Friday, February 16, 2018

Damaged label!

Hadn't had it happen to me yet - but last week the needle jumped the groove and pirouetted onto the label.


This type of damage to the label is sometimes seen on shellac records. It's mostly on older records, early 'twenties or before. The heavy reproducer with its needle is knocked out of the groove and slides over the record onto the label, scratching a groove where it goes.

Having seen it happen now, it makes a bit more sense that it's seen mainly on older records that would've been played on gramophones without an automatic brake. When the spiral of a record hurries to the central run-out (fast - to trigger the automatic brake mechanisms), the heavy reproducer of the older gramophone is thrown out of the groove.

This record already had one such damage, so could have known it was sensitive to this with probably a very shallow groove - letting the HMV101 gramophone run out only seconds too long gave an awkward scratching sound. And another spiral on the label.

Play only on auto-brake instruments - or listen to a digital version of the same recording :)




Sunday, February 4, 2018

From Quill to Typewriter

The piece from the editor so titled is actually not about the typewriter.


Naturally writing technology progressed also prior to the writing machine, hadn't considered the milestones of progress of the pen itself this early. (More recent and better known of course the fountain pen and the ubiquitous Biro.)

The article does make me see the simple metal nib pen in a slightly different light - an artefact of technological progress and product of the industrial revolution.



Incidentally, the closest item to a typewriter in this October '30 issue of the Meccano Magazine is this Braille typing machine.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Colored streamlined five

Typewriters are shown in many films, being the 'every-day' objects that they were. Most are fairly standard and recognisable machines. In the '37 film 'Rhytm in the Clouds', it looks that a less common machine is shown.

The film itself is a low-budget, fairly simple comedy with music and some romance. Typical of its genre/time; unpretentious, light entertainment. (If curious, the film can be found on the net - a.o. on the Archive.)

Around 8 minutes into the story, the songwriter (Warren Hull) is sitting at his typewriter in his swanky apartment. It looks quite clearly a Remington portable #5.


When the story again is at his apartment around the 40 minute mark, the machine is shown more clearly and it definitely is a Remington streamlined #5 portable typewriter. (Swanky, spacious apartment - with a white phone too.)


What is notable and unusual is that the machine shows quite light in the film. The regular black #5 typewriter would show very dark in the picture, but this machine definitely is not black.

Remington made #2 and especially the #3 portables in many colors, but the #5 came in black. Only by the late 'forties was the #5 made in crinkle grey, but this scene was filmed in '37. Did it also come in colors? It did come as a Smith Premier machine with a red top-cover. The machine shown is however not red, as reds would have shown darker with the film used at the time - as well as the whole machine being light.

A brief search on the hive-mind that is the internet turned up the Remington teaching typewriter:


This is a streamlined #5, but finished in a greyish shade of tan. That would be about right for the light shade in the film. (For larger images; there is currently one on offer at Etsy.)

Did the prop department of Republic give the songwriter a beginners, teaching machine? In the last scene with the machine, the camera briefly shows the keyboard - no visible signs of colored columns of keys. Maybe they went to the trouble of painting a machine to match the general luxury of his apartment - for a low-budget Republic production, that however seems a bit too much.

So maybe the wealthy songwriter did get a colored keys teaching machine :-)

Sunday, January 21, 2018

11C

Odd one out.


This one is very much electronic, not mechanical.


Also it is a departure, not an arrival.


Similar to many slide rules, it has some useful information on the back. Not conversion tables, but instructions on the more advanced use of the calculator. (As had the more simple Lawrence slide rules.)


This is an 11C (obviously...), of the 'Voyager' line of scientific calculators introduced by HP in '81. By then, the electronic calculator had well and truly rendered the slide-rule obsolete. Even though it's already 30+ years old, this specimen still works fine. Come to that, it has no dependancies on external 'networks', replaceable batteries, is low power and has no moving parts - it should remain functional for a while still.

There are collectors of early electronic calculators, and especially of the early HP scientific calculators.

Last week I got asked via-via by a collector of early calculators if perhaps knew of or had one of these that I'd be willing to let go of. I had and I was. So this particular specimen has now been passed on to a collector who was looking for one of these :-)

Friday, January 12, 2018

Polyphase duplex

Recently arrived a small, elongated package.


The leather is a bit worn and the embossing faded, but the marking 4088-3S can be read on the flap, with 'K&E polyphase duplex slide rule' on the end.


And inside this 4088-3S leather sleeve is indeed a Keuffel & Esser Polyphase Duplex slide rule, model number 4088 version 3. Quite common in North America, but much less so  in continental Europe.


Had not seen or used a duplex before, so took a chance when spotting this basic model. Duplex meaning the slide is usable at both sides, the stock being held together by the metal clamps at the ends.

It was somewhat dirty and 'stuck solid', but cleaned up very nicely. Everything can be screwed apart and cleaned carefully. A basic polish and removing of dirt, using an eraser / rubber to remove stains and even out / lighten the yellowed celluloid. Carefully clean the glass to not accidentally remove the hairline. Putting it all back together again with some care to get the alignments right (well, good enough). On one edge the celluloid has lifted and warped, so re-mounted the cursor 'flipped over' to run on the smoothest side. After the cleaning and some adjustment it slides very smoothly.

The 4088 is a fairly basic duplex rule, many later duplex rules go rather overboard with log-log scales. The front of this rule has, to continental eyes, odd scales; no AB, but folded CD scales (by pi) with an inverted CF. This deviation from the Mannheim is actually very neat and handy for the basic operations - clever.

The rule being duplex, the AB scales have been moved to the back of the rule, with an inverted C and regular D. The reverse also has the K, L and the sine and tangent scales, making it look quite crowded.


The serial number 378790 puts this as an early 'thirties rule - the K&E serials are a bit of an approximation, reading the graphs would make it around 1931-ish. The cursor however has the flanges at the corners to protect the glass from chipping. From the online sources on slide rules (yes, there is definitely a slide-rule-O-sphere on the internet), this type of cursor was made between '33 and '35. Assuming this is not a replacement runner, this rule was likely manufactured in 1933.


After 85 years, still giving results to three digits :-)

Friday, December 15, 2017

Marked down

As the price for typewriters on online classifieds and auctions seems to escalate, the amount of machines in local thrift shops seems down. This may be related, or pure chance of course.

In a round of a few local second-hand shops including a very large one, only one typewriter was spotted. This one had been in the store for a while and was now marked down from 15 to an 8 Euro asking price.


By now it was tucked away in a dark corner, jammed and looking rather forlorn. The top-cover is badly mauled and the Remington emblem is broken. A spare top cover from a portable is included with an intact emblem, should the buyer want to fix it up. Apart from the cosmetic state and a tabulator-bar that has warped out of shape it seems to be in good shape and fully working condition. Even a dust-cover is thrown into the package.

Alas, no sale even for 8 Euro. Would be fun to tinker with, but wrong period for the collection and rather too large to insert unobtrusively into the house.

On that, the amounts being offered for nice, clean pre-war portables looks to be going through a bit of a spike here. On the one hand there are a few traders that buy and then re-sell the machines via more international outlets for a several hundred (and they apparently do sell, looking at the shop-sites data). On the other hand the value attributed by many to these obsolete machines may well have gone up over the past few years. Even when not 'collecting', then as an item to have one of. Some as a static and transient 'interior decoration' for sure, but also some to have and keep one working machine.

In its distressed state, the Remington would fit the bill as a 'vintage' looking prop. A steal at the price. It may sell yet :-)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Stories of famous inventions - part one: The Typewriter

The January 1928 issue of the Meccano Magazine with an image on the cover for the article on the building of the Panama Canal. Many more articles inside on various feats of engineering, science and of course Meccano.


Also in this issue is the first instalment in a series about famous inventions. The header of the series contains a list of notable inventions. There are the expected items such as the steam engine, the sewing machine, the motorcar and the typewriter. Oddly missing (for '28) is radio. On the other hand it does mention noctovision. But to get back to this first article - the story of the invention of the typewriter.


The article gives a quick historical long view and then goes into more detail on how the 'startup' of Glidden happened, including the 'pivot' from a numbering machine to the general purpose writing machine. (To put it in today's terms.)

All back issues of the Meccano Magazine can all be read online at the Internet Archive. This link opens the January 1928 issue, browse to page 10 for the article.

For reading convenience, the pages also included below.