Showing posts with label olympia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label olympia. Show all posts

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Robot in Red - Olympia SM-9 Redecorated!

This partially redecorated Olympia SM-9 features the Senatorial typeface, more commonly known as the Robot font.  The workbench is a serious mess.  I just noticed the eraser that came with a newly arrived compact typewriter in the background.  That and the shroud from a partly torn down Barr that needs attention.  I need a time turner.
Can you tell it has been over a week since I typed anything?  My regrets for subjecting you to many typos.

As the SM-9 so lovingly stated in robot (Senatorial) font, Claire is the artist of the family.  I can't draw, so I take photos.  Here is her latest repurposed work in progress.  For scale, look in the background of the first photo.  Yes, in certain ways, she is very much my child.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Found in the Wild: Olympia SM-7 with Congress Typeface

The serial number is just over 2,005,000 which should date this as a 1962 model.  Other than a hard platen, this typewriter performs flawlessly after application of PB Blaster.  Not bad for a 50-year-old machine!

The ribbon is old and will need replacement at some point as the red is really dry.  The platen is as hard as a rock.

This is the first time I have seen the "Made in Western Germany" statement so prominently displayed.
Isn't this machine pretty?  I have seen plenty of photos of the Olympia SM-7 online and honestly had not been impressed.  The in-person experience is much different.  As it turns out, the semi-random looking textured panel above the keyboard is well pressed metal and its look is mirrored in the bottom wedge paint - hammertone in a nice metallic grey.  The paint texture is similar to the 1959 Olympia SF and the Socialite that live with my girls.

The SM-7 shape is similar to the SM-9, but has more personality.  It does lack the basket shift and super-light touch that defines the SM-9.  The keys appear to have the shape of the SM-3's keys with the matte texture of the SM-9's variety.  These have a pleasant feel.

As nice as this machine looks, I would have left it behind had I not looked at the type bars.  I love the look of Modern Congress Pica.  My oldest daughter, Hannah, loves it as well and has started typing to catch up with a summer worth of activities on her blog.  As for performance, it feels the same as our SM-3 machines, also with special typefaces (Italic and Professional Elite).  The main difference is that those came from ebay and this looker was found in the wild.  That is a satisfying experience.

More typewriter porn.  I hope this helps some wayward SM-7s find good homes.  It is a machine deserving of our affection.
 Once again, thanks to Ted Munk for posting the NOMDA Blue Book Olympia Type Styles guide.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Zombies on the Streets of Kansas City

By the way, it appears they want your typewriters.  This is a street poetry producer protecting her prize.  (Ick.  What a word combination.  It is 1:00 AM and I should really give my brain a break.  Mmm... brains....)

Stage blood by the gallon.  What wholesome family fun!
Some people take their characters very seriously.  Point a camera at them and watch the fun!

This was part of a a 15 second head to toe spasm.  Impressive.  And scary.
"Did you say something?  It's hard to hear you over all this moaning!"
Clowns.  Why did it have to be clowns?

Favorite sighting of the evening:  this zombie is contemplating a happy couple inside a mobile photo booth.
A zombie walk through throngs of art lovers is towards the top of my list for fun street shooting.  I live for content rich scenes like this.  Claire came along and loved every minute of it.  We were going to dress up and join the fun, but after laying a new living room floor I was looking a little too much like a zombie to do a good job gimping along with the crowd.  Besides, inside the pack you only see the few participants surrounding you.  I love being on this side of the lens.

All photos were shot on a Canon 60D; some with a wide zoom and most with a 50mm f1.4 or 85mm 1.8.  I am out on travel.  This post is brought to you by the magic of Blogger scheduling.  Please leave a comment after the tone and I will moderate it on my return.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Mysteries of Resonance and Balance

Violins at KC Strings.  The ones in the foreground didn't make the cut.  Shhh... not too loud.  We don't want to hurt their feelings.
Typed on an Olympia SM3 on Patapar Onionskin

We have had the privilege of spending time with passionate people during the dating process.   One of the co-owners of KC Strings turns out to be a friend of a friend.  He spent time with us last weekend.  Passion is an understatement.  Apprenticed at age 12, he has been building violins for over 30 years and obviously loves what he does.  The violin "speed-dating" process was constructive with input from one of his staff members a couple weeks back and him more recently.

The KC Strings violin on top may be the lucky winner.
I had a chance to chat with the owner of Beckmann's while Hannah was trying out instruments and bows.  It is a smaller shop with a very intimate connection to the work space where old instruments are restored and new instruments are built with loving care.  One thing he told me is that violin makers don't really retire.  They just build slower until they can no more.  He absolutely loves his job.
Or perhaps one of the violins from Beckmann's will be the chosen one.  This is Hannah playing in the shop.  It is an intimate space.
Wand... I mean bow tuning area at Beckmann's.

All of these instruments start their lives as blocks of wood.  It takes a skilled hand to build something meaningful.
 This blog isn't always about vintage technology.  But at some point I will do an entry about Hannah's current violin.  It is nothing special  being a catalog violin from a known maker.  However, the maker, Daniel Moinet, and the location and period, Paris, 1944, lend it an interesting back story.  We're thankful to a good friend of the family, Adela, who gave this to her in fifth grade.

By the way, Hannah is the product of public schools with additional instruction.  Unlike some kids that started Suzuki in Kindergarten, she first started orchestra in fifth grade.  We're fortunate that the Olathe school system is committed to its music programs even after almost a decade of cuts to overall school funding.  Got to shout out to them an Olathe Youth Symphony.
Secondary work bench at Beckmann's.
 Most of the violins Hannah tried out were made in the last ten years.  While that isn't vintage technology, modern violins are built upon design principles perfected around 300 years ago.  Other than a few power tools, most of the shaping is done by hand, one wood shaving at a time.  I very much enjoyed talking with the makers.

Finish collection.

The inner sanctum of violin and viola building at Beckmann's.
Hannah finally kicked off her blog with a post towards the beginning of the Great Violin Hunt at

Addition:  I decided to include some links for both shops.  The information about design principles on the KC Strings site is very enlightening.  Disclaimer:  We are working with these builders on selecting violins from store inventories.  They both create concert grade instruments that cost over $10,000.  Our 8th grader is a long way from there - thank goodness!

Anton Krutz on geometry:
Anton Krutz Bio:
Ken Beckmann Bio:
NPR Story on CAT Scanning a Stradivarius:  NPR Stradivarius Story

Friday, March 16, 2012

Olympia, Typewriter of the Jungle

You can read more about me (and bask in my photographic glory) at

P.S.  Grandfather Simplex still hasn't been reassembled.  So many Olympias, so little time.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

FIRST: A Day at the Kansas City Robotics Competition

Claire (aka: gingercat) loves showing off her swag.  This is the collection from an hour and a half in the pit area.  Teams swap and give goodies away.

One of the best things about FIRST is that competitions and the pit areas are free and open to the public.  As long as you are wearing safety glasses, you can wander around and talk to the teams about their robot designs.  The kids love to show off their bots.

A slice of life in the pits.

Tech inspection.  Robots are checked for weight and regulation equipment.
Before I go any further, I have to recommend my Spousal Unit's blog on the subject at
She is not a techie and will approach this from a different perspective.

Moving on...

The work doesn't stop with building robots.  Each assembly and sub assembly must be documented with CAD software.   The team has to build a website and create promotional materials.  Some of the teams go all out doing community outreach programs as well as promoting STEM to girls.  The latter is important given the number of engineers and designers we need to have this be a country of makers.

OK, that's enough of the semi-political advocacy for my girls.  Now we are ready to rumble!

You might want to watch the overview video at FIRST Rebound Rumble Animation on Youtube

A FIRST round always starts with an autonomous task with plenty of points to be grabbed.  The robots are programmed and loaded with sensors.  This year, they had to navigate into position and shoots baskets without hairless ape intervention (except for the little used Kinnect option).

The real action starts during the driver phase.  Each robot typically has two drivers and someone watching the clock and the field.  Microsoft donated Kinect systems to FIRST this year.  One of the regional teams opted to use one for hybrid control of the robot during the autonomous phase.

The parts kit includes the same batteries, PLC and I/O system.  Some of the motors are standardized as well.  There is a weight limit and a parts cost limit of $3,500.

This was a unique design and was foolproof as long as no opposing robot ran bumping interference.  That is legal in certain zones in the field.

Here is the amazing thing:  Each team started with the same box of parts, rules and specifications to create a practice field.  From there, design diverges as each team prototypes and builds their robots in six weeks.  They then crate the bot and ship it.

Of course they don't do this alone.  There are teachers, sponsors and mentors.  We talked to one team mentor who mentioned that their school is just outside the gates to the Fermilab.  Yeah, that Fermilab; the one with the particle accelerator.

There were a few catapults and many driven wheel shooters.  Some had turrets that could be rotated as needed.  We saw many different ball grabbing designs.

On top of all the other engineering challenges, the balls were made of Nerf like material that degraded throughout the competition.  Hardness, texture and friction changed as they went along.

Can you believe that every one of these machines was designed and built by high schools students in six weeks?  Bear in mind that almost all of these kids are in AP heavy programs.  It's fair to say that the bell curve is skewed two or three standard deviations in the arena.

Engineering is serious work, but so is Gracious Professionalism.  Teams cooperate.  They share parts in the pits.  The kids spent six very long weeks building their bots and then live in the pits for almost three days.   They are competing for the same scholarship dollars.  For the most part, they are loving every minute of it.

More about Gracious Professionalism and its partner, Coopertition are found on the FIRST website at

While the goal is to bring up the next generation of engineers, the teams are still in it to win.  This year there were two teams that absolutely dominated the field.  Here they are in a four minute pit stop between the semi-final and the final round.  That's just enough time to swap batteries and check all of the electrical connections.

Terror had two names this year.  Introducing the Bomb Squad and Team Titanium...

So now it is time to prep and shoot.

And shoot some more. 

To say that the Bomb Squad was a shooting machine would be somewhat redundant, but seeing an elegant design in action is inspiring.  Team Titanium was no slouch, either.  But I think that the Bomb Squad sucked up more balls and made more shots.

This was not the final round score, but you get the idea how this Red Alliance did overall.

We walk into Hale Arena each year to watch the regional competition and cheer on the local teams.  I remember the first time as I looked around and said "I smell nerd."  It's like being at home except a lot louder and with more and better technology.

Claire wants to go to the local high school that has an engineering program and a mature FIRST team that has been to the world championships twice.  If she chooses to follow through and makes the team, we'll miss her during the long, sleepless build weeks.  But we'll know she is in good company.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  All photos are copyright Dwayne F. of vintagetechobsessions (just like what's in the exif).  Please ask before using, be polite about attribution and do not use for commercial purposes without explicit permission.  Of course the Blogger platform does not provide a means to lock down  my intellectual property, but you wouldn't want to find a fleet of quadrotors floating around in your bedroom, would you?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Other Olympia SM3 - In Italic!

A painfully boring looking machine made better with gentle cleaning.

Glittery paint - I recommend deep cleaning to bring out the best in otherwise dull Olympia grey.

Clean, informal italic.

When seen in macro, the keys have some glittery stuff imbedded in the plastic.  Was it inert or intentional?
Greetings from the Noisy Ghost