK that contained the detent roller, and I had it bolted into the machine within minutes of me getting the parcel upstairs.

It is an Olympia Monica that is an ongoing project of mine, and I was super-excited to have this machine working. So thank you Barry!

Here is the machine that Barry helped complete:
Olympia Monica - based on the SM3.

Robert Messenger. 
The Australian Typewriter Museum.

The famous Robert Messenger has been very generous to me. So far, no money has exchanged hands, and I'm trying to think of ways that I can repay Robert's generosity. Robert has given me two of my all time favorite machines, and I am very appreciative.

Yesterday I had a package arrive from Robert that contained a trove of assorted parts.

At the Brisbane type-in, Robert left me with a generous array of machines. Two of these machines were ex Scienceworks museum pieces that were in a very poorly functioning state.

Both of these machines had parts missing off them when Robert left them with me. One of them, a Remington 7, he actually had forgotten to bring the paper-table that belonged to it along with him, and promised to post it up at a later stage.

In the meantime, Robert acquired a paper-table that belonged to a Smith-Premier 10 - a machine which he had also left me an example of.

Robert packed these parts, and an assortment of other pieces - including a denture brush which has been used to clean type slugs, into a box and sent it up to me without asking for any money to cover the parts or the cost of postage.

Both the Smith Premier 10A, and the Remington 7 that Robert left me are now complete. However, they are still an ongoing project. The Remington 7 is now in 100% functioning order, and even has new rubber rollers to keep things nicely in line. But there's still some cleaning and adjusting to be done. Also, no matter what I do, I seem to not be able to complete clear the machine of the hair from Robert's typewriter guard cat!

But the Remington is working enough for me to easily be able to write letters on, and use as a demonstration machine. Sorry Scienceworks, you can't have it back.

Here's the machines that Robert has given me, and helped me to complete:
Remington 7

Smith Premier 10A

The Smith-Premier is going to need some serious work. But fundamentally, the machine has a lot of promise. The keys are still filthy with 90 years of gunk in them, but I have cleaned a couple and they came up looking beautiful. For the most part this typewriter works, and with a bit of effort potentially can be brought back to life. It may look as though two keys are missing from the keyboard, but they are just collapsed. There's a few challenges ahead of me with this Smith-Premier, but it will be an interesting machine to restore.

*   *   *

So, thank you very much gentlemen. In time I'm sure I'll find a way to repay you, but right now I'm very grateful for your generosity. Like you, I send out parts from time to time - without asking for anything in return, and I think it is this kind of thing that makes the typosphere such a great community. 


And Robert, the denture brush makes an excellent brush for cleaning the wooden type struts on the Remington 7. Very useful!

Monday 20 May 2013

An eBay oddessy.

Many of you may remember this Olympia of mine from last year. It is a near pristine Olympia SM3 which I used for a special purpose during a prolonged difficult period at work.

There's a bit of a story behind this typewriter though, which I think is worth telling. Many of the typosphere have tales of anguish and grief of buying on ebay. and while much of the trauma appears to center around the packing and postage of these items, there's often plenty to be said about the sellers themselves.

But what happens when you go and collect your own purchases, instead of having them posted to you?

I've been using ebay for easily a decade now, and I've collected purchases from many interesting locations. One of my first unusual collections was an Apple IIc that I picked up from a alternative lifestyle commune located on the outskirts of Melbourne.

As for typewriters, the pickups have been consistently interesting. Nothing ever seems particularly straight-forward, and this Olympia SM3 was no exception.

I was worried I was going to pay too much for this machine. It was just a smidge above the $50 mark, and no one else had bid. The photos of the machine told me nothing - not even the colour. They were blurry, and tinted a very warm orange. I could tell from the photo that it was complete, and I suspected that it had a script typeface (which it didnt) so I put down a bid which won uncontested.

The seller didn't invoice me, or even contact me after the sale. After two days I contacted them asking for the invoice, and three days later I got a message:

pickup d bay
call (sellers number) before pickup see you this afternoon greg


D-bay is the local name for the suburb of Brisbane actually known as Deception Bay. It an area made up of cheap 1970's and 80's housing estates, and a few older 1960's farming homes. Council planning of the area 4 decades ago was been awful, and it soon became something of an isolated lower-middle class backwater and a cultural wasteland.

 The deception bay cultural hub: Booze, pizza, fishing tackle and two supermarkets side by side.

I didn't call Greg. I mailed him to inform him that I couldn't come that day, but I would drop by later in the week. Greg replied with his address, and simply said 'call 15 minutes before you come'.

So, on a Wednesday afternoon I called him - just as I was collecting my car from a service. It took me about 20 minutes to get to Greg's place, which would have been shorter if the Tom Tom app on my phone didn't do all kinds of weird backflips and spin-arounds.

I pulled into the small court that his house was located in, and I was confronted by an awesome sight. While most of the houses around Greg's place were run-down weatherboard shacks and were littered with car parts and rusted hulks, he lived in a towering 80's white painted double story arched-fronted monstrosity with a 6 foot high iron picket fence. The garden behind the fence featured concrete fountains with cherubs and dragons, and mini Grecian pillars. 

Ahhhhh the Greeks. I'd expect to see this kind of thing in Melbourne rather than  Brisbane. It all felt very out of place.

But something else was not right. Not by a long-shot. There were security cameras bolted to the top of almost every support post of the fence. Not just little ones, but 1.5 foot long armored cameras. There were 4 of them in total, and every one of them faced out onto the street in a different direction. Not only that, but they were so heavy that some of the fence posts had started to sink and topple with the weight.

I looked through the fence and I could see a guy sitting on a chair in the middle of the driveway. I called out to him, but he didn't seem to hear me. However his dogs did. The two of them raced towards me growling viciously, and almost decapitated themselves trying to get through the fence. They seemed to be some kind of Shih-tzu/Piranha cross.

I took a guess that the sitting fellow was Greg, and I subsequently called out his name.

This time he responded. He jumped up from his chair in an awkward fashion, and had a very goofy smile on his face. He was about 6'7", and lumbered with a clear lack of self-consciousness and grace.

"Scott"! he called out, as though I was a missing friend. "Is that you"?

"Hey", I replied - with all the self-consciousness that Greg was missing.
"Come in! Don't worry about the dogs, they wont hurt you".

'They won't hurt me'? I wondered to myself. 'They're freakin' Piranha on legs!

I pushed the gate open, almost crunching the dogs as I did. They rushed around the gate to meet me, and the jumped up my legs and propped against me with their paws while licking my fingers lovingly.

"GO on, Get"! Greg yelled to the dogs, sweeping a bit of a kick that missed them. They dogs quickly scurried off to a spot somewhere to the back of the property, and then started growling at each other.

"So, you want the typewriter".
Before I could answer Greg, he turned and disappeared into his garage. There were no cars parked in there, and there was a car-port that had been extended onto the front of it for the cars to park under. The garage was filled with rows of cupboards and wooden shelves. On each shelf was an array of trinkets of almost every kind you could thing of. They were incredibly neatly organized, and some were even labeled.

"This is my business" Greg explained to me. "Do you want to go and look? This is the stuff that I'm selling on ebay - Go look'!

I declined Greg's enthusiastic invite, and he seemed disappointed that he wasn't going to show me his haul of goods. But his eyes lit up again the moment he remembered the typewriter that was in his hands.

"It's like new"! He said as he slapped the familiar SM3 case down onto a table. He then stuffed his oversize frame onto a kiddies chair in front of it, and opened the case. "It's a real ripper"!

Greg started banging furiously at the keys before exclaiming "See! Give the keys a try".

He  wasn't kidding. The case was a bit worn, but the machine inside it glistened like it was brand new. There was barely a hint of dirt on it, and it sparkled in the afternoon sunlight like it was a mirror. The machine was perfect. Almost disappointingly perfect - as there appeared nothing for me to fix.

We exchanged pleasantries and money, and I soon had the awfully heavy case in my hands. But he wasn't going to let me leave without showing me at least some of his other treasures. He was currently working on a miniature indoor hydroponic plant kit. I remember seeing one of them a few years ago being flogged in an informertial that marketed it as 'Your indoor fresh herb garden - right there in your kitchen'. He was trying to get it working, but couldn't figure it out. I guess he picked it up at a garage sale, and there was a piece missing. I told him what bit I thought was missing, and without warning he disappeared back into his garage then came back with something that would perfectly substitute for the operation of the missing part.

"Great! That's going on ebay this afternoon now".

There were old tools, garden gadgets and interesting cutlery. When he got to showing me the ceramic cats, I decided it was past time to got the frak out of there - so I politely took my leave. He just simply stopped talking to me, and nodded his head and waved a good-bye. I made my way out the gates, and looked back over my shoulder. He was standing at the gate just watching me go to my car.

The dogs rushed up and started to bark furiously again. I drove off and left him to his treasures, his Grecian ruin garden, and his dogs. 

I got the machine home and put it on the dining room table. The machine was immaculate, and didn't have a scratch on it. The chrome hadn't flaked or bubbled or pockmarked, and the machine's operation felt as though it was new off the factory floor. It was incredibly sharp and unhindered. The platen was hard, and the ribbon was mostly dry, but I gave the machine a good go.

And I was impressed. I mean, really impressed. As I started to get used to the keyboard, my speed picked up. Before long I was typing faster than I had ever typed on a typewriter keyboard. I was getting close to the speed that I was capable of on my computer's keyboard - that is to say, around 80 - 90 words a minute at full trot.

I looked closely at this keyboard, and found that the keytops themselves were individually spring loaded. Amazing! According to various sites that I read, this was made to allow the key to stay level when pressed - sort of like how my Bijou does. However, I'm not convinced. In real terms I can make these keys easily bounce off my fingers if I just lightly jab at them, which while typing really seems to let me just casually gloss across the tops of the keys with great speed. Or at least that's what I think I am doing. It has hard to really assess what my fingers are doing when they are working at their fastest.

After I had played with this typewriter for a while, I remembered that I had a disfunctional SG1 down in the shed, waiting some serious investigation as to why it wasn't working. I was so impressed with the engineering of the SM3, that I then decided that I would attempt to tackle the difficult repair with a higher priority.

I often think about that eccentric seller, and wonder if I'll end up buying off him again. The other professional ebay seller I have bought off on ebay has had two visits from me. Maybe there's a nice little supply of typers near by. 

Tuesday 14 May 2013

How did I miss this?

I think I have my anthem.

But how, honestly, had I not come across this before? I love it! And it isn't even new.

Did I mention I love it?

I love it!

OMG! Download it free, at Bandcamp - HERE.

An anthem for the insurgency perhaps? Shame they picked a Valentine for the artwork.

For those not familiar with the original track this was based on, here it is:

Monday 13 May 2013

Mysteries solved! Kind of. Maybe. Sort of. Possibly not.

Remember this typewriter?

If not, you may need to check out this blog.

Well, I can reveal that this machine is pretty much guaranteed to have had Italiano keyboard. I came to this conclusion about half an hour after talking to John on the phone.

It was something painfully obvious that I had overlooked on the first assessment, that I gave myself a massive face-palm after I discovered it.

I'd been talking to John about how difficult it would be to transfer and re-solder type stubs between typebars. John mentioned that he'd actually done it 'thousands of times' before, and that it was a fairly routine repair.

After I put the phone down, some of the discussion seemed to be still ringing in my ears. So I grabbed the Hermes Baby out, and had a good hard look at the type stubs.

And what do you know! Two particular stubs had a modest excess of solder on them.

The soldering job was professionally done, and until I looked very closely, I hadn't actually spotted it. 

And what are the keys? Well... W and Z. No other keys displayed this over-solder, and I'm pretty confident that the machine's keyboard was originally a QZERTY setup. In other words - Italiano! 

As stated in my blog previously, this typewriter was purchased new from the dealer rather soon after the typewriter was manufactured. 

My guess is that despite the influx of Italians into Australia, the dealer of this machine found this stock item had been lingering in his inventory for a bit too long, so they got one of their technicians to swap the keys to give it a better chance of selling. Either that, or supply of Hermes Babys were so short, that this machine had its type swapped so that the salesman had a machine to offer within what may have been a pressured amount of time. 

So, I'm calling it. I think this is firmly an Italiano machine which had been converted by the dealer before it was sold - new.

Meanwhile.... back at the ranch.

Many of us from the typosphere are very conscious about the sustainability of our activities, and we enjoy the fact that our typewriters use renewable materials and have a very limited carbon footprint.

But, what about our websites? You may ask. They use power hungry severs, and all kinds of stuff!

Well! I think I have the answer as to how the typosphere is powered as well.

The idea came to me while I was reading this interview with Christopher Lockett - the director of "The Typewriter (in the 21st Century)". It was when I read the quote: "Richard Polt, a professor at Xavier University in Cincinnati — he runs the Typosphere, a group of websites related to typewriters" that I formulated my theory, which led me to and amazing discovery.

Now, having never received orders or directions from Richard Polt about my blog, I was trying to figure out exactly what he was running. 
So I dug deep. Deeper than I've ever dug before. Deeper than a drunken backhoe operator trying to see "how deep this thing can dig"! Deeper than a oil rig can drill. Deeper than any random conspiracy theory goes. Deeper than the X-Files.

Yeah. I dug deep. And you know what I found? 

Yeah, that's him.. Richard. Single handedly powering the servers that run our blogs. What a great guy! Now I know what they meant by 'running the typosphere'. 

So, I declare this blog..... 


Discplaimer: Powered by Polt is a non profit organisation that might not actually exist. If you are looking for someone to power your oversized computer or plasma television, please, throw the things out. Get a typewriter and got and type out in the real world and away from your television. Although, make sure you have a friend that has a computer, so you can occasionally come back and read this blog. 

I hope Richard has a sense of humour. Hi Richard! This was done with the upmost regard for you... and your running!

Monday 6 May 2013

Translation please.

Are you German? Have you been driving in circles Autobahn in boredom?
Russian, and drinking away your despair with Vodka? 
French, and wasting your days staring at that awful countryside while painting it? 

Well! Drive, despair and stare no more!
The Filthy Platen now has Google Translate™! 

Alright, so Google translate is nothing new. A few other blogs already have widgets for it, and I felt it was about time that TFP got it too.

Behind the scenes there's been a bit of discussion lately between the old typewriter guard, and the young whipper-snapper typosphere. A common theme in this discussion has been the language barrier, as many of the older collectors are located in Europe.
So I felt it was time to take Google's great little translation app and attach it to my lovely little blog. As you can see, it is up the top right hand side there. Just a word of warning - it doesn't translate my typecasts...
... yet.
 Viva la Filthy Platen!

Friday 3 May 2013

Where the wild mechanics roam....

I'd loaded Ruby the Exxy (my car) up with a load of typewriters  and headed south to Beaudesert.  It was a nice day for a drive in the country, and John had suggested that I come out and have a bit of a typosphere hangout with him. On this occasion, I had the company of 'the impatient typewriter mechanic' - Steve Snow in the car with me who also had brought a handful of machines along for the ride.

Steve was great company for the drive, and the weather could not be more perfect for the trip. Last time I was down that way, the temperatures were exceeding 40 degrees C. This time, it was a modest 22. And soooo much more comfortable.

Which was just as well, as we spent at least 7 hours in John's workshop.

John had invited me to bring whatever machines needed the his experienced hand to look at. So I took the opportunity to bring some of my more interesting machines, which also had some faults that had to this stage proven a bit beyond my current skills.

I had three machines of a defective nature, and I had also brought two just to 'show and tell'. The 6th machine in my car was a machine I was giving John, in exchange for a surplus small air compressor that he had.

Steve also had some machines for John to look at. Chiefly, he had a Smith Premier 10A that had a few issues that he wanted to see if John could do something about.

Steve made some really interesting progress on his machine, and I think he'll be writing about it quite soon. So I'll let him tell you all about it.

Meanwhile, John took a crack at fixing the three machines of mine that I'd brought with me. We made good progress on my Olympia SG1, but it is still a bit munted in a couple of keys. We identified the problem with my beautiful pearl Olympia Monica, and a part is on its way to me already courteously of Barry Fielden in the UK - via Will Davis's Portable Typewriter Yahoo group.

John also blitzed adjusting my Remington 5's action, and after the machine's extensive repairs it is now a 100% working piece of beautiful machinery. But more on that machine soon.

However, the two machines that I had brought just to show - also got a round on John's workbench. I was happy with the operation of both machines, but now John has assessed some problems that I hadn't even thought about, and without even thinking he was making adjustments and suggestions on the two of them. It seems that John's repair man instincts seem to be forever in his blood. 

Both Steve and I had a great day. Not only did we get to get our hands on some real typewriter service tools, but we both learned an awful lot from John. I've learned how to use some of the professional's tools, and I picked up quite a few little techniques.

Watching John in action is great. He just rips through stuff that usually takes me a lot more time to achieve. And while he worked, he he was telling us magnificent stories about his working days that are very entertaining and interesting. John's been talking about getting his own blog going, which I am very excited about. Steve and I are going to give him a bit of a hand where we can.

Another great part about visiting John's place, is that we get to have a look through some of his machines. A lot of his 400+ machines are still packaged up and concealed in cardboard, bubble wrap, newspaper and old carpet. Every so often Steve and I would see a hint of something that looked sort of familiar, and we'd ask John if we could take a look. John was quite obliging, and we got to crack open the wrapping and have a look at some magnificent machines.

I was especially wrapped when I got to get my hands on a gorgeous Groma Kolibri in Burgundy. It typed better than I expected, and I now feel an urge to hunt one down for my own collection. They are such an amazing little machine!

It is easy to spend all day in John's workshop, and I always love hearing about what he's got on his workbench that is currently being worked on. Both Steve and John are great to hang with, and it is a real privilege  to been able to spend the day with them. 

Thanks Guys. Hope to catch up again soon.