Friday 23 December 2011

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Spring Chicken

Dave's 50 today. A Spring Chicken, compared to this 1932 Corona Four in Bruce Green and Gold.

Happy Birthday, Dave.

NB: no keys were chopped in the manufacture of this gif. 

Wednesday 14 December 2011

All that was once solid... melting into the air

Seventy ad-free minutes from Alan Yentob about books, their inky history, digital present and 'cloudy' future. Worth watching by authors, writers and anyone remotely interested in printing or graphic arts.

Be quick, it is available on BBC iPlayer until 12:39AM (GMT) Wed, 28 Dec 2011

Click image to view. 

If you are outside the UK, click here to download 273Mb mp4 file.

Cautionary note: there are no typewriters in this documentary

Noon-14 Dec. Thanks Bill M for advice that iPlayer is not available in the US. I do have a non-time limited, non-DRM mp4 file at 237Mb. Just need to find somewhere to put it.
14:00hr GMT. allows 2Gb uploads to a free 50Gb account! 
Update: 02 Jan 2012: Adrive shared files expire after 14 days! They don't vanish but you have to replace them in a shared folder to get a new url - which I just did. I might get fed up with renewing the url. If the link doesn't work, just drop me a note in a comment below and I'll renew it.

Wednesday 23 November 2011


Every picture tells a story.

This one shows what happened in the hour or so before midnight (GMT) after PC World and Laughing Squid shared a story about Type-O-Matic.

I'm not sure to whom I'm indebted for the traffic but if you are reading, thank you. And thanks again to everyone who's finding space in their side bar for a Type-O-Matic badge. I now have customers on both seaboards of the USA, Romania, the south of France and somewhere in Brazil.

First to benefit is Typewriter Movie - now I'm a backer!

PS: Will update if or when Type-O-Matic turnover hits three digits.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Round Hill, Little Wittenham

Ooops, wrong blog :-)

Might as well leave it here now.

Beech trees on Round Hill, one of the Wittenham Clumps which are a landmark sequence of hills in South Oxfordshire. They form part of the Sinodun Hills and are also known locally as Mother Dunch's buttocks! The site is managed by the Earth Trust.

Sequence: 30˚ up + level + 30˚ down.
Tamron SP 10-24mm @ 10mm
ISO 100, f11
Projection: equirectangular
Projection stitched and rendered in Hugin

Friday 11 November 2011

The eleventh hour

On 11.11.11 at 11.00, this is a guest post from friend and neighbour Emma Anderson who recently went on a tour of Great War sites of conflict and remembrance. 
Transcribed on a 1916 Corona 3

No mans land. Going over the top, Thiepval
Someone's son. French German and British unknown soldiers' graves

Thank you Emma for the words and the pictures.

Tuesday 8 November 2011


...lots of videos of this El Salvadorian's collection. Here's his latest, an Underwood Standard No.3.

Tuesday 1 November 2011


November from Thomas Hood. Typecast from my Royal KHM

Of course November dawns bright and sunny with a faultless blue sky and smug bonhomie of blue tits chirruping in the garden.

Monday 31 October 2011

We scare because we care!

A scary pumpkin animation from Robin, occasional contributor to Typewriter Heaven.
Last year's pumpkin, recycled.

...and a MUCH older one from 2007. Don't have nightmares!


Olivetti pmc elite 44 on eBay UK for £65
Having wondered about the Jet Age's influence on the naming of Cameron's Webster XL-747, you have to wonder about the Space Age influence on these two Sottsass Olivettis. They could easily have been the first typewriters in space, if styling is anything to go by. I have never seen anything like them before, and now two at once.

The leather-look trim on satin metallic echoes SLR camera design, the covering aids grip. But the font on the keys of the machine above is pure sci-fi and much more at home here than it was on the Valentine. For these reasons, and my complete lack of a portable Olivetti, I'm tempted... if only they weren't priced so highly. 

The pmc elite is the better looking (and has a silver/black, leatherette case!), but the DL has the Olivetti logo up front. Is the pmc a licensed clone?

I think they are stylistic variants based on the prolific Lettera 32 print engine.
The best info I can find is on DE SCHRIJFMACHINIST.

Olivetti DL on eBay UK for £90

Friday 28 October 2011


The individual ribbon covers on my 1947 Underwood Noiseless 77 are one-piece plastic, not two-piece painted and chromed steel like the older Remington Noiseless Portables I have, or the Remington Rand Model 1, for that matter. Because the ribbons wind onto a built-in core without the need for a spool, flat ribbon covers are useful in keeping the ribbon neatly wound and coiled. You can see from the picture above how haphazardly the ribbon's wound.

These plastic tops are warped like Pringles. Is this the reason the coils of ribbon are bunching up in places? I think the tops are molded thermo-plastic and I'm wondering if weighting them on flat surface after a minute in boiling water might help to set them back as flat discs. Advice welcome...

PS: Turns out Pringles are on Blogger too!

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Mid-Atlantic 77

Back in July, I shared photos of three typewriters which cost very little money. All eBay. All fell in the "nothing to lose" price bracket:

  • First, a British-made Corona-Empire. Approx £9. Works fine. I don't like it - not sure I'd want to inflict it on someone else, so probably won't sell it. I may give it away. Then again, I might just need more time to get used to its ways. At least it doesn't take up much room.
  • Another Brit. This time Hull's finest Imperial Good Companion Model 5. £0.99p. Despite pristine paint and innards, this typewriter had been dropped and the soft case didn't offer much protection. I spent a long time fixing the space bar and it will work properly... one day. I can't complain, the seller rescued it form a skip. Right now, it is a 'work in progress'.
  • Finally, an Underwood Noiseless 77. £15. I just picked this up from its half-way house where it has languished for the last three months. I already had a brace of earlier Remington Noiseless Portables and their awkward cousin, the Remington Rand Model 1. Three heavier, less quiet machines you'll never find. And of course the Remington Noiseless was an Underwood Noiseless made under licence. You have to love it when something is made and sold with such hope and promise, despite falling so short on most counts. It is not really a Remington, nor is it Noiseless in any generally accepted sense of the word, and Portable? Put it this way, I wouldn't like to have to run for a train with it! Surely, this explains why a genuine Underwood-badged 77 seemed such a good idea.

First impressions: surprise! Pretty much like a Remington. Solid and crisp controls for everything except typing, which hesitance of touch is an acquired taste - that's the famous 'silent' treatment at work - it is pretty amazing how it works.  This post-war model has the finger-friendly plastic key tops and stealth matt paint job. Compared to the Remington incarnation, the return lever has the élan of a fencepost. And the bobbin-tops are plastic too. But this WAS 1947, even in the USA - post-war austerity and all that. Still, it is built like a tank and to an impressively high standard. I'd do a typecast to show how it types, but it is late and it would make too much noise.

Two anomalies: the $ key produces a £ sign, and the cent key produces the slashed c it promises. Obviously there was some confusion in the final assembly about which side of the Atlantic this one was headed for - so the assembler compromised. Or was it a cunning US imperialist plot to assert a new currency on an unsuspecting British public. 64 years later and we still aren't ready to part with our £.

Tuesday 25 October 2011

No NaNoWriMo

I'm not sure I have a novel in me, so no NaNoWriMo for me. But I know there are a lot of writers out there sharpening their pencils, oiling their various writing irons and generally limbering up in readiness for some serious wordsmithing in November's Na(tional)No(vel)Wri(ting)Mo(nth). Brave souls. Good luck.

My second cousin writes a little and he shared a link today to what I thought was a useful looking mag, especially aimed at aspiring writers. If you are interested, you can get a paid hardcopy subscription or the e-pub for free. Words with Jam.

Meanwhile, here's a back issue to wet your whistle:

Monday 24 October 2011

Stormy weather pancakes

Only made this a few times but it was very tasty. It was howling a gale the first time, hence the name. 

Typecast on a Remington Model 5

Saturday 22 October 2011

KHM: tab problem solved

The grime inside isn't doing any harm - it has taken 74 years to build up. I reckon that's part of its heritage and I'm positive I'd do more damage removing it than leaving it alone

I have figured out the solution to the sticky tab illustrated in my previous post

Removing the left-hand rear dust cover reveals the motor and what I'd originally thought was a retaining collar for the clockwork motor's spindle. At second glance (and in better light) I spotted a worm gear. A drop of oil and a trial and error turn in both directions and voila! No more sticky tabs and enough pulling power wound into the spring for the carriage to move briskly along to the set tab. If I hadn't had all the covers off again for a more thorough cleaning of the paintwork, I'd probably never have spotted that worm gear.  

I hope this is of help to any other Royalists (aristocrats? typocrats?) with sluggish carriages. This fix took two full rotations of the motor spindle to load the spring sufficiently. To save straining yourself with heavy carriage returns or stressing any parts, slightly over-wind the spring first and then gradually slacken it off until there's just enough tension.

Friday 21 October 2011

Sticky tab

Though the rock-hard platen is the perfect paper perforator - confetti of little 'o's fly off the type heads - the Royal KHM's almost running perfectly. 

But there's a problem with the tab brake. Unlike some older machines, this machine has a cork brake pad which slows the carriage down as it disengages the escapement to rattle down the rails to meet up with its set tab. It is actually a pretty sophisticated solution! 

Trouble is that pressing the keyboard tab button actuates the brake a bit too fiercely. It brakes the carriage's motion to the extent that it never actually arrives at its station. You can see the surface which the cork pad actuates on in the photos. The pad itself is hidden away in the campanology department. A problem like cycling AND braking at the same time.

The video below shows what happens when the space-bar is used, then the tab button. You can see the problem when I press the space-bar a few times, then the tab, then repeat. No tabs are set. Any advice on how to overcome this would be extremely welcome!

PS: Yep, I cleaned the friction surface the pad bears on

PPS: UPDATE - problem now solved! See next post.

Thursday 20 October 2011

Royal KHM - answers

Well, I have dusted, polished and oiled this old Royal and in the process found out a few things:
  • Why's it so heavy? That's a cast iron body!
  • Typewriter covers are sort of OK, but not as effective at keeping the dust out as a proper box. Good reason to stick with portables?
  • Adwoa: the cover is one-piece alloy with hinged ribbon tops (re-coined 'bongos' from now on). Not hinged but bolted on. And I honestly don't have space for this typewriter either...
  • Mike: thanks for the pointers. The ribbon advance is actually driven by the clockwork motor. Incredible, ingenious! Disconnecting the carriage strap and pulling and releasing it you can watch the ribbon inch its way along.
  • Richard: soft lighting hides a multitude of defects. The paintwork isn't up to usual Royal standards. The front plate especially has a slight 'orange peel' look about it - not dead flat.
  • Matt: the top left lever is to enable free-spooling from left to right - it disengages the ribbon drive. This will help when re-spooling fresh ribbon.
  • MLG told me about the cunning key tension control knob and indicator - nice touch.
  • The Royal KHM is an amazingly well-designed and built bit of pre-WW2 machinery.
Most things started to work once the dust was cleared out of the segment and the carriage tracks were hosed down. But there's stuff that still needs attention, like the strap tension. Can't figure out how to adjust it - any advice welcome - or I could just wrap the strap around the drum twice? It is good enough to advance the carriage during normal typing but not strong enough for tabulating. The fiddly bell-ringing trigger is only sort of half-working - a solution'll come to me though. And one side panel's been backed into by something - needs careful bending so it lies flush.

Back story on this one is that my friend had it getting on for forty years after his dad brought it home from a place he'd been working. It was used for essays and college work but was forsaken by a switch to a Selectric when he went into fanzine production in the '80s. Needless to say, the ribbon works but badly needs replacing. Lowercase 'o' punches holes in it from time to time - interesting effect but that's some serious ribbon fatigue.

The bigger picture
    [Addendum: I get questions about the ribbon advance and why it might not be working. Yes, half inch ribbon is fine but you do need spools as illustrated showing top and bottom views. Unlike most other typewriters, the advance is not connected to the ribbon vibrator but to the travel of the carriage.]

    Wednesday 19 October 2011

    Royal Standard

    No, not THAT Royal Standard.

    Last night, I picked up a Royal from an old friend who needed space. 

    It has no bell that I can find and a few odd-looking levers. I should look for a manual somewhere.

    So I think it is what's generally referred to as a "Royal KHM", circa 1937, one of the finest writing machines of its day. When it is cleaned up and running smoothly, I'll let you know.

    Meanwhile, here's a pre- spit and polish photo. 

    SN: KHM 2191365

    Tuesday 18 October 2011

    Big thanks... Richard Polt and Ryan Adney for their sidebar links and Jennifer Kennard for her article spreading Type-O-Matic joy far and wide! View counts are up, but no takers yet. Watch this space... or that space.

    Did I miss anyone out?

    Tuesday 11 October 2011

    Printing Office?

    After much gratefully received advice and encouraging words, Type-O-Matic is open for business! Having been a long standing advocate of impressing ink upon paper, I'm beginning to think of this service as something akin to printing. Mono-printing? And with such grandiosity, I believe I may have turned the spare bedroom into a potential Printing Office - of sorts. Hence the stirring address below, courtesy of Ms Warde. Once my first customer crosses the threshold, I'll feel justified in hanging this on the wall.
    Hand printed on an Everest K2 manual typewriter

    PS: Anyone feeling so inclined is enthusiastically encouraged to post a write-up, grab a 150px side bar badge or otherwise point people in the direction of As a business concept, it needs all the help it can get! Thank you.

    Thursday 6 October 2011

    How Television Ruined Your Life

    This blog feeds posts to my Facebook page (cheers Dave), so it only seems right for some occasional two-way traffic.

    Facebook friend and notable Icelandic academic Kjartan just reminded me - via his wall - how great it feels when Charlie Brooker answers the question "Is it just me?" with a resounding "No". Phew.

    Wednesday 5 October 2011

    Type-O-Matic feedback

    First off, thanks for the feedback on Type-O-Matic to everyone! I have had really valuable responses by comment and e-mail. What a brilliant community the Typosphere is. And nobody laughed me off the park. You are either too kind or as deluded as I am. I don't care, and I try not to judge. So, I have merged duplicate responses and taken the actions indicated below, as well as a few fiddly bits. If you haven't commented but want to, don't be shy. I'd still love to get feedback. Meanwhile, watch this space, as they say.

    Click to enlarge
    PS: Google alerts just spat this typewriter case renovation procedure into my inbox. Worth bookmarking?

    Tuesday 4 October 2011

    Welcome to Type-O-Matic!

    Last month, Cheryl threw down a gauntlet. In the face of almost impossible odds, Type-O-Matic is my experimental response to her question, "Can you create income with a typewriter?"

    I'm considering Type-O-Matic to be in Beta. It is public but not launched because I'd like some feedback and advice from the good folk of the Typosphere. That's you, dear reader. 

    I'd be extremely grateful if you could spend a few minutes checking out the service and letting me know what you think. Of course, you aren't the intended market for this service, but you are all well-placed to have opinions which I'd really value.

    I have intentionally kept the site as simple as possible, but I'd especially value feedback on the home page and the way the service is described. I know I really should try to get a little movement on there, possibly in the info-graphic?

    And how's my language? Too personal? Not personal enough? Too many words?

    Seriously, don't pull your punches but DO please temper anything wholly negative with a useful remedy (even if it is "give it up"). I have nothing to lose giving it a try.

    Finally, I have a few ideas for marketing but feel free to throw in any of your own.
    Comments welcome below, over on Type-O-Matic's contact form or by e-mail if you have my address.

    Link to Type-O-Matic

    Many thanks in advance.

    PS: I should add, the order form is live and functioning. Please don't trial it unless you really want a typed letter sending!

    Monday 3 October 2011

    So there I was... know, checking our stats on the YouTube, as you do. Discussing the new channel screens and double-tapping to go full screen. You know, that sort of thing, like. Then the YouTube home page shows THIS sprawled across the banner for some creative agency. Like Richard's recent comp, if it isn't typed, it doesn't really count.

    Wednesday 28 September 2011

    On this day in typewriter history...

    I'd just like to call for a public round of applause in appreciation of Robert Messenger's outstanding contribution to the enrichment of the Typosphere.

    Robert's On This Day in Typewriter History series has delivered a wealth of historical, technical and cultural insight over on his blog at oztypewriter.

    He's having a break from the history lessons but promises to be back next year!

    Sunday 25 September 2011

    Low hanging fruit

    It always seems to end up being the last weekend of September by the time we get around to picking raspberries, today was no exception. Raspberry jam is one of those things that makes the prospect of shorter days, overcast skies and colder weather more bearable. There's a choice of a few fruit growers nearby, but Mrs Lester's mum at P J Lay's PYO on the Brightwell road is closest - about a mile away.
    Mystical cat guards choice fruit
    Mrs Lester's mum didn't want to be in the photo so she stayed out of sight behind the door
    Typed recipe. Check those dates! Looks like we ran out of jam too early in 2007.
    9lbs of fruit softening on a low light

    Jars sterilising in the oven
    Coming to the boil
    When it comes to weights and measures, I have to describe myself as a metric migrant. One foot in the decimal present, the other in pounds and ounces and the days of yore
    Sunshine in a jar

    Friday 23 September 2011

    Chanson d'automne

    Autumnal equinox. An exercise in melancholy. I learned this in school. Still one of the only poems I can recite by heart. It was written to be read aloud, slowly. Typecast on my Remington Rand Model 1, the one with accents... and feet. Thanks to Florian for the timely reminder!

    Thursday 22 September 2011


    Some ideas are so obvious, you wonder why nobody ever thought of them before.

    Find out more...

    Wednesday 14 September 2011

    The end of the beginning

    Not with a bang, but a simper...

    Today is the day our local analogue TV signal begins its "digital switch-over". Never again shall I watch Charles Durning fall head over heels for Dustin Hoffman, non-digitally. BBC2 is the first to go and is playing out with Tootsie. The others follow towards the end of the month.

    Over the years, analogue BBC2 has brought all sorts of wondrous programmes into our living rooms. Monty Python, Fawlty Towers, The Old Grey Whistle Test, One Man and His Dog, The Goodies, to name just a handful. Less mainstream than BBC1, BBC2 was the channel for experimentation, minority interest and unconventional humour.

    Of course I haven't actually watched the analogue signal for years. Why would I? The digital picture is so much better. More consistent, less signal noise. I doubt it will be missed. BBC2 will still be there, though its digital signal arrives about two seconds later than analogue. The comparison will become meaningless within the next 20-odd hours*.

    The thing is, this isn't the end. Once the TV signal is wholly digital throughout the UK in 2012, our broadcasters will turn their attention to radio - the wireless. A quick tally shows over a dozen analogue radio receivers in our house, plus one in the car. These are mostly small, portable devices which, if you had them all tuned into the same station, you can follow seamlessly through the house - brilliant!

    Of course with Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB), the signal's quite clear and you get a programme description where there used to be a dial. You also get either a good signal or interference that makes the broadcast sound like it has been through a paper shredder and reassembled in the wrong order. No middle ground. DAB radios eat batteries twice as fast, and don't all deliver the same signal at the same time. Post digital, the famous 'pips' on the hour will be forever inaccurate by the time little DAB processors have reassembled them.

    Shame. Progress.

    Still, should be fun tuning in to what's still available after radio follows TV into analogue oblivion. Will there be any stations punctuating the hiss and whine along the dial? Are those Eastern European propaganda stations still broadcasting analogue? What happens to Long Wave and Short Wave? One thing's for certain, you'll still be able to hear the sound of the universe being born. The echoes of the big bang whose radio waves don't need an Earth-based transmitter. Maybe 'white noise' will be all there is to listen to on analogue sets. Might be worth tuning in after all...

    *STOP PRESS: At 1.13am BST, it actually happened. I wasn't waiting for it but BBC2 analogue has just disappeared, for ever.

    Thursday 8 September 2011

    David swimmer

    Still waiting for the typewriter muse to kick in so I'm sharing a couple of photos of a guy swimming the 140 mile length of the Thames for charity. This is just one of the 43466 strokes he's put in since the start. This evening, and a little behind schedule, David Walliams ( know, the tall one out of Little Britain) beached at Wallingford. It seemed like the whole town had turned out to welcome him. Checking out Little Britain USA on HBO, seem's like David Schwimmer's a big fan.

    Sunday 4 September 2011

    Eccentricty exhibition

    OK, so I mentioned this a month or so back and today, being a sunny 1 September, and having in tow the boy-with-the-broken-arm, it seemed a good opportunity to take the bus to Oxford and check it out.

    As you can see, Oxford's Museum of the History of Science is an august edifice, sharing a row of classical busts with the Sheldonian Theatre next door. We call one of the statues "Uncle Stewart" because of the striking similarity to a family member.

    Previously I'd seen a steampunk exhibition there which was  impressive - chiefly for the marriage of craftsmanship with  twisted imaginations. But most of the space is permanent displays of astrolabes, orreries, microscopes, telescopes and gadgets for generally figuring out how the world (and things which creep over it) ticks. The basement was a laboratory some time ago and giants of chemistry and the physical sciences have passed through it. From more recent times, they have a blackboard with notes chalked on it by Mr Einstein when he gave a lecture. That's the kind of place it is.

    Clockwork bird scarer
    William Stanley Jevons' logic piano
    So we had great expectations of Eccentricity as we followed the sign down the steps to the back part of the basement. The first exhibit was a clockwork bird scarer. Hadn't I just seen a bunch of those for sale at an antique market in Villefranche-du-Perigord? 

    Hmm, expectations had started to fall in the dimly lit corridor to the next gem, a logic piano! An 1860s device which, at a stretch, could be a predecessor to the computer. The inventor intended it to be used to prove philosophical theories, apparently.

    Round the next corner were a beer mat with a sundial printed on it, Marconi's civilian dress sword and cocked hat, an early wooden prototype of a rotary combustion engine and, at last, a few typewriters (why typewriters in an exhibition called eccentricity?) which had been the main attraction, at least for me.

    Star of the show was the Japanese Nippontype Chinese language typewriter. I haven't a clue how they work, but it surely must be more of an index machine than a 'true' typewriter. The case of type looks intimidating.

    As well as a fairly predictable Oliver No 5, an Imperial Moya-design desktop and a Remington Home Portable, there were some interesting machines which I tried to photograph as best I could (camera set at ISO 3200, deep breath):

    Globe index machine, spot the rusty bell
    Hammond Multiplex with key cards for Greek, Hebrew and maybe German?
    Columbia index typewriter, very cute
    So, you can see them here MUCH better than in the exhibition itself. I wish my eyes had an ISO 3200 setting, or the museum had just put a few more light bulbs in.

    Wandering through to the old lab next door, I spotted Reverend Dodgson's plate camera. He was a mathematics lecturer at Christ Church college but he's much better known by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll. Photographing the Liddell girls and writing crazy stories of Wonderland must have been a welcome distraction form dry academe. 
    And so up the stairs, out of the rabbit hole and into sunlight and fresh air in search of guitar strings for the young man.