Sunday, November 27, 2011

Analog Record Keeping and Kansas City History

I'm plucking out cards from cancelled sales for typing use.  This is the back of a card like the one below.

The story of one customer and his watch.
Each drawer held hundreds, if not thousands, of customer records.  The earliest were from the 1920s and the latest from the 1960s.  The entries from the '50s on weren't as interesting since they added small appliance repairs.
I have a certain nerdy fascination with forgotten history gleaned from esoterica.  Out of all the antiquities I looked at during the October First Fridays' sale at Good JuJu, this was my only purchase other than a 1960s vintage Girl Scout Handbook for my wife.

There are many uninteresting stories in this collection, but that is made up for by the really interesting customer stories.  I settled on this one because it contained a record of a house call to repair the dashboard clock on a "Ladies Red Buick".  In looking at the customer addresses, I've come to the conclusion that this jeweler generally served the upper middle class and above in Kansas City proper.  There are many monied addresses along Ward Parkway in the file.

The drawer full of record cards was one of many.  In talking to the seller, I found out that the whole lot of drawers came from a single huge estate sale cabinet that was in very poor condition.  So out came the drawers for sale to crafters, creative types and nerds.

I guess since I am using backs for typing, that makes me semi-creative.  The fact that I am blogging about it places me squarely in the nerd category.  At any rate, I have lots of fun reading material to pick through.

Typecast Courtesy of the Royal Futura 800 (Borg Edition)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mousiest Royal Futura - Except for the Awesome Font

Early morning sun brings out the best in this color combination.

The subject today is the world's mousiest looking Royal Futura 800,  We're not talking a little bit mousy - we're looking at full gray on gray.  I suppose at some point it must have been a cool combination since this seems to be the most common.

You push the logo to pop the hood.  Pretty neat and not at all gray.
 Um, yeah.  Even with the cool red logo button action, this is still one of the most boring looking typewriters in the world.

That is until you find out what is lurking under the hood.

Mmmm, tasty.

Pretty spiffy, huh?  This is Royal's version of cursive.  It is looser and more informal looking than the Hermes variation.  It is perhaps a little closer to my casual writing, but much more legible.

Funny:  Just now the gingercat (Claire) just looked over my shoulder and noted that the type slug caption sounded like something a key chopper would say.  I prefer to think of is as the sound of a type face connoisseur.

But perhaps we should let the Royal do a proper introduction:

As much as we love the Royal Futura, it doesn't have the precision of an Olympia.  The fit and finish are to a noticeably lower standard.  However, it's still a nice typing machine and is just generally more laid back.  It is almost quiet enough for night typing unlike the staccato Olympia SM3s.  The Futura is more beach bum than jet set executive.

The Futura has a whole different look.  At the moment, they are not particularly popular.  Hard telling whether that will change or not given the myriad options for used typewriters.  I've heard Futuras have shown up on TV.  I wouldn't know since we watch the Olympics, Presidential addresses and weather alerts and that's about it.

Gray to awesome, or leave it as is?

We're thinking about maybe doing a little repainting action.  So what do you think?  Leave it as is or go crazy with some hammertone?  There are so many luscious colors at Home Depot...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Another Hostage Crisis

UPDATE:  Less than 8 hours to go on the auction.  At the moment, it appears this machine may be spared from execution.  The current high bidder ($58.77) is a total vintage stuff nerd judging by their history.  Will the choppers want the keys enough to take it higher?  Tick, tick, tick...

The hostage of the day is a lovely black Corona Four.  The seller will hold off on cutting the keys until auction end on November 30th - the whole machine being made available with additional shipping.

Sounds fair enough:  Buy this typewriter or I will dismantle it.

Here is the machine in question:
I don't usually borrow photos unattributed.  This comes from the seller's linked photo album.
Looks pretty nice.  I like the semi-period setting.
The ebay auction ID is 370562343603

This auction reminded me of the National Lampoon cover or the SNL skit featuring Larry the Lobster.
This is one of those situations that leaves me seriously conflicted.  I try to keep the addiction in check by working off a short want list..  Even that is constrained by the desire for the machines I adopt to have non-standard type faces.  In theory, the responsibility involved in rescuing a typewriter is minimal compared to springing a dog or cat from the animal shelter. We've done that and spent years with some really high maintenance animals as well as some awesome ones.  Still, typewriters take space and deserve to be put in rotation for actual typing duties.

I've put the auction on my watch list.  I don't know exactly what I will do until the actual execution date approaches.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Greetings from the Battle Creek Sanitarium!

I suppose the truth in advertising version of this blog entry might read "Just Another Robot".  However, that would not be entirely accurate since the robot in question is my wife's Google/Blogger avatar.

The story goes like this:  Emmie was out of town visiting a friend and Claire and I decided she needed her very own Christmas robot.  Being the dedicated scroungers that we are, I took Claire to a local antique mall on a parts hunting expedition.

Claire didn't quite get why I was so excited to find this particular tin since she has not seen The Road to Wellville and won't be seeing it any time soon.  Once she read the Wikipedia entry on the Battle Creek Sanitarium, she totally understood the nerd factor and Momma would get her robot.  After all, Emmie's reading materials of choice often center on eclectic historical figures, public health and rare, incurable diseases.

Interestingly enough, the tin was full of caked something.  One of the perils of junk bot building is that you run into lots of disintegrated plastic goo, chemical residues and other safety hazards large and small.  This was my first experience with 100 year old food additives.  I could only hope that the Lacto Dextrin product did not contain some kind of virulent live culture that would trigger the world zombie apocalypse.

Apparently, food safety principles were followed at the Battle Creek Food company - zombie apocalypse denied!   The yellowish stuff in the container was probably state of the art health food back in the day.

Should you be interested in the story behind the real Wellville, drop by   While you are there, please consider making a donation to one of the few corners of the Internet that refrains from pilfering your data and barraging your browser with advertising.

The tin joined a vacuum tube, fork and spoon, scrounged bolts, nuts and screws from garage sales, a pair of spring loaded door bumpers and some industrial strength epoxy in this assemblage.

I hope that I did not destroy some valuable cultural relic in the bot making process.  Emmie does love her robot. 

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Dead Blogs Are No Fun

This sheet was cut from a blank book for documenting awesome dinner parties.

We've all been through it:   the Eureka moment when we have chosen to blog, know what we want to blog about and have an awesome name in mind.

Excited, we jump on Google and look up Blogspot names.  Perhaps we already have a blog and just want to add another to fit a different theme.

Then we find out that all the good names are taken.  That's not so bad unless they are taken by name squatters.

That is precisely what happened to me.  I wanted a place to put my odd stuff that did not match the vintage technology theme.  I started looking up names and found roughly 8 in 10 of the good ones (even obscure second choices) being squatted on and filled with blank page, one post, no posts or even a couple of months worth of posts many years ago - as in 2002 or 2004 in a couple I looked at.

And then I had a Eureka moment and discovered that had not been claimed.

It is now and I would love to have some help in identifying blogger names that are being used to no good end.  Send them to me and visit the new blog and let's have some fun!

As  side note, I have to say that I had a really good run up until looking for photo related blog names.  I've been surprised at snaring good names in the last few months for me and the family including:  nerdtopics (Claire), thoughtsatfullspeed (Hannah), housefullofnerds (my Spousal Unit) and my new junk pile called digitalmemoryhole.

The latter is currently an empty shell, but I promise to populate it, really.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An Olympia SF with a New Skin

I spotted this great looking Olympia SF on Etsy.  I think the machine looks really nice like this.  Certainly a script SF is rarer than a standard version, but this seems a great way to keep a machine relevant.  I know either of my girls would jam on this new skin.

What do you think?  Art or sacrilege?

I have at least one typewriter that is destined for a nice pearl metallic rattle can repaint.  However, I don't expect that to be the norm in our house.  It certainly would not happen to the pre-1940s machines.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Tuner's Demise - End of an Interesting Week

And here is the tuner in question.  Nope, not gonna terrorize our neighborhood with this car, again.

Any guesses as to what they will have found in that backpack?

The Torpedo 18 just came out of a box the other day and will need a proper introduction at some time in the future.  Except for the normal typeface, it is officially my favorite typing machine.  I haven't cleaned or lubed it - totally awesome after coming out of someone's closet after several decades.
A windy day with leaves blowing everywhere.  A part of the photo they are.

This actually started as a single post through Tuesday typed with the assistance of Olympia! during a power outage.  I gave up on marking errors as there were simply too many due to typing in the dark.

If you have read this far, you have seen a teaser for my wife's blog.  She is just getting into the routine and most likely will not type her blog (thus not on the Typosphere), so give her some love if you get a chance at:

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 Typecast - A Binary Evening with DJ Spooky

That was yet another great evening at the Nelson-Atkins.  This year we got to experience the opening of the special exhibit of Monet's Water Lillies, several great artist talks, TED X Kansas City, and now this.  If you live in the area and love art and being surprised, do yourself a favor and get a membership to the Nelson.

Claire with someone who looks just like the Six Fingered Man from "The Princess Bride".

DJ Spooky mixing with his Apple App.  Looks cool for Claire.  I do not need a sound hobby.
It's all about the sound.

Mixing videos.

Hitler did not like this print art and reportedly hated jazz as well.
From a DJ Spooky tribute created for the 100th anniversary of the NAACP.

Yeah, he has a subtle but wicked sense of humor.

Quartet playing to a Spooky mix on screen.  He wrote their music on a recent trip to near the North Pole.
DJ Spooky signed Claire's Nelson bookstore sketchbook.  She looks happy but needs a good nights sleep prior to hanging out with her friend Cyborg tomorrow.

As a side note, the Torpedo 18 arrived yesterday.  It has not been cleaned or lubed most likely in decades, but it is unbelievably smooth.  The key action is light and crisp and agrees with my style.  So far it is less jam prone than the Olympia SM3s.  I enjoy it so much that I will even use it without any kind of special type face.  I will need to adjust capital letter registration at some point.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Night at the Symphony - Typecast

The Kauffman Center really is a stunning addition to downtown Kansas City.  We'll see if the the exterior architecture stands the test of time.  The primary public spaces inside have a lot of energy.  The view is wonderful both inside and through the windows out on the skyline.

But the performance space is the main attraction.  Hannah's violin teacher is a sub for the Kansas City Symphony and had the chance to play in the Helzberg Hall while it was in final construction.  The musicians love the space.  Even in the nose bleed seats all the way at the top you can hear someone on stage talking in a normal voice.

We had seats in the choral riser right behind the stage and under the organ.  Other than padding sacrificed to the acoustics gods in these bench seats, the experience is wonderful.  We went to the grand opening open house and sampled multiple sections - really, there are no bad seats.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Another Killer Robot

This is a member of the Tube Bot army Claire and I put together earlier this year.  Components include:  two types of Jello molds, friction locking devices from unknown electrical parts, pieces of space heater element, various transistor era bits and a genuine vacuum tube which may or may not work.  Two part epoxy is our friend, but building season (the cold, dark months) doesn't allow enough ventilation.

At some point we will go back and add LEDs to make the tube glow.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

B-36 RESTRICTED Report - Optima's Cold War Redux

A priceless bit of Cold War Ephemera
Love the cartoon.  At one point in time, letting this book out into the wild probably would have resulted in many years in the Leavenworth Disciplinary Baracks. 
The B-36 was one of the largest airplanes ever built.  It was literally a flying fortress with multiple gun turrets.  The Maintenance Digest details adjustments to make the guns work right while limiting their ability to shoot something off the host airplane.  The drawing is luscious.  Can't you just picture this inside an Oliver?
I scanned some representative drawings.  The text is wonderful and full of descriptive language on how to properly warm up the vacuum tubes in the Thyratron Controller.  This was way before integrated circuits.
I like working with electrical circuits.  I can't say I'm that good with them, but at least I can understand visible circuitry.
I love our paranoid typewriter friends.  They remind me of the Spy vs. Spy cartoons from Mad Magazine.

More information than you can possibly want to know about the B-36 bomber is located on Wikipedia and the Interweb at large.  Yes, they really did have a nuclear powered prototype.  They flew it cross country over America.  It's almost like they were trying to help the Soviets, but the Cold War was a different era and a little radiation couldn't get in the way of national defense. 

This is one of my favorite old technical documents.  One reason is exclusivity:  how many of these could actually have been made?  Most should have been shredded.

This particular copy I found mixed with auto parts on a vendor's table at an automotive swap meet in Lawrence, Kansas.  So exciting to find something this nerdy in the wild!  There were and are substantial air bases in Kansas as well as multiple aerospace producers.  Perhaps someone brought this classified document home as a souvenir.  I'll never know how it came to be at a swap meet, but I'm glad I found it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Olympia and the Onionskin Experiment

We got some new/old typing paper and Olympia (our resident peppy Olympia SM3) is here to tell you all about it.  Olympia is a household favorite.  I've written about and with her in previous entries.  In case you are wondering, the typeface is Professional Elite and is somewhat obscure.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

"R" is for ROBOT Type

The sun was coming into the kitchen just so on Saturday morning.  So I put off the ritual grinding of the beans (much to the chagrin of my wife) long enough to grab the camera and bits to have some fun.  So hard to pass on good light...

The large type came with a random baggie full of mismatched goodness from an antique mall.  My wife was surprised there were enough letters there to make whole words.  Try and ignore the dust bunny residue for the moment.  The robot is a miniature reproduction of the Radar Robot.  The actual Radar Robot deserves his own post at some point in the future.

Radar Robot hadn't had his daily oil fix and was a little grumpy...

The gingercat is not going to be happy about what happened to her nanobugs.

As horrible as this robot rampage seems, there have been far worse in the course of American history:

For you youngsters: that is "Tricky" Dick Nixon in the background.  I remember the summer of Watergate all to well since it preempted cartoons and Godzilla movie reruns.  Oh, notice the lack of type dust bunnies?