21 August 2013

L. C. Smith & Corona: Foundation Brailler

The history of Braille and modern Braillers are well know, but before the Perkins, there were a variety of Braillers. One of the last designs which never made it was based on a typewriter design. L. C. Smith & Corona made such a Brailler for the American Foundation for the Blind, Inc.

On the front it is supposed to say:

American Foundation for the Blind, Inc

New York, N.Y.

But it is worn or scratched away. Perhaps some student was idly touching the Brailler without realizing it was wearing away the printing there? It is a beautiful machine, and I imagine it to be most fascinating to touch without any sight. However, I also imagine it to be most awkward to use, especially for feeding paper and trying to read what one is writing. The carriage is complex, compared to the modern design (which originated in 1951).

It works beautifully and the case is very robust. The top comes off, but for the photos, I removed the Brailler from the case entirely.


Erika 147: Hebrew Typewriter

Hebrew was not a spoken and written vernacular until the modern age, and nobody would use a typewriter to write sacred texts. A typewriter would have to be used for secular reasons (probably business) to be worth having for Hebrew. Mine is from the 70s I think and it was owned by an American attorney in Boston. I imagine he was Jewish and had many Jewish clients. It is in great condition and seems to have been maintained and used until the end.

With typewriters like this, I can guess that it is from an estate sale. It is sad to know that my acquisition was made possible by death. Typewriters appeal to me because of their utility, but also their history. If typewriters could speak on their own...but their testimony is only from those who use them to record their thoughts.

In a generation, all the young people now who have typewriters will be having estate sales and the next generation will get what we have preserved. Hopefully, these machines can leapfrog through time and see the Apocalypse.

This typewriter was made in East Germany. On the back, it says:

Robotron Export-Import Volksseigener Au├čenhandelsbetrieb der Deutschen Demokratischen Republik DDR-1140 Berlin. Allee der Kosmonauten 24

Fascinating to have a company on the "avenue of cosmonauts"!

Because it is Hebrew, it is right-to-left, which means the carriage is distinct from English and other European language typewriters. It types beautifully as well. The ribbon needs to be replaced though.

I can read a little Hebrew, but not very well. The Hebrew keyboard layout is interesting. It seems to be largely random, although I know it is based on loosely associated characteristics of the letters.

18 December 2012

Christmas Typewriters

Christmas is going to be here soon, and that means many things to different people. To me, it is a religious holiday and I do not particularly observe any secular festivities except those which happen to occur around me. For others, it is a time to stress out and get into debt. I think my way is better. However, for many children, it means getting gifts, and it is a time to ask for something in hopes of getting it. A surprising number of children ask for typewriters. I know...parents and grandparents with such requests are stuck with "How do I get one of those?" and they Google...and sometimes they find me. They found me this year. I sold four typewriters for Christmas presents already, and have a query in my inbox and I am awaiting a response.

I will call your attention to this finer blog which also addresses Christmas presents and typewriters. A lucky person is getting a purple Skyriter and another girl is getting a Smith-Corona typewriter too. For me, many of the requests I get are for inexpensive typewriters suitable for children. I think they find my blog because of this post about a toy typewriters for children. To reiterate, those are functional, but not worth using. Ever. By anyone. They are cheap and not for typing. If anyone wants that one, I will send it, but please do not give it to anyone for typing!

For me, the typewriter I recommend is the ultraportable and compact Smith-Corona Skyriter, of which I have many. At least, I had many. If all goes well, I will not have an excess.

The queries have led to me to look at the ones I have and make some repairs. I replaced the felt under one which was detached with Frost King Sponge Rubber Foam Tape, which works better than felt ever did. And I cleaned up a platen. Skyriter platens are very good, but often, I find them dirty. Some fine steel wool cleared that up quickly. Now it looks and acts like new.

For all out there, Merry Christmas. Even though I do not give gifts, I hope all the young people are happy with what they receive, especially those who asked for typewriters.

26 November 2012

Autism and Typewriters

Developmental Disorders affect many aspects of human development, and one common such disorder is the Autism Spectrum Disorder (a new classification which I am using...the current DSM has some rather arbitrary distinctions), which ranges from nearly total disability to near total normalcy with minor disruptions in one's life. The most common manifestation, as far as I can tell, which would be classified as a "disorder" (in that it causes significant disruption in one's life), would be what we call Asperger Syndrome now. This disorder is interesting because it appears to be very common, yet, it causes significant stress, anxiety, depression, or otherwise impedes a person's life despite being average or above average in other aspects of life. I think this is a result of the rather unique social situation we have now, where people can be more or less non-productive for 18 years, and the major focus on interpersonal skills.

But, this is a typewriter blog, and so the link between Typewriters and Autism must be pointed out in case anyone missed it. The diagnostic criteria for Asperger Syndrome (note: for diagnostic purposes this should only be used by professionals) includes the following:

B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

(1) encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus


(4) persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

Now, this single observation of Autism Spectrum Disorders does not stand alone, so many people may have such patterns of behaviour in their life for any reason, however, I think that typewriter interest would have a disproportionate amount of Autism Spectrum representation. There are other interests which have this. The Internet has allowed people to form social connections over great distances based on a common interest, so I would think that the Typosphere has a strong representation of Autism, although, I have found that many adults have more or less learned to live with any Developmental Disorder they have and never had the benefit of any early understanding or addressing of their challenges, but many teenagers have had it addressed especially as problems arise in mandatory schooling.

So, what is the purpose of this? It is just an observation, but perhaps awareness of it will help people interact with others who are different (whether one or the other has Autism), as a common interest allows for one to enjoy the subject and to get social interaction, something which may be difficult otherwise for those with Autism.

Olympia SM3

I am trying to reduce the number of unused typewriters I have, and I have recently arranged to send a typewriter I have not shown on this blog. So, before sending it, I should write a bit about it.

I am, of course, a Smith-Corona fan. However, Olympia typewriters (of which I have had several), are very well made and robust typewriters. I think the touch is inferior to Smith-Corona models of the same type, but not much inferior.

I obtained this SM3 primarily so I could compare it to my preferred design (the Smith-Corona Super 5 series). Over all, it is a very good design, easy for typing, but I still prefer Smith-Corona typing. The key action in particular is better on Smith-Corona when typing quickly. It is better than the Olympia SM7 though.

Well, before it goes, here it is:

Olympia SM3

Olympia SM3

Please note, I have another Olympia Traveller Deluxe which I bought as a possible gift, but it has an issue with some screws (a screw holding the margin rack was missing, so I replaced that, and a screw holding a rubber foot broke (of all things) and that needs to be replaced (or tolerated...I have the screw piece and the foot for a future repair). It is very clean and in great condition. Contact me if you want that.

02 November 2012

The Death of Cursive Writing

There are statistics and reports I could cite, but I am not going to. But, just look around. How many people write in cursive?

From School to a Second Attempt

I learned cursive in school. I started in an early grade, I forget which, and I wrote in cursive for most of my school time and a little after. I wrote very fast, and ready it very little. This is a good thing, because my handwriting was (and is) very hard to read. As an adult in school, I stopped taking notes at all because throughout my time in school, I took notes, but never actually consulted them because I never needed to. The act of taking notes was possibly a form of reinforcement and it was sufficient for me or perhaps even unnecessary.

In the first years of schooling, I learned to write in block letters and then after learning that, we immediately went to cursive in the next grade. In middle school, we had a typing class (using what I now recognise as IBM Selectrics) which emphasized proper typing and touch typing, but we never had access to the typewriters outside of class and the class's drills. It did very little to teach us the skill of touch typing except in theory. Whereas we were expected to write with pens (pencils, but I strongly preferred pens because they had more fine tips and did not smudge) on nearly all occasions. One would think such frequent practice would lead to mastery of the skill. After high school, I eventually bought my first computer and mastered touch typing in quite a short time because I stuck to the principles I had learned in that typing class and I like to do things properly. After that, I stuck to the keyboard in all things and gave up writing in cursive because the times I wrote with a pen did not require speed but legibility.

I hear now that many schools have given up cursive to focus on more important skills. Many bemoan this. I wonder why? Yes, we learned cursive, but the purpose of cursive was not to be graceful writing, but to compensate for the deficiencies of pens. All writing systems have abbreviated quick forms. Ancient Egyptians had cursive hieroglyphs. The Chinese had and have cursive characters. Even Arabic has shorter forms. The Romans had unjoined cursive forms as well as the Roman forms we know and use now. And of course all the languages which use the Latin script have cursive forms. Why? Because we needed a way to write quickly and still have some sort of legibility. For publication, humans have stuck to the more distinct and legible forms. Cursive is essentially a shortcut for using pens without having to resort to shorthand systems.

Writing with a pen is uncomfortable for me. I thought it was due to improper training and practice. After adulthood, I tried to relearn cursive so I could at least use it well and comfortably. But I could not learn. In fact, it was very uncomfortable (nearly painful) and frustrating. I tried calligraphy, relearning cursive, and relearning another cursive script distinct from what I had learned previously. I could do it, but I could not do it fluently. I was essentially painstakingly drawing the forms, which defeated the purpose of writing. Why could I not use this skill even with deliberate effort? I could learn Dvorak to touch type within hours and have retained the skill with no practice (because I have not reached the high speed to which I am accustomed, I rarely use Dvorak, but when I do, my speed goes up slightly, so I'm sure if I put the effort into using it for longer periods, my speed would improve much faster, but that is actually hard, especially since I write productively).

Enter Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is like dyslexia, but for the writing. Specifically, it is a difference in the nervous system which is otherwise unnoticed until a specific action is needed. The act of reading and the act of writing is not something that is biologically important. For most of history and in most societies, it would not have been necessary. In our modern age, far removed from the natural condition of humanity, many things are manifest which would not have otherwise been noticed. Dysgraphia, dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, many personality disorders, and the like are all disorders because they cause hardship in the lives of people who have them. Dealing with innate conditions like that is difficult. Does one use drugs or surgery to "fix" what is essentially different and not broken? Does one accomodate them? To what degree is a person who is significantly different have to learn to deal with others versus others having to deal with people who are different?

Those are all questions which are important, but the focus here is cursive writing. We teach it to people who are undeveloped...people who do not have the fine motor skills for using it. Furthermore, it is a measure of intelligence. This is not official, but it is evident that teachers and people rate people with neat handwriting as being more intelligent and given that many tests involve writing, this is unfair. If we are going to have an institutional unfairness like that, we should go by something a little more biologically significant, such as facial symmetry or something. Still unfair, but at least it has some value.

So, for those bemoaning the antiquated skill of cursive writing, does your desire to preserve it include indoctrination of young people, discomfort for many, and lack of utility, and most importantly, to the detriment of the skill of touch typing and reading and writing? We could have classrooms full of people reading and writing without having to worry about the primitive act of scratching a stick on paper, but no, we have people doing drills writing cursive forms which end up becoming butchered in signatures and everything else is "please print".

31 October 2012

Children's Typewriters: Barely Typewriters

I picked this up a while back, as something to have in my collection. It is hardly useful, but it is interesting:


A Marxwriter, a children's typewriter. Children's typewriters existed since almost the beginning. Usually, they are index machines or three bank typewriters. This is odd, because one would think that a proper typewriter for children would be just as good as one for adults, so they may learn to use a typewriter which is perfectly sized for smaller hands and shorter arms. After all, we accommodate the learning process in other aspects. However, this is not the case. Children's typewriters are essentially the cheapest things which could be called "typewriters". They are not easy to type on. They do not really resemble real typewriters. They have minimal features and often they are mislabeled to look like real typewriters. For example, this Marxwriter has a "Fig" and "Cap" shift key, but they both do the same thing. It is only a single shift machine.

The mechanical operation of the typewriter is interesting though.

This does bring up the issue of children. Namely, that many essential skills, namely, typing, is not really something which children are ever properly taught. There are not many good keyboards for small hands. The skill of typing is extremely useful, and I would say it is more useful than cursive writing, yet, even to this day, people leave school hunting and pecking. It is a shame. We have the kids learn how to use primitive technology to draw letters before their nervous systems are ready for such precision, while we could be making strides with writing and reading by typing instead of focusing on how to put carbon on paper.

This typewriter is for sale...shipping costs only. It is light and should be cheap to send. Although it works, I do not think it is really useful.