Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Svetlana Optima - New Ribbon Day!

Svetlana's new ribbon arrived courtesy of Tom at Cambridge Typewriter.  Recall that Svetlana is an Optima Super made in East Germany.  She lived in a basement for decades before crossing the border from Canada via ebay.

Svetlana totally missed the reunification of Germany.  We patiently explained it to her, but she has trust issues.

Like I said:  trust issues.  End comments by one of her co-conspirators redacted to protect the "innocent".

Svetlana Dusts off Tools of the Trade
Perhaps we should be concerned.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Olympia SM9 Typecast Introduction and First Story

Hi. My name is Dwayne, and I am a type font addict.

Hi, Dwayne!

That sums up the latest addition to the vintage tech stable: an Olympia SM9 equipped with what is commonly referred to as the ROBOT font. Until reading entries on strikethru.net and retrotechgeneva, I had no idea that typewriters came in anything but courier fonts and variations thereof. I have since discovered the joys of Hermes cursive/script, Olympia's Senatorial (robot) and a variety of Bulletin/Display (large and larger all caps) on a ROYAL that is somewhere on a UPS truck.

A fixation on cool type faces should keep this technology acquisition cycle in check. Any typewriter I consider has to be awesome AND be equipped with a unusual type slugs.

Since I am trying to do the introduction partly through typecast, I will keep the digital portion short. In summary, Olympia typewriters are highly functional and intricate pieces of German engineering. A good bath, some lube and the replacement of one gimpy spring brought this machine back to a state of perfect health.

These 50 year old machines were designed for hard service and to be maintained for long years of use. They are not the expendable digital technologies of today. I highly recommend finding one of these and playing with all the tasty metal bits. It is a rewarding experience. Bonus: these type really well.

And here is the story, in pictures, mentioned in the typecast entry.  My family is awfully funny.  Finding the little raccoons on top of the Olympia before coffee was an interesting experience.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Most Awesome-ish Combining Robot Knock Off

Among the promised subjects of this blog are Japanese giant robots.  For my inaugural post, I'm opting for "interesting" and "strange".  Some would say this combiner, lovingly crafted by Taiwan's mysterious B/O company in 1985, is ugly beyond words.

But I say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  In the case of the Super Combination 17 in 1 Robot, the beholder's eye can barely take in all of its majesty... and semi-random parts.  There are elements from multiple Sentai combining Voltron robots.  There are miscellaneous pieces copied from many sources.  This thing is huge and the box is even huger and more entertaining than the combined robot. 

For an incredibly detailed review and more information than you would ever want to know about this creation, go to:

Before you run screaming in terror, let me assure you that the next Japanese robot I feature will be full of Shogun Warrior Jumbo awesomeness. 

The Super Combination Robot is presented for your viewing pleasure followed by a very nice Taiwan copy of the Voltron Lionbot.

First we have an original Voltron yellow lion next to the leg of the 17 in 1 etc.  The sword in the mouth is a giveaway that this is a knock off.  It also has shoulder mounted rocket launchers unavailable to US children in licensed toy form.  You could put an eye out with that thing - that is if the lead containing chrome didn't kill you first.

Here is the 17 in 1 in its full majesty.  You might have noticed mine is missing the front of a fighter jet.  Believe me, that is a good thing.

 For all of its strangeness, it does have interesting details like pop up domes that shoot spring loaded missiles.

Sometimes words are simply inadequate.

 So here is an exacting copy of the real thing.

 Such pleasant looking lions.

Well, even the original combiners were perhaps a little strange, but in a good way.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Type and Ephemera Catch and Release

I dropped by a couple of the Kansas City West Bottoms antique malls last Friday night. Good JuJu and Liberty Belle's are only open for First Friday's weekend. I brought home an awesome oak letter and paper organizer that made the typewriters happy and a beautiful 1954 Drexel maple end table. There was a lot of good material for catch and release photos. I'll focus on type and print goodies this time around.

This was a lovely display.  The typewriter was hammered and missing keys, but the typing instructional overheads were fabulous. 

I felt sorry for this Remington Portable.  It's too common to be desirable in this condition so it will probably end up victim to the key choppers.  I loved playing with the sliding typebars (controlled by the little lever on the right side).

This is from a nice cash register sitting outside.

Yeah, ink.  Not all that special, but I love the brand typeface.

Here sits a ginormous and mostly unloved adding machine with chain and gear innards.  It still works.

A fairly common Corona Four priced with a degree of optimism seldom seen.  At least it will be too expensive to harvest keys from.

Great graphics on this counter sales display.  I'm not sure what costs more per character - premium ribbon or HP brand inkjet cartridges.

Fun with letter stamps...

 Another great cash register.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hot Rod Motorhead Edition

It's Labor Day weekend and that means it's time for the annual Goodguy's car show at the Kansas Speedway.

Over the years, my tastes have shifted from being a vintage car purist to having an appreciation of rat rods and hot customs. The rat rods are progressively becoming more extreme to the point where they are true Frankencars. The best ones today sat mere inches from the ground.

My favorite custom was a slavish reproduction of the Truckster from National Lampoon's Family Vacation.

Presented in no particular order, here are my favorite vehicles and motors of the day:

This sucker dynos at 760 HP

The perfectly rendered Family Truckster.  You can almost smell the despair.

Say Hello to Svetlana Optima

Svetlana is the latest typewriter to join our crew and the first to have a name other than the brand.

Why Svetlana?

Well, first she looked too curvy and attractive to be a guy typewriter. Much of our angular and aggressively mechanical anthropomorphic technology is to assumed to be male. It just isn't fair – ask either of my girls.

Second, Svetlana is an Optima Super typewriter built in the early 1950s in East Germany during the peak of the Cold War. With such an exotic heritage, how could we not give her a name?

To be honest, we struggled with choosing a name. Technically, as a German made in an Olympia factory which happened to be caught in the USSR she should have a popular German name. Elise, however, was already taken as one of our daughter's middle names.

So why not assume that her time spent in Canada (could not be legally imported into the U.S.) had something to do with Soviet espionage? I checked lists of Soviet spies in the US on Wikipedia and was amazed at just how many there were. Svetlana Optima has a nice ring to it; perhaps she was a double agent or one of James Bond's nemeses.

The Optima brand was relatively short lived and most likely the victim of central planning priorities. Many were designed for the export market including our standard QWERTY keyed machine which found a home in Canada.

Svetlana must have spent many years living in a basement before beginning her new life as a US citizen courtesy of ebay. She and her case reeked of mildew. I gave her the standard treatment of a full day dose of Kansas 100 degree sun with the superheated air from the air conditioner unit blowing through the chassis. That approach failed and I am happy to report that washing a typewriter, or at least a high quality one, in the sink is totally doable. Drying in said conditions followed by judicious oiling has made this machine as smooth as butter. One of my kids commented on how the keys are as easy to move as on their laptop. Smooth.

Svetlana is loaded with beautifully machined and cast steel and chromed steel parts. The body is cast aluminum with a moderately glossy coat of green paint. The only plastic I've found is in the lusciously green keys, adjustment grips and just under where the ribbons go. The ribbon smells just as bad as the machine once did so a new one is on order.

We love new ribbon day.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Toy Transformer

This is what happens to broken vintage technology in our house.

The Toy Transformer is one of my favorite junkbots. The transformer itself is pretty old school, low tech, but it looks interesting and it is close to 100% metal. That tends to be a recurring theme in our junk creations. The latest creations also incorporate salvaged switches, motors and LEDs.

The vacuum tube is the visual that makes this bot work. The combination looks somewhat authoritarian and strikes fear in the hearts of broken toys. The Transformer particularly enjoys the innards of Happy Meal toys, circuit bending and voiding warranties. He's getting pretty good with a soldering iron and wants a plasma cutter for Christmas (and an old Tickle Me Elmo – don't ask).