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Tracking Down Typewriters (2009) [pdf] (xavier.edu)
36 points by samclemens 31 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 9 comments

Typewriters are wonderful. When I was in High School, was into buying any typewriter that an antique shop owner would say was 'completely broken and worthless' and getting it back to a functional state. A typewriter is both a very complex and simple system. The complexity really comes from the weird ways you have to contort the components to get them in and out of the frame. Since the older models were all built by hand, there's always a way to get access to something for repairs. The 'fun' part, however, is always determining the way that that part can be removed. There's always a way, but often there's only one.

Ended up with a completely anachronistic skill, but there's so much that you can get out of doing this kind of apparently pointless repair work.

When I worked at IBM, we hardware engineers were organised into 3 groups. We mainframe engineers went on the cool overseas courses, spent our days in chilled computer rooms and looked after the really important machines. The mid range guys slummed it with AS400s, System 38s and the like typically kept in someone's back office, and went on local training courses only. But the guys that fixed the Selectric typewriters - they were the ones with the real skills IMO. Those things are complex.

[Related Trivia] Selectrics were much more like manual typewriters than people might imagine:

“As with other electric typewriters and electric adding machines of the era, Selectrics are electromechanical, not electronic, devices: the only electrical components are the cord, an on-off switch, and the motor. The keys are not electrical pushbuttons such as those found on a computer keyboard. Pressing a key does not produce an electrical signal as output, but rather engages a series of clutches which couple the motor power to the mechanism to turn and tilt the element. A Selectric would work equally well if hand-cranked (or foot-powered, like treadle powered sewing machines) at sufficient speed.”

It was customary to file down the hammers slightly on buying a used typewriter.

KGB tracked them down for way less than ransom notes.

Just looking at the photos (1961, 1977), I'm reminded of the alkaloids mentioned on pages 3 and 146 of The Space Merchants, née Gravy Planet (1952).


(SPOILER) https://archive.org/stream/galaxymagazine-1952-08/Galaxy_195...

> I type addresses on envelopes...

This looks like a fun excuse to get one.

"Faulkner's famed Underwood Universal". For some definition of fame, I guess. I've read a fair bit of Faulkner over the years, but somehow never heard of his typewriter.

Still not sure the typewriter on which old man and the sea typed on.

He wrote it in Cuba, so it is likely a Corona #3


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