Friday, December 20, 2013

Full of Inky Goodness

While out and about on a rare day without our adorable spawn, my spousal unit and I stopped in at HAMMERPRESS in the Kansas City Crossroads. You might be aware that old school printing is in resurgence. This is one of those shops that was at the lead and it cranks out unbelievably gorgeous concert posters, cards and stuff. Their selection is rounded out with fountain pens, sketching materials, journals and magazines.

But the best parts are the sounds and smells that go along with active printing presses. Way back when in middle school I had the experience of racking up type on a small scale. The words appearing on this screen are much easier, but perhaps not as gratifying.

The front showroom had plenty of shoppers as Christmas is just a week away. During the First Fridays art walks, the crowd here is always thick. It is nice see an independent, small business thriving. I spotted a 3D tear down rendering of a Soviet Leica knockoff and requested that Santa add it to my stocking. I'm eclectic and difficult to shop for.

Contrary to popular opinion, this blog isn't dead. It has been kind of zombie-like and for that I apologize. Life is good, but busy with work travel and balancing the demands of work and raising teens. My primary outlet remains Google + where I share photos almost daily. The ease of posting directly from my phone or tablet is seductive, indeed.

I am on vacation and will try to catch up on doings in the Typosphere. Regardless of how you stumbled upon this entry, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Other People's Lives: Confessions of a Kodachrome Voyeur

I must confess to a morbid fascination with other people's lives as revealed by their analog representations. It is no secret that I enjoy rummaging in thrift stores and antique malls. Inevitably, I run across cassettes and sorters full of slides. Rendered in the Kodachrome and Ektachrome transparencies of old, strangers look particularly exotic and engaging.

Recently, I ran across a collection of slides offered by an ebay liquidator She had scanned each at fairly high resolution. The image that first caught my eye was of a mother and daughter peering into an Olivetti typewriter store window display.

Pretty amazing, huh? This is a wonderful image, even for those who are not typewriter obsessed. And I am totally, madly in love with the look of Kodachrome.

Having realized that the collection had some very solid street images from around the world, I started copying away. And then I had a very odd realization...

This was the same girl...

And the same Mom... and that must be Dad who was normally on the other side of the camera. I know that reality well as there are few photos of me floating around.

So, is it good or bad to watch a total stranger's child grow up? My favorite photographic form is the art of the wandering snap known as street photography. I am constantly capturing strangers as a window on culture. But this seems different.

Certainly, it is different in an amazing way. This family trotted around the globe when flying cost a small fortune and flight attendants treated passengers like humans. Put in Dad-the-photographer's shoes, wouldn't I want people to enjoy my artistic work after I am gone?

We've spent the last sixteen years in the fast-forward maw of parenthood and are increasingly aware of how quickly our eldest will be off to college and a life of her own. Seeing a stranger's child grow up even faster on Kodachrome is just kind of weird.

Why do I look? Well, I am in love with all things photographic. From a purely clinical perspective, these images are a clean glimpse of another time. The look and feel is something I enjoy emulating through software editing tools like DxO Filmpack. But as a parent, it is hard to be entirely technical when looking at these images.

In photographic terms, this was a pretty amazing life. Picture perfect and lived, at least partly, in exotic places worth commemorating in permanent, analog form. And to be able to practice the art of street photography...

There are always vacations sometimes the family came along for the ride...

But eventually, the child grows up and starts moving on...

 Until the boyfriend becomes part of the life of the family... 

  And the baby is all grown up. Just like that. *click* *click* *click*

Photography is the art of storytelling. This random story is fascinating and made me contemplate my own life and family. The best photos are the ones that help us relate to our world or at least slow us  down enough to think.

I am also curious by nature. Who were these people? Did they live good lives past the late 1960s? How did all of these slides, a family history writ large, end up in the hands of an ebay seller?

I had been mulling this post for a month and was finally moved to action by reading this post from a fellow Google+ photographer:  This professional took on the task of helping a family sort through many thousands of slides left behind by another pro. Unfortunately, the photographer took the encrypted passwords for digital storage to the grave. That is a mistake I'll need to avoid.

Maybe I am hopelessly voyeuristic. Either way, I'd love to read your thoughts and opinions on this post. In the last month, this blog kicked over the 60,000 hit mark with precious little attention from me. I very much appreciate people like you who stop by and actually read all the way to the end.

Please share the Blogger love. There is a handy Google +1 button on this page. You can also find me on Google+.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Reveal: Rheinmetall Portable Ergonomic

One of the Holy Grails of typewriter design just fell into my lap by sheer, dumb luck. I happened to visit Etsy late on Labor Day evening and found a listing for this amazing bit of German engineering. The Rheinmetall ergonomic typewriter is rare enough that hardly any photos turn up in a Google search. I'm about to remedy that situation with typewriter porn overkill!

The seller listed a number of his father's possessions in a brand new Etsy store. Reportedly, it was used frequently. The general wear on the keys and drifts of eraser shavings inside bear that out. How it came to America is a mystery; however, most of the items for sale were from Germany in the early 1900s.

While well loved, it could have done with a tuneup at some point in its nearly 80 years of existence. The degraded feet had been semi-repaired with washers, but the machine still sat low which contributed to the ribbon feed not advancing. The reversing buttons on the sides were held in a neutral position by some tenacious, ancient tape. A loose spring kept the ribbon vibrator from working correctly and also contributed to the delinquency of the ribbon advance mechanism. It is amazing what difference one tiny spring can make!

And yes, the keyboard is as strange to work as you might imagine. It is also awesome with the thumbs doing the heavy lifting on the center button to lift the carriage. That is when I remember to use a thumb instead of hitting the "Y" with my pinky finger. As is typical with German machines, the "Y" and "Z" are reversed. It is a tricky beast, but worth the effort for the novelty factor and the neutral wrist position. That is, of course, the whole point of an ergonomic layout.

As for typing, it is light and snappy in that German way. It isn't as manic as an Olympia SM-3 or a Torpedo, but it is very pleasant now that the segment and mechanical systems are cleaned and lubed. I need to check under the hood again to see if the spring tensions vary to balance out the key lever arm lengths. Onwards to a type sample...

There are bits and pieces of information about Rheinmetall typewriters floating around the Internet. Robert Messenger recently posted one of the few photos I could find of the ergonomic at As with the Olivetti ICO, this machine looks particularly stunning in red. Be sure to check out the brief description of the machine and keyboard. Unfortunately I, despite my last name and pre- Ellis Island heritage, cannot read German.

Robert also blessed the Typosphere with his signature approach to journalistic treatment of all things typewriter. Read everything you ever wanted to know about Rheinmetall-Borsig at This wonderful ad comes from that post. The typewriter, an elegant and civilized device.

Here is a good general history of the Rheinmetall portable typewriter courtesy of Mr. Sommeregger. 

Unfortunately, the Rheinmetall page on the Machines of Loving Grace Portable Typewriter site delivered the dread 404 error message just now.

The machine uses many stock parts with the front end greatly customized. The shift and lock button are in the middle. The space bar is split with pads on either side. Mine has odd damage to the right pad. I can't imagine that it is wear. It appears intentional. The mask at the top and around the ribbon spools is plastic. The apron housing the Tab key is painted steel.

Another view of the keyboard:

The machine bears two serial numbers in multiple locations. The larger number appears to place manufacturing around 1935. I assume the smaller number, repeated on the chassis and carriage, is specific to the model.

The machine was loaded with eraser shavings and coated with the stubborn film so common with black typewriters of a certain age. Goop was highly effective in cleaning the paint. A quick pass over the decals did no harm.

Again, little information is available on this specific machine. As a limited production item, it must have been an expensive experiment. Market research in 1935 would not have been on par with today's big data driven approach. On the other hand, we've seen plenty of experiments come and go in modern capitalism as well. I picked up a fire sale Microsoft Surface RT and it is so far the most disappointing bit of tech I've owned since Windows Vista.

Of course, we at the House Full of Nerds are prone to our own tin-foil hat conspiracy theories. We've also been watching a lot of modern Doctor Who. I personally think our Toy Transformer went back in time and forcibly modified innocent portables to reflect its mutant image.

Well, that is one theory, anyway. Maybe it was the early heavy water experiments that tainted the factories. Or maybe, just maybe, it wasn't made in Germany after all. It was found on the Moon by the crew of Apollo 17. No wonder we've never gone back.

Thanks for reading and putting up with my flights of fancy! Stick around long enough and interesting things come out.

Blah, blah, blah... not another Copyright notice! Oh, yeah. Here we go again: the content on this blog is Copyright DwayneF of Vintage Technology Obsessions unless otherwise specified. Please use the nice Google+ like and share features at the top of the page or contribute to the sharing economy of the web on the platform of your choice. Commercial use is strictly prohibited. You see that guy in black and silver up there? After traveling through time to 1935 and back, finding the other end of the Internet from here is a trivial exercise. Please, don't tempt him.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Typewriter Teasers: Reveal Coming Soon!

I've already posted a few teasers on my Google+ feed, but thought this might be of broader interest to the Typosphere. This machine is now almost ready for a proper photo session. It has been cleaned, lubed, adjusted and has a new ribbon in place and pads ready to install where the rotted, rubber feet once were.

It is a genuine rarity. How rare is it? Richard Polt doesn't own one. Until the reveal, here are a few teasers to whet your appetite.

This is a portable with a carriage that comes off in less than a minute. This a dead giveaway for the brand.

Every surface that matters is machined and the chrome is thick and beautiful. Very well made.
And now for the truly puzzling evidence: the serial numbers on various part of the machine don't match. Hmmm....  By the way, it is much cleaner than when these photos were taken. It was well loved and loaded with eraser shavings.

This is one of those situations where it paid off to be an insomniac. I checked Etsy as I was finally winding down late on Labor Day and hit the random jackpot.

Let the frenzied guessing begin! The answer, however, will not be revealed until the reveal. I'm cruel that way.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

An Evening on the Streets

This post is subtitled The Many Joys of Street Photography

Alleyway Buskers: Power and Light by an Old Pickup Truck

I've riffed before about my love of photography, cameras and vintage lenses. But once again, I will step upon my Blogger soapbox to proclaim my love of street photography. I shoot almost anything that moves and a few things that don't, but street is just a sublime experience.

Bright Lights and Halos
When wandering with my camera, it's like I am a raw nerve. I walk, I watch and I react. Much of the normal noise in my head just goes away as I do and be. It is the proverbial 'Zone' of hyper-focus. My wife can attest to the fact that I will often forget to eat or drink on my forays. I've gotten better about that.

Tales of a Lonely DJ
As with all things in life, some evenings are better than others. All of these images came from one extraordinarily fun and interesting First Friday art walks in the Kansas City Crossroads District. This was the last evening before the leaves turn and we contemplate the long, dark months of winter ahead. It was pleasantly hot, but the vibe was super mellow despite the huge crowds and the buskers and other street characters were out in force.

Ah, less talk, more photos.

 Music, music, music...

Old Time Music with Gallery

And here is the scene inside the gallery. The art is being observed.

Which ones are stuffed?

This is the scene across from the Leedy-Voulkos gallery; the current center of the Crossroads.

The Fae of the Wildwood specialize in mirth and merriment.

Really, she is the most mirthful of the bunch. I can't blame her for glaring a the camera.

Just Another Faerie

Actresses in Character
Random Factoid: The majority of these photos were taken with a Sony NEX-6 fitted with a '60s era, Thorium doped Pentax 50mm f1.4 lens. Yeah, this sucker is radioactive! With the addition of a Lens Turbo, it acts like a 54mm f1.2 lens. Very handy when there is little to no light. I enjoy the challenge of working with a manual focus lens.

The street outside the old Arts Incubator building gets turned into a massive party. Some schmuck in a car didn't quite figure that out and became stuck between a dance party and a board crew taking back the streets.

And here is the Leader of the Pack! Yes, that is a Big Wheel. Best not to ask.

On a perfect summer evening, I can even be entertained by human statue mimes. Really, they were awesome!

They were more creative than the average buskers. An excellent entertainment value!

Street photography is exhilarating and somewhat exhausting. The thrill of discovery keeps me moving, and moving and moving until the crowds start dying out and the last Lonely DJ loops some really lovely tunage. The next day, I get to remember how many hours I walked in search of the visual buzz. I hope I never actually get too old to enjoy evenings on the streets.

But enough of my musings - bring on the random slices of life... starting with machines gone wild!

And moments of total randomness...

With moments of normalcy - who doesn't love cold treats on a hot summer night?

I can never get enough of reflections. Layers are the best.

 And so the evening ends. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

 Musings on the archaic concept of Copyright: While the concept seems lost in this digital age, the content on this blog, unless stated otherwise, is Copyright Dwayne F. of Vintage Technology Obsessions. Please participate in our sharing culture. There is a handy Google +1 bar at the top of the page. My personal images and random musings also live on G+ at Me, on Google+