Thursday, December 23, 2010

2010: My Year in Typewriters

It is fitting that I round up the year with my 60th post, which makes this the blog that I have updated the most frequently (my first post was in July). It has been a great year for my new-found obsession with typewriters, during which I have managed to obtain quite a few interesting machines and find a way to focus the collection from everything I stumbled across to a few carefully selected portable typewriters. In the process, I have also been able to acquire a wide variety of different typefaces (nine at last count), which I will explore on the blog next year.

From an Excel spreadsheet that I put together a few months ago, I realize that over the course of the past seven months, I have brought home exactly 50 typewriters! Some have since been sold, given away, or passed on to the Salvation Army (irreparably damaged), but that number is much too high in any case. Accordingly, I have shown more restraint in the past three months, with a resulting TPM (typewriters per month) of 3. Which goes to prove that I was a little bit mad in the beginning, if you ask me. Besides, I find my curiosity satisfied merely by taking a look round the flea markets and thrift stores every month at what is available - I no longer feel compelled to go to the trouble of carrying home a new typewriter unless it has a special typeface, or it is rare and ultra-portable.

In 2011, Retro Tech Geneva will continue in much the same manner as today: a couple of typecasts a month (with additional pictures), at least one typewriter featured every month (until I run out), and a run-down of machines "spotted" for sale in the wild. I am also planning to put up some of the ephemera from the various typewriters, which I have not done so far because they tend to be in French and/or German. However, the images are universal so there is at least that. I shall also put together an illustrated guide to the typefaces I have, from elite and pica through to techno, script, and display/ bulletin. As a reader of the blog, please chime in and let me know if this sounds good as well as what you would like to see more of.

To conclude, here is the December round-up of typewriters spotted for sale in Geneva:

A boxy metal Hermes 3000 in the thrift store. I was so certain this would be a script typeface because of the +1 key, but it turned out to be a false alarm.  All was not lost - I then proceeded to nick the two brand-new spare ribbons that had been tucked into the machine and purchase them for $1 - the cashier barely knew what she was looking at.

Olivetti Studio 44 at the flea market. Judging from the tangled mass of ribbon, I suppose some kids had gotten to it... or it could also have been a few clueless adults. 

Brother Deluxe 220 at the thrift store: this one had two nice surprises, a solid all-metal body and a techno typeface.

Swissa Piccola at the flea market - this was a cute little machine and the seller, who offered it for $30, was very proud of it (he had not seen one before and found it quite unusual). It was in great condition with a clean case that also contained the original manual and warranty.

Boxy plastic '70s Hermes 3000 with wide carriage - it is probably hard to tell in the picture, but the numbers on the paper scale went from 60 to 0 and then to 60 again, so this was probably intended for writing double pages. 
Standard size Japy, probably from the '20s thereabouts - note the AZERTY keyboard.

Smith Premier from the same period
And finally, an Hermes Standard 6 perched on the wooden edge of a flower bed.

Best wishes to all for a restful break and a very Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rooy Ultra-Flat Blue Portable Typewriter (1950s)

Side profile (by the way, not having the use of my balcony for picture-taking in the winter is the pits)

Gull-wing ribbon-cover design, with tiny ribbon spools

Sliding it open 

Closed - the "trapdoor" drops when the machine is opened so the shift can operate

The base of the machine actually faces out when you pick it up by the handle

Size comparison with the Hermes Baby

A couple of vintage ads for the Rooy after the cut:

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Great Outdoor Markets

(Typecast courtesy of Adler Tippa S - 11cpi typeface)

Saturday morning in Geneva - farmers' market in full swing

 Crepes and mulled wine at the Christmas market in Cologny, near Geneva

Vintage signage at the flea market

Christmas tree market on Quai Gustave Ador, Geneva

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Olivetti Lettera 35 - Revisited and reinvented in RED

If you have been fortunate enough to receive Christmas greetings from our own esteemed Richard Polt, you would have noticed that he is once again showing off his prowess in customizing timeless classics - his '58 Hermes 3000 is painted a stunning silver. I shall leave it up to him to display this on Writing Ball, while offering up our latest in-house work painting an Olivetti Lettera 35.

This is one of the typewriters we've been looking to part with, and we decided to see what it looked like in bright red. It's a natural color for this machine, I think - Olivetti offered several red typewriters including the Lettera 25, the Lettera 31, and of course the Valentine. Pink Lettera 22s, while rare, have been occasionally spotted. Besides, red is a classic Christmas color and very apt for this time of the year. Here's what it looked like before:

And now, after:

The Lettera 35 has a clamshell body that is fairly simple to take apart and put back together, making it an excellent candidate for a paint job. The original dull taupe color is the perfect base on which to apply a vibrant hue of your choosing. We just happen to think everything goes well with red! I think it makes for a pretty original gift idea.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wilfred Beeching's Century of the Typewriter

Typecast sent from my pica Olympia SF, which has occasional margin alignment issues...

(Front and back cover)

(Olympia Portable Typewriters)

(Overview of Adler/Triumph typewriters)

 (Hermes Portable Typewriters)

(Olivetti Portable Typewriters)

(Picture index with some very rare machines shown)

It's nice to see the typewriters in our collection represented in a comprehensive timeline of other models from the same manufacturer. Some of the pictures are also quite special, like the aerial view of the Paillard (Hermes) factory in Yverdon which enabled us to find the exact site on Google Maps. I also very much appreciate details of the various typefaces and keyboard layouts offered by Olympia.

As comprehensive as it might seem, even I am able to notice several European manufacturers that did not get a mention, including Rooy, Japy, ABC, and Swissa. Pity!

As Will Davis said on the Portable Typewriter Forum last year, "this is a book to get". It still turns up for sale on eBay and Amazon every now and then, so if you're interested in typewriters and don't have a copy of this yet, you might want to ask Santa politely...

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Olympia SF De Luxe Blue Script/ Cursive Typewriter (1960s)

Here she is (pictures taken in sunnier times, in August):

It's difficult to catch the precise shade of blue in photographs, even in decent light - here it appears a slightly lighter shade than it actually is. Here is a better look:

This typewriter had been quite well-preserved, and came with a fairly clean case with the pull tab on the zipper intact (this seems to be a rather vulnerable part on other machines with zippered cases). The only flaw is that the rubber washers that grip the ribbon cover have crumbled away, and while I have found a temporary solution using bits of an old bike inner tube, it is still not very secure. I should spend some time in a hardware store to find a better alternative.

In terms of actual writing ability, I like the playful and whimsical nature of the typeface. It makes a refreshing change from the elaborately looped ones with descending capitals, and does indeed look like beautiful even handwriting.

That said, however, my problem with Olympia SFs persists - I feel it takes way more effort to write on this than a Lettera 32, for instance. The keys just do not have very much give, and the tension lever seems to make little difference. Despite that, I do not regret owning two of these beauties (with different colors and fonts). Here they are side-by-side:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Typecast: Decisions, decisions

Not that this has stopped me from a few special acquisitions lately, mind you. I really want to put up some good pictures, but natural lighting has been scarce lately, what with the overcast skies and all. There are some very nice machines on the wait list...

*Error alert: I wrote this typecast on a Lettera 32 with a QWERTY keyboard, and while I thought I caught all the mistakes I made switching from my usual QWERTZ, I now realize that there are a few typos :(. But this is already scanned, so please excuse the errors! Where is spellcheck when you need it?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

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