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Tuesday, 5 April 2011

USB Typewriter: Guilty as charged, Your Honour

OK, drum me out of the Early Typewriter Collectors’ regiment if you will. But today I gave myself a 63rd birthday present (nobody else would do it). I’ve bought myself a USB Typewriter.

Some people can resist temptation better than others. I’m one of the others. As soon as these things were brought to my attention (there was some fairly broad publicity a year or so ago)I determined that I had to have one. And now I have one. And, yes, it is a lot of fun. As the first buyer to leave Jack Zylkin (of feedback said, in May last year, “A joy to use and even more fun to show off.” I couldn’t put it better myself.

The machines are sold through Etsy, which claims there have been 219 sales, 60 of which are modified typewriters and the rest self-assembly kits. Only 19 feedbacks are recorded, 10 of them for already modified machines, giving a positive score of 100 per cent.

As happy as I am with the purchase, I have to say the process left a lot to be desired – at least for me. On March 8 – giving it plenty of time to get here from Philadelphia for my birthday - I paid $799 for the modified 1934 Underwood and $110 shipping, $909 all up, a not inconsiderable amount of money, especially for me. Twelve days later I still hadn’t received a word, from either Etsy or Zylkin – no acknowledgment of the purchase, no thank you for the purchase, no nothing. Zylkin is presumably an IT wizard – hey, Jack, that’s IT as in “information technology”, as in information (facts provided or learned about something). I emailed Zylkin and got an apology for his “lack of communication”.

A couple of weeks later the package turned up. I opened it with unseemly glee - unseemly at least for a man of my age. Yes, inside was the old Underwood, in very nice condition. Also a plastic bag with a USB connection. Taped to this was a metal bar. I still don’t know what the metal bar is for. There was no covering letter, no instructions, just the typewriter and the plastic bag. The very least I might have expected was a guide to what characters the various keys produced on the monitor. The typewriter works well as a normal typewriter, of course, with all the keys corresponding to the characters as one types. However, on screen the story is somewhat different. I’ll get accustomed to this, but in the short term it was a job finding out that the cap 2 produced the @ (instead of the double quote marks), the cap 6 the ^ (instead of the dash), the cap 8 an asterisk (instead of the typewriter’s apostrophe), the cap ¼ a plus sign, the ½ an equals sign, the cap ¾ a question mark, and so on and so forth. A simple layout of the keyboard would help.
I’m happy to admit I’m very naïve when it comes to such things, but the way these are advertised, I allowed myself to think the monitors came with the price. No such luck, of course!
Anyway, bottom line: would I recommend one of these to a fellow typewriter lover? Yes, I would, in you want to be as self-indulgent as me, and have a bit of fun at the same time. It’s also something to - albeit very briefly - impress others. One feedback said, “I love my USB Typewriter. I show it to all my friends and they love it too! It is a perfect combination of Old Skool and the future! Loving it. Best concept ever.” I certainly wouldn’t go that far (or spell school that way, either). In fact, nor would I necessarily agree with one other buyer, “Would've left feedback yesterday, but I lost track of time having fun typing on this. Great work and awesome device.”
I haven’t left feedback yet. The jury is still out, you see. Once I’ve made up my mind, I am well leave positive feedback. I just hope Jack’s not holding his breath, as I was waiting for it to arrive.
PS: This is my 64th post to start my 64th year!


Ryan Adney said...

A very happy birthday to you, Robert. I've heard about these hybrid machines, but have never met anyone who actually bought one. Very interesting.

Rob Bowker said...

Happy Birthday Robert. Does it have a bell?

Anonymous said...

I think it has several.

Ted said...

Happy birthday to you, and congrats on your 64th post! May you have 64 times that many equally as interesting as what you have produced so far (:

notagain said...

I have a Remette usb, and a kit I haven't started yet. the Remette sucks as a typewriter. I'm trying to figure out how much of the fault lies with the conversion process. I suspect he removed the line advance catch to wire the return contact, but the ribbon vibrator that won't retract and so obscures the type is probably just either an old problem or a design flaw.

shordzi said...

Happy Birthday!! And congratulations for this nice tool (drool!).

Richard P said...

Happy Birthday! You're not kicked out of ETCA. I've been curious about these for some time.

Sorry to hear that user-friendliness is not 100%.

Zylkin does provide some instructions on his web site. This page seems to suggest that you can change the layout to correspond to the typewriter's own layout:

Tom Furrier said...

Happy Birthday and congrats on the new machine. What a great combination of past and present. How are you going to top that? Enjoy.

David said...

Congrats ! wow this is great. I think I will have to get one too :)