Following the recent (in Australia) release of the remake of the TV series Roots, there are now officially as many remakes of Alex Haley’s 1976 novel as there are fakes of his typewriters.
Haley (Laurence Fishburne) and IBM Selectric
Born on August 11, 1921, in Ithaca, New York, Alex Haley was an American writer whose works, including Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, centered on the struggles of African Americans.
A different typewriter, a Smith-Corona Marchant (SCM) Coronet Electric, as displayed at the 2011 “America I Am: The African American Imprint” exhibition at the National Geographic Museum, Washington DC, is purportedly the typewriter Haley used to write Roots …
Careless mistake? Deliberate fake? Or the real deal?
Haley and his IBM Electric Model C …
Alex Haley died of a heart attack in Seattle, Washington, on February 10, 1992, at the age of 70.
I bought myself a great big Underwood …
“Red Writer” © 1981. A Lithograph from an Original Silkscreen Print by Anne Laddon.
In response to my question posted on Anne’s blog page: Did she own a typewriter? Anne replied:
“I learned to type on an Underwood, found one in an antique store in Virginia in the early ’70s and created the silkscreen from it then.”
The “Red Writer” is mounted on hardboard with an aluminium and glass frame. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s beautiful.
More great typewriter art:
Annick Eschermann “Evasion” (French postcard)
Andre Thijssen “Thriller” (German postcard)
D Altermayer “Secrète Secrétaire” (French postcard)
In May this year I blogged about compact electric typewriters and got a good response when I asked: which is the most compact electric (type-bar) machine? One typewriter muted as a candidate was the Royal Apollo 10, an electric typewriter that has a manual carriage return lever rather than a press-of-a-button carriage return. You can also operate carriage shift and space bar when the power is off.
Just like driving a car with a manual transmission, a great deal of satisfaction and sense of control is to be had in “shifting” the carriage of a typewriter by hand, so I was curious to try-out one of these manual-electric hybrids …
Imperial 300 AKA Apollo 10
While this machine is a lot bigger in the flesh than it looked to me on paper, the metal spools are tiny (are they original? I think they must be) …
Since they owned the naming rights, Litton Industries applied the “Royal” and “Imperial” brands to the typewriters they sourced from the Japanese (Silver Seiko, Nakajima) as well as to the typewriters they inherited from the Triumph-Adler (TA) Organisation.
“Apollo 10” (aimed primarily at the American market?) fits with the imaginative model naming schemes adopted by the Royal typewriter company.
“Imperial 300” (aimed primarily at the British market?) fits with the unimaginative model numbering schemes favoured by the “Imperial Typewriter Company”.
It’s been suggested that the Gabriele electric S (AKA the Olympia Monica electric S) is the most compact electric type bar typewriter.
With that in mind it’s interesting to compare the Imperial 300 alongside the Gabriele electric S. You can see in the following photo there’s not a lot of difference in terms of footprint …
The Imperial 300 is physically bigger (or at least taller) but feels slightly lighter than the Gabriele electric S, which, given it needs more power to return the carriage (and operate the basket shift), has a heavier motor.
It also has a noisier motor. Compared to the whisper-quiet hum of the Imperial 300, the Gabriele electric S sounds like a tumble dryer at your local laundromat.
The arched roof of the Imperial 300’s lid provides plenty of space for the non-detachable power cord and plug to be easily stowed away within.
With the Gabriele electric S, you have to store the detachable cord and plug in a cramped compartment on the underside of the lid. There’s less space, making stowing the cable more of an arm wrestle.
But it’s not all negative as far as the Gabriele electric S is concerned. While the motor of the Imperial 300 makes it quieter when the machine is idling, it also makes it noisier when the machine is typing, due to the greater force that is applied to the type bars.
(What makes this noise differential worse is the fact that the platen of the Imperial 300 has hardened more than the platen on the Gabriele.)
Another plus are the keys on the Gabriele electric S, which are more tactile and responsive than those on the Imperial 300 …
An example of the Imperial 300’s Elite typeface, if you’re interested the extract is from “Humboldt’s Gift” by Saul Bellow (1975).
If you could transmogrify these two machines and combine the manual carriage return and the quieter motor of the Imperial 300, with the softer hammer and more tactile keys of the Gabriele electric S, you’d have the perfect electric typewriter.
These electric machines enjoyed perhaps a decade of popularity before electronic typewriters, and then computers, replaced them. From The New York Times, December 16th, 1974 …
Common sense deserted him and he stands abandoned,
castaway at the centre of a pond that doubles as a wishing well.
Old pennies, tarnished and sunk, and discoloured at the edges,
have bonded together like discarded medal ribbons,
while above them, newer coins glisten in the sun
and are fished-out by children, only to be thrown back in.
History repeats itself and so too, sin.
The battle is re-enacted and he is resurrected
in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Killed in action, he is now the main attraction.
But lo, see how the greenhouse is padlocked
and has whitewashed panes to keep the secret in,
of tropical plants propagated in pots
and a pump that feeds oxygen to a tank
brimming with Japanese carp.
No hope of a warm bath for he,
stone cold at the cenotaph
on this second Sunday in November.
Still, it is important we remember
never to believe what we are told.
When you see something like this on the side of a building, you can’t resist going inside to investigate …
In fact, they want you to step inside …
Mean Machines is an eatery/antique emporium …
… where a colourful selection of restored vintage cars and motorcycles are on display …
Also pinball machines, furniture, bric-a-brac and other sundry collectibles …
There were plenty of vintage radios …
… and two or three typewriters, which were not on display, but hidden away in a storage area that was closed to the public.
I knew this because of a Gumtree listing I’d seen a few days before …
As it turned out, it wasn’t a 1950s Marilyn that awaited me inside, it was a 1970s Monica – covered in dust and positioned sideways in its upside-down case – which I decided to rescue …
This typewriter is not quite as snappy as my 1964 SM9, but comes a close second to it.
Basically, after some typewriter horse-trading, I’m back where I started, with two similar yet contrasting Olympia semi-portable typewriters, having replaced the 1968 and 1970 Color-tip S machines I blogged about in September 2015.
The old-shape versus new-shape differences I described then, apply equally here …
For example, in the following image you can clearly see how different the return levers are, and see how much narrower the neck of the ribbon cover is on the Monica …
Of course, in this case I’m not exactly comparing like-for-like, given that the stripped-down Monica lacks the touch control and the tabulation of the SM9. No great loss.
Something in favour of these later Olympia typewriters, I think, are the black “snug-fit” compact cases, which are lighter that the bulky wooden ones that came before …
Another convenience is the Monica’s birth certificate, which will serve very nicely as a type sample on the TWDB …
It’s incredible what the naked eye misses: I haven’t quite finished polishing the ribbon cover … judging by the smear of car polish I left …
All things considered though, Monica’s a mean machine. If you see one, take it for a spin!
“Clackety-clack, clackety-clack!” went Thomas, as his wheels clattered along the track.
“Clickety-click, clickety-click!” went the Reverend W.V. Awdrey, as he typed on his Imperial 66.
In bingo-caller parlance “66” equates to “clickety-click”.
Who knows, maybe the Anglican vicar Wilbert Vere Awdry (1911-1997) — the original author of the Thomas The Tank Engine series of children’s books — called the numbers at many a church fete.
A subconscious choice of typewriter, or possibly Awdry simply wanted a typewriter that was made in Britain and built like a tank? Either way, the hefty Imperial 66 is on display at the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust: Wharf Station, Tywyn, Gwynedd, Wales.
The first Thomas the Tank Engine books were written as bedtime stories in 1943 for Wilbert’s then three-year-old son, Chris, who was sick with measles. As an adult, Chris wrote numerous Thomas the Tank Engine books following his father’s retirement in 1972.
Opponents of the talking locomotive have branded the 70-year-old series as sexist, authoritarian and conformist. Chris said. “My father simply saw steam engines as male and the carriages as female.” He added that his father did eventually introduce two female engines – Daisy and Mavis.
Dr Aric Sigman, a psychologist who has researched the impact of television on children, has suggested it is wrong to criticise Thomas & Friends for being hierarchical:
“If you are looking at the world of mechanistic things – the military, the police, the fire service – those things have hierarchy. People have uniforms and they have to know their place. Things that involve men and machinery normally have some sort of hierarchy and social order.”
la rapidisima Hispano-Olivetti
One for the train-spotters.
A “first-class” record sleeve.