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Monday 28 March 2011

Spot the Difference: The Adler Royal Typewriter


Royal manual portable typewriters appeared in many guises over a period of almost 60 years. Beyond the US, they were made in Holland and by both Silver-Seiko and Nakajima in Japan, and I have even seen a Chinese-made machine referred to as an Olivetti Royal. But I must confess this one (an Express 12), sold on Australian eBay tonight, was new to me:

This is the Adler Gabriele 25:
Okay, okay, it's the automatic spacer!
As for the carriage (and automatic spacer), how about this Adler Gabriele 12?:
So a bit of mixing 'n' matching ...
Richard Amery pointed out there is also an identical Triumph - surprise, surprise! Here it is (with Hebrew keyboard):
Here is the back of the Royal, which says "Made in Japan for T-A organisation" - T-A as in Triumph-Adler:
Now, speaking of TA Royals, here is another new one of me, a  Contessa 2. I wonder where I've seen that model name Contessa before?

New Typewriter Book: Oliver History

Just arrived in the mail from the US today is this full history of the Oliver Typewriter Company, surely one of the most intriguing lines among all typewriter brands.
The history has been written by young Morgantown, West Virigina, typewriter collector and historian Jett Morgan, 15 (photo by Ron Rittenhouse published in The Dominion Post a couple of years back).
Over the past few years Jett has won the unstinting admiration of much older heads among US typewriter collectors - and his book is not just great reading, but a  fine tribute to his commitment to the cause.
The book can be ordered at
Jett's Morton Typewriter Collection can be seen at

Congratulations, Jett!

Sunday 27 March 2011

Typewriter Collector Re-Elected

Photos: Mt Druitt and St Marys Standard
Noted Australian typewriter collector Richard Amery gave himself an early 60th birthday present tonight when he was re-elected for the seat of Mount Druitt in the New South Wales State elections. While his Australian Labor Party generally took a drubbing and lost government after 16 years in power, with a swing against it of about 17 per cent, Mr Amery held on to his place at Sydney’s Parliament House – albeit with a reduced margin.

Mr Amery, who turns 60 on Thursday, might well have been contemplating a future devoted entirely to typewriters as, in the lead-up to the elections, it became increasingly apparent that voters would deliver Labor a crushing defeat. But by holding on to his seat, Mr Amery will now be about to continue writing questions on notice and other parliamentary documents on his manual typewriters. Indeed, much of his re-election campaign material was written on a typewriter. "I wrote so much of it on my Hermes 3000," he said last week, "I had to replace the ribbon!"

After such a long period in power, the massive swing against Labor had little if anything to do with individual sitting members such as Mr Amery and the popular outgoing State Premier, American-born Kristina Keneally.

Ms Keneally was born in Las Vegas to an American father and an Australian-born mother. She grew up in Toledo, Ohio, where she attended high school at Notre Dame Academy. Ms Keneally studied at the University of Dayton, Ohio, became a registered Democrat and worked as an intern for the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, Paul Leonard. She later studied at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, which happens to be the birthplace of the typewriter. Ms Keneally became a naturalised Australian in 2000, the same year she joined the Labor Party.

Mr Amery said Ms Keneally could hold her head high. “Kristina has worked tirelessly during this campaign … ” he said.

Despite the big swing against the ALP, Mr Amery scored a reasonably comfortable win against Liberal Party opponent Venus Priest. On first preference votes, Mr Amery had 14,438 votes, or 47.7 per cent, to Ms Priest’s 10,721, or 35.4 per cent.

Mr Amery, a former minister with portfolios of Agriculture, Water Conservation and Corrective Services, was first elected in the seat of Mt Druitt in 1993. He has been a member of the NSW Legislative Assembly since 1983, originally representing Riverstone.

Although his typewriter collection extends to well beyond 100 machines, Mr Amery is perhaps best known in the typewriter collecting world for his vast array of Imperial Good Companions.

Saturday 26 March 2011

Tonight: Earth Hour - Use a Typewriter

More often than not, I don't recognise the numbers of the missed calls on my mobile telephone. But, then, I'm a Luddite, and that means not being sufficiently savvy about modern technology to catch a number, associate it with a name and key the name into my list of contacts. For one thing, my phone hasn't got a QWERTY keyboard. For another, I'm all thumbs when it comes to texting, or whatever else one can do with a mobile phone.

It's quite possible, therefore, that Australian Greens senator Christine Milne or one of her staff had tried unsuccessfully to contact me before Milne came out with her suggestion about Australians using Earth Hour to compose letters to the nation’s leaders. Milne said “while you have the lights out, sit and think about the letter you are going to write [asking] for deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. Use the time to construct the letter and let's get really big changes on climate change.” Had Milne got in touch, I might well have suggested Australians could go one step further, and that she should have urged them to actually type such letters. It would be easy enough to do, by the light of a candle or an olive oil lamp, and using a manual portable typewriter, as environmentally friendly a writing instrument as still exists. As Milne said, Earth Hour focuses us “on the simple, long-term changes people can make to reduce their environmental impact”. There's little as simple, as durable and as reliable as a manual portable typewriter.
The Earth Hour people offered a “footprint calculator” on their website, In my case, I'm ashamed to say, the calculator told me “If everyone lived like you, we'd need 3.4 Planet Earths to provide enough resource. It takes 6.2ha of Earth's productive area to support your lifestyle.” Maybe if I typecast, things might be slightly different.

I realised I should be doing more about this disgraceful footprint one night when I caught a glimpse of the documentary Titus: The Gorilla King on ABC TV. In one heart-stirring scene, an actor playing Dian Fossey was shown furiously typing notes on an Olivetti Lettera 32 portable in the heart of a Rwandan jungle. Indeed, Fossey did this for almost 20 years, from 1966, at 3000m. I wondered how a modern-day Fossey would cope, using, say, a laptop. Not very well, I suggest, and probably not without some sort of damage to the gorilla habitat.

Some time ago I was invited to talk about typewriters at a local Rotary Club. This came about as a result of one of my newspaper columns, in which I had described my computer woes - one PC went belly-up in what an IT expert described as “spectacular fashion” and the replacement reacted rather badly to being fed a new Windows operating program. The Rotarians wanted me to talk about how we got on before computers.

My research for the presentation led me to suggest - and I think I might have actually carried the day on this - that manual portable typewriters could be taken to places laptops simply can't go. Naturally, typewriters can be used for far longer periods.
To illustrate my point, I dug out some marvellous images. One was of Edmund Hillary (above) hunting and pecking on a little portable at the foot of Mt Everest in 1953. Another showed an Olivetti Valentine being used on a desert island. A third, with which I was particularly delighted, was of Geoffrey Lee-Martin, my chief-of-staff on The New Zealand Herald in Auckland in the late 1960s, typing a story on an Empire Aristocrat while surrounded by penguins at Cape Royds, Antarctica, in January 1956, when he was covering Hillary's Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
I showed these machines in my talk, along with a Simplex index typewriter. Simplexes were used by soldiers at the Western Front in World War I. One surviving example is a letter saying, “I've saved 17 shillings and 6 pence, can you please send me some warm socks?” Another exhibit was a 117-year-old Blickensderfer, the ink in it still as fresh as it was in 1893.

The bottom lines are these: To use a computer as a word processor - in the way of a typewriter - it needs a printer, and a printer needs not just one or more ink cartridges, but a computer to drive it. They both need electricity, which means a power cord, a power outlet, and on and on through a power grid to a power station. None of it very environmentally friendly. A laptop can operate from battery power, but how long does that last? Not long in the Himalayas, the South Pole, on a desert island or at 3000m in a Rwandan jungle, not even with a solar-powered recharger. No such problem with a manual portable typewriter!
This may forever be the case. QWERTY may go, but the typewriter? Never! Last year, Rory Sutherland (above), who writes “The Wiki Man” column in Britain’s The Spectator magazine, suggested Apple's Steve Jobs suffers from koumpounophobia, or a fear of buttons. This was because of the way Jobs appeared to be headed with his new technology, to a world of communicating without anything to press. The QWERTY keyboard, Sutherland said, was indeed due for replacement. But, “Whatever its successor, the point-and-peck system iPhone is not it”. All of which, of course, was blasphemy and bah-humbug to a Luddite like me. How, for example, would we ever be able to write a letter to the Prime Minister during Earth Hour?

Friday 25 March 2011

Women and Typewriters (Part X - final)

So there it all is, my tribute to women and typewriters, a 10-post essay in (mostly) imagery.
The typewriter has helped give women financial independence:

It has been used by great women writers, including, among many, Australia's own Christina Stead and English novellist Barbara Pym:
It could in itself be called a muse:

It is involved in a vast amount of advertising and photography:

And it all began with this ...

Women and Typewriters (Part IX)

Royal lauded its "debutantes of modern business", but also worried about stressed typists:
More often than not, though, there was glamour attached to typing ( especially when it was a mink-covered Royal!?):

Indeed, typing was often on the screen, big and small ...

And on stage, too: