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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

On This Day in Typewriter History (XL)

Bennett + Mignon + Joystick = Omega!
A Fallow Fields Typewriter Manufacturing Company production?
("Where sleeping giants lie")
Let me apologise in advance. I do seem to be devoting an inordinate amount of time, energy and space to designs of typewriters which very few of us, if any, ever get to use, let alone see (that is, if they were ever made, even as a prototype).
But I have to confess I find most of them irresistible. I am very much taken by notagain’s idea of a Fallow Fields Typewriter Manufacturing Company. It appeals to my imagination. As Richard Polt put it earlier this month, “I like notagain's concept of resurrecting stillborn inventions through 21st-century technology!” notagain had wondered whether 3D printing technology could be used to prototype some of these old patents.
Here’s one we could definitely start with. It’s only about the size of a Bennett (or Junior) and works like a small Mignon. And it would be called the Omega – the very last word in typewriters, the ultimate limit!
Herbert Schönfelder, of Leipzig in eastern Germany, was issued with a patent for the Omega on this day in 1937. He assigned it to Edgar Hoffmann, also of Leipzig.
This is how it worked: The buttons on the bottom left (52-53) are the capitals and figures shift keys, as with a three-bank keyboard typewriter. The button on the bottom right (46) is a back spacer. The small ridge (6) on a frame on the central guide rod (5) is moved by the joystick to line up with the required letter or figure shown on the scale (numbered 57-58). Once aligned, you push down the stick, which lifts the frame on to the typewheel, which then presses against the ribbon and the paper on to the platen. Simple!
Schönfelder suggested “the main parts of the machine, especially the base plate, the parts of the frame and the roof-like covering, are made from artificial materials, such as artificial resin, that can be formed by pressing. To further reduce weight and noise, other parts, like the typeframe, the adjusting gear, the carriage locking gear and the ribbon rolls with the transport toothing may be produced as pressed or cast pieces from artificial materials.”
So who’s willing to invest in notagain’s Fallow Fields Typewriter Manufactory Company? This thing could be a winner. Imagine a 1937-designed cross between a Bennett and a Mignon, made of an organic high-molecular compound (brass coloured?) and marketed in 2011. How could it not succeed?
STOP PRESS: Thanks to Richard Polt, we now know this machine was made after all. It was called the Carissima (I like Omega better). Paul Robert added it to his Virtual Typewriter Museum almost 10 years ago (, and also mentioned it in his The Typewriter Sketchbook (2007). It was made in Leipzig, too, by Knaur-Hübel and Denk, in 1934. Paul says it was "promoted in Germany as 'an achievement of German genius' ... made of bakelite (described in the brochure as 'insulation steel') ... [It] is regarded as relatively rare." These are images of the Carissima from Paul's website:
On this day in 1908, Leroy Anderson (above), composer of the popular 1950 instrumental The Typewriter, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Anderson composed short, light concert pieces, many of which were introduced by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the direction of Arthur Fiedler.
When performing The Typewriter, Fiedler would don a green eyeshade, roll up his sleeves, and mime working on an old typewriter while the orchestra played.
Anderson died, aged 66, at Woodbury, Connecticut, on May 18, 1975.
So, on this day, let’s hear it for Leroy!
Below is small selection of amusing links to The Typewriter:
The original Jerry Lewis version
A later Jerry Lewis version
A 78rpm played on a Garrard 4HF
Martin Breinschmid with Strauß Festival Orchestra Vienna
Brass Band Berlin (skip the first two minutes of chat, it’s worth it – and what’s that red typewriter?)
On this day in 1929, the Italian journalist, author and political interviewer Oriana Fallaci (below) was born in Florence. A partisan during World War II, she had a long and successful journalistic career. She died in Florence on September 15, 2006, aged 77.


notagain said...

I'm glad someone shares my vision. You've picked a great project for it though.
Just need investors, right?

Richard P said...

The Omega reminds me of the Carissima, also known as the Bee, a German index machine with bakelite body made between the wars. I've only admired them from afar, never had one in my hands, so I can't tell you how close the connection is.

Robert Messenger said...

Hey, Richard! Spot on! That's exactly what it is. I hadn't heard of the Carissima till now. I just looked it up on Paul's Virtual Typewriter Museum and there it is! I'll add an image as a postscript to the post. Well spotted, yet again ...