Sunday, September 25, 2011

Mario and Luigi, My Spanish-Italian Homeboys.

Mario (left), an Olivetti-Underwood 21, and Luigi (right), an Olivetti-Underwood Studio 44. Internally, the exact same machine.
Mario (left) and Luigi (right), drug-taking, murderous videogame characters, plumbers, and racist Italian stereotypes.

These I got last week. I haven't been keeping up with the blog as I should. Luigi came first. Sadly, there is a problem with the carriage return. I'd love to fix it but I don't see why it's not working right, and I'm not willing to take it apart. It is fully funtional otherwise, if I'm inclined to manually turn the knob to advance to the next line. It is a wonderful typer, though.

Mario came a few days later and I just about fell off my chair. It's perfect in almost every way. The action, the typing, the return, the feel of brand new. I've never seen anything like it. If necessary I could use parts off Luigi to fix it, but I doubt I'll need to. These are both over 45 years old. I've stopped buying typewriters, at least for now, but if and when I do it will be exclusively Olivettis and Underwoods. I'm really impressed by the quality and beauty of them.

Help Me, Dr. Zaius!

Dr. Zaius, wisest and greatest of all typewriters.

Dr. Zaius, wisest and greatest of all apes.

My newest, bestest friend, and 11th typewriter buddy, Dr. Zaius. An eBay purchase I won on Labor Day that got lost by the post office, it arrived here yesterday. This is a big, heavy typing machine. The serial number indicates it's from 1949. This isn't my oldest machine (that would be Ignatius the '48 Remington Rand Portable DeLuxe), but it's a very good typewriter indeed. The seller's story was that this belonged to his uncle, a reporter who wrote for the Chicago Sun Times (among other papers) and who was also a devoted Underwood enthusiast. I will tell you this: no one is going to steal my typewriters. But if they did, I wouldn't miss any of them except the Underwoods and the Olivettis. These are some wonderful machines.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Farewell, My Typewriter Summer

Farewell, my obsessive typewriter-hoarding summer. I'll still love and enjoy the ones I have, but my buying spree has ended. I began the summer with one machine and I currently have eight. With the coming weeks I'll have three more, for a final tally of eleven. These have all been paid for and are making their way to me though the U.S. postal system.

Here's a rundown in order of purchase, for those keeping score:

01. '60s Sears (Smith-Corona) Citation 12 ("Typie")
02. 1948 Remington Rand Portable Deluxe ("Ignatius")
03. 1955 Underwood Universal Quiet Tab ("Sam")
04. '50s Smith-Corona Skyriter ("Mr. McMahon")
05. '50s Hermes Rocket ("Sigmund")
06. '60s Olivetti Lettera 32 ("Rusty")
07. 1958 Royal (Montgomery-Ward) Heritage ("Dirty Harry")
08. '70s Olivetti Lettera 35 ("Pablo")

The three in the system (which I bought instead of that $150 Android smartphone I was looking at) haven't arrived yet, but I'll list them here for reference purposes. Any day now the first of them should be arriving, and they'll be presented here and given their (probably Italian stereotyped) nicknames.

09. '60s Olivetti-Underwood 21
10. '60s Underwood-Olivetti Studio 44
11. '40s Underwood Standard

I look forward to getting to know these machines and cleaning and installing ribbons. It's something I really enjoy doing. They're much larger and less portable than the machines I've been using, particularly the Underwood Standard, so it's a matter of making a little space available. The Standard was a very heavy office machine (about 30 pounds), and there's no case for it, but I got a good deal and I've developed a strong affection for Underwoods in particular. I like the way they feel and type (the '55 Underwood is the single best typewriter I've ever used).

Olivetti bought Underwood in the late '50s, so the other two machines I bought are from the studio series...very similar inside but different in outward appearance. Tennessee Williams used an Olivetti Studio 44, which looks like a larger, heavier version of the Lettera 22/32. Excited to get the typewriters and hope to have some good news the next time I post something here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A.K.A. Pablo

What 99 cents buys. This is Pablo, my Italian/Spanish Olivetti Lettera 35 typewriter, circa 1972. This baby is all metal, and it's nice and shiny. I put a new ribbon on it and mostly cleared the jam that was keeping paper from going through. It's a wonderful machine. Life is short, and we need to find happiness where we can...tinkering with these old machines and trying to make them work, and hearing the clack clack clack when I type on them...few things make me happier in this world. Don't ask me why. I have no idea.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Even before they went away, typewriters changed.

At their peak, they were beautiful steel machines...with curvy designs and bright colors. And descriptive names...the Skyriter, the Corsair, the Sterling, the Futura. Typewriters had personality. This changed to a small degree in the '60s and by the mid-'70s typewriters were square plastic boxes with very little metal. And if you wanted colors you were in long as you liked tan or white.

To compete with computers, typewriters of the '80s were mostly electric, ugly pieces of plastic with names like the AE830. the SC110 and the GX-6750. Other than the tiny company logos, there was no way of telling one from the other. A sad end to a wonderful thing.

I went to sleep last night with my 6-month-old computer running and it rebooted itself in the middle of the night for no real reason. Anything I hadn't saved would have been lost forever. In a year or so it will be completely obsolete and unusable. Someday I'll push the button to turn it on and it won't do anything at all. I have eight typewriters, and none of them are newer than 1970. And they all work.

I don't fear the changes of the computer world, or hard drive crashes, or power outages or upgrades. These things aren't my problem. My priorities are elsewhere.