Monday, July 12, 2010

About Retro Tech Geneva - July 2010

I told my sister the other day that I was selling typewriters, and she asked, "Typewriters? I thought people were using computers now!" I had a good chuckle about that.

If you have made it as far as this page, you may be asking me the same questions: Why would anyone sell typewriters in 2010? Why would I need or want a typewriter? Why are YOU selling typewriters in Geneva???

The short answer is this: I am selling typewriters because I have several, and I cannot keep all of them.

But a longer answer is warranted, so here we go. Just over a year ago, I was searching for housing in Geneva, and if you've ever been there, you will remember that it requires filling out many, many forms. Because housing is hard to find, you will have to fill out similar forms from different agencies several times over. Before we were finally accepted for ONE apartment, we had applied for 50! As I wrote in these forms till my hand cramped, I wondered if there were not a mechanized way to do it. Computers would not do, of course, but then my husband suggested a typewriter and a light bulb went off.

Finding a typewriter in Geneva, and especially one in working condition, turned out to be easier said than done. After several weeks of searching, I happened across one at the flea market and hustled it home gratefully. It needed work, though, and cleaning, and new ribbon, but after several hours of elbow grease, I had a working typewriter. I was delighted.

A couple of months later, I came across some more typewriters. I was torn - I already had one, why would I need several? And yet, the vision of these once-sought after machines being trashed after years of neglect made me queasy. So I purchased them, brought them home, nurtured them back to life, and wrote with them: letters to friends and family (who were bemused at my new-found obsession), blog posts that I would later scan into the computer and upload (and here one could rightly ask, why not type directly?). But I needed to use these machines, to give them some attention after the decades they had spent in the dark. As an aspiring creative writer/ essayist, I found that being behind a typewriter was a different sensation altogether than using a computer. There were no distractions, no email-checking, no facebook chats. Once I sat down in front of a typewriter and rolled up a piece of paper, I had to actually write. No excuses. It was liberating, and yet intimidating. I'm still trying to muster the discipline it takes.

In the meantime, there were more typewriters to be discovered, almost all in various stages of disrepair. My beleaguered husband watched as the cases piled up in our tiny apartment. As a watchmaker, he is gifted with tools and I rely heavily on him to tune up the machines I bring home. Sure enough, the day come when he said gently: "Enough. We have too many typewriters!" He is also a fan, but he is more practical than I. Even if we are buying them to save them from incineration, it is a fact that we cannot keep all of them. Looking on the internet, I realized that several Americans are now into vintage typewriters - prices on Etsy and eBay constantly veer into the realm of the ridiculous as a result. It occurred to me that perhaps, somewhere in Geneva, there could be others like me - interested in rediscovering a typewriter, and keeping one for their own use.

It is important to state here that I am not asking unjustifiable prices for these typewriters. In fact, I was surprised (although in retrospect, perhaps not) to receive a call from a lady in New York asking to buy my Hermes 2000 typewriter, because I am selling it for a tenth of the price asked by vintage typewriter webshops in the U.S. I turned her down because I do not care to deal with the hassle of packing and shipping, and also because I had already found several prospective buyers in Geneva. And who better to rediscover a Swiss typewriter, I thought selfishly, than someone living in Switzerland?

Retro Tech Geneva is not an official business per se - it is my personal Etsy store, so to speak. I want to help anyone in Geneva who would be interested in having a vintage typewriter to acquire one. At the same time, I would also like to save these machines, many of which sold for a pretty penny and were very much desired only a few decades ago, and could still be used if properly serviced. So I buy them, clean them up carefully (scraping off sixty-year old grease and accumulated gunk, removing old Tipp-Ex, ink, eraser rubbings, dirt, dust bunnies, and pet hairs), and then, with my husband's help, service the mechanisms. I test the typing action, and provide a type sample. I replace the ribbons with fresh dual-color ribbons if the machine is equipped to take them, or black ones if not. And then, because I already have many more typewriters than I can use, I offer them to you.

Perhaps you live in Geneva and would like to pay a little more (or even the same or less!) as an antique shop would charge, if you could get a fully-functioning portable manual typewriter, with a fresh ribbon, ready to write your correspondence and memoirs and even pass on to your children. If so, please look around on this blog, and let me know if any of the machines I have refurbished is of interest to you. I live in Eaux Vives, close to the center, so you can come over, roll in some paper, and test the machine before you buy. If you have a problem later on, I'll be glad to take a look and offer you my advice (I cannot give an official warranty because I am a private person). Thank you for reading.

Geneva, July 2010
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