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Wednesday 20 March 2013

Typewriter Update, March 2013

I am posting the March Typewriter Update now, while I can, as I am flying to New Zealand next week and won't get a chance to do it while away. I don't expect to be finding any new "old" typewriters in New Zealand, either. But I may well see some "Flying Fish" - or at least chocolate fish flying down my gullet. And I do plan to take a small typewriter with me across the Tasman Sea, to use it there as often as I can, and perhaps even to typecast if possible. I will avoid like the rabies any Starbucks that New Zealand, an otherwise wonderful country, has allowed on to its shores.
Ryan Adney's new Typewriter Insurgency logo. See here.
I don't darken the door of Starbucks, not because I might be mocked or scoffed at for typing in a Starbucks, but because I simply don't like franchised coffee houses. I went into a Starbucks once, in Valencia in Spain a couple of years back, for no other reason than that it was the first place open in the city on a Sunday morning and I urgently needed a heart-starter at 8am. Never again. In most early-opening bars in Spain, the coffee is about a zillion times better - as is the open-air atmosphere.
Anyway, the simple solution is for all Typospherians to boycott Starbucks. Starbucks patrons may mock typists at their peril. Starbucks are dying in Australia and may well do so elsewhere.
Anyway, I digress ... I urge all typewriter lovers to resist a future in which typists are mocked at Starbucks, and to show their support for the cell of resistance to this future which has been formed by Richard Polt here. And to get out your typewriter and spend some quality time with it now.
As John Lavery said in his comment on Richard's post: "We are gathering strength by the week and soon we will be a positive force!"
Given Richard quoted Floridi has saying we will all feel "paralysis and psychological trauma whenever disconnected from the infosphere", I thought this little video very appropriate. There isn't a typewriter in it, but the point is still well made. Watching this "disruption [to the] normal flow of information" made me sick - with laughter!
Those who followed my travels around Queensland in the past fortnight might have noticed one thing in common wherever I went. As I pursued a few new "old" typewriters in towns and villages from Maryborough north-west to Gayndah and down south again through Wondai and Esk, I found I was chasing an item very much in demand. None of the dozens of antiques, bric-a-brac and op shops that I went into had never stocked old typewriters. Instead, invariably, the responses were: "We had one, but it was sold [often the day before!]" or "They don't last very long [in the store] you know" or "Young people just love them, they use them for writing." Presumably not in any Queensland Starbucks.
There is unmistakably a surge in interest in manual typewriters in Queensland, as well as in northern New South Wales (think Mullumbimby).  So much so they are just so hard to find now. When I bought the second Remington portable, on Sunday in Ulmarra, the New Zealand woman who ran the antiques store said, "You're the second person to come in this morning looking for one. I showed a young girl this one, and she said she was looking for something a little older [than 50 years]."
I found the lack of typewriters on my 3500-kilometre travels was only matched by the availability of hundreds of sewing machines - and beautiful old ones at that. Adwoa Bagalini would have been in Seventh Heaven if she'd been with me. She would have been packing gorgeous old machines off to Switzerland for weeks to come. But collecting them would be a long, slow haul. The number of sewing machines for sale was more than matched by the amount of road works going on (presumably after flood damage throughout Queensland).
 The Impatient Typewriter Mechanic 
 A blog documenting one university student's spiral into 
 typewriter obsession and related adventures 
Given the above, it was most appropriate that we held Australia's first Type-In in Queensland, and had such a great turn-up. Unquestionably the highlight of my Queensland odyssey was this event at the Breakfast Creek pub in Brisbane on March 10. Quiet apart from the thrill of the occasion, it was wonderful to catch up with Scott Kernaghan again, and to meet Rino Breebaart and John Lavery, as well as the lovely Kate Oszko, all for the first time. I was also finally able to meet Steve Snow, with whom I have corresponded for a year or more, as Steve's interest in typewriters has steadily grown. Following the Type-In, Steve decided to take the plunge and start his own typewriter blog. It can be seen here.
Steve is a PhD student and tutor at the Queensland University of Technology's Gardens Point Campus on George Street, Brisbane. I am now more determined than ever to tell the story on this blog of how Steve first got involved in typewriter collecting.
Typewriters aren't exactly dead yet for forensic scientists, either. At the end of May, I will be holding a three-hour typewriter workshop to help open the 2013 annual conference of the Australasian Society of Forensic Document Examiners in Sydney. My workshop will be titled, "Unlocking the QWERTY Enigma: Typewriters 1873-2013". Among many other things, I will be looking at how a tiny waterlogged Underwood 3 portable typewriter (seen above) helped send Leopold and Loeb to jail for kidnap and murder, how the Alger Hiss Cold War spy case hinged on a typewriter’s “fingerprints” and sent J.Edgar Hoover and his FBI team scurrying across America, trying to track down the original mechanical design engineers behind the Woodstock typewriter, and how documents alleging George W. Bush did not properly perform his National Guard duties went through similar scrutiny (including by our own Richard Polt. See here.)
I have not yet received the latest (March) edition of ETCetera, but I gather from Peter Weil that Alan Seaver has made a highly impressive debut as editor, succeeding Richard Polt
Peter mentioned that Alan's own article is among those which "make his first issue an exciting beginning to Alan's editorship".
I like the look of the new web pages for ETCetera, which can be seen here. Be very certain that, in Google's infinite wisdom, it does not convince you that you are looking for the European Tea Committee (and Google will try very, very hard to do just that!).  The "Back Space" link on the main page takes you to a new layout for the index to back issues, including images of all past front covers. Whoever was responsible for all the work which has gone into this should take a bow, as it is very well done.
I note that this March 2013 issue of ETCetera looks at Samuel Conde, who I wrote about in one of these monthly updates when his Sholes & Glidden came up for sale on eBay some months ago (and sold for more than $20,000).  It also looks at golden typewriters, which is timely since Thomas Fuertig has in just the past few weeks been putting together a register of gold-plated Royal Quiet Deluxe portables. As the owner of one of these, I took part in Thomas's survey and found the results he came up with most fascinating. I will also be especially interested to read about DIY Corona animal keyboard rings, as Scott Kernaghan alerted me a few weeks ago to something happening in this area in Singapore.
FLYING FISH and other
Chinese portable typewriters for sale online. They include a Flying Fish or two,
A long and most interesting comment was made on my blog post about the Kofa typewriter the other night. It came from "Gerard", or "Machopolitan", whose blogs include "Typewriter Fan From China" and "Typecasting in China" (which both seem pretty new, by the look of it).  Gerard is in Shanghai.
He said the Kofa is better known as the Hero in China. "The Shanghai Typewriter Factory began to produce these machines in the late 1970s. During the first several years, however, they were named Flying Fish. They were imitations of the Adler Tippa ..." Will Davis points out the Kofa Model 100 also has an Olympia SF/Traveller carriage. Gerard says the Flying Fish later became "essentially the Adler Contessa ... Flying Fish also produced desktop models, which, according to a typewriter engineer friend of mine, has the carriage of Remington and body of a Underwood Gold Touch. In mid-1980s, Shanghai Hang Kong Engine Factory ... was founded to produce Hang Kong typewriters, imitations of later-versions of basket-shift Brother typewriters ... Under the command economy, all three brand names were exported under the 'unified code' KOFA."
My Kofa Model 100
I was deeply touched that Gerard said he "immerses" himself "in the kingdom of typewriters every night. In order to view your website and those of other typewriter lovers, I have to pay for a VPN. I know it’s unheard of in democratic countries; it is a special software to circumvent the Great China Firewall which the communists use to block 'politically sensitive websites', blogspot included."
Well, typewriters aren't dead (presumably even in Chinese Starbucks) so long as people like Gerard can continue to penetrate the Great China Firewall. Gerard must be encouraged to maintain his enthusiasm by all means possible. After all, China is one of, if not THE, last countries to be still making typewriters. We share a special interest in it.
Personally I found the Kofa Model 100 far, far superior to later Chinese typewriters, such as the Rover series. Duffy Moon seems to agree. I note a Kofa Model 200 is for sale on Australian eBay under that all-encompassing Aussie brand name Pinnock:
Here is Richard Amery's Kofa-Pinnock 200. It is described by Will Davis as "a dead ringer for the later modification of the old Tippa".
Washington DC writer Sharon Villines has some very kind words to say about this blog on her website. Sharon is particularly keen on the Swissa Piccola and its font.
Sharon is "writing a children's book about a PI who uses a Swissa Piccola to type his case notes, and write a book. I chose this typewriter because a Swiss type designer, Jeremia Adatte, has done a nice digital font reproducing the Swissa Piccola type and added some characters used in digital text. Plus the typewriter underline and x-outs."
Sharon said, "It's nice that you researched context rather than just posting technical information about the machines."
"ozTypwriter ... is a blog ... worth an evening of reading and looking - wonderful pictures and wry humor. And sentimental commentary as well. Because he has researched his topic so well, it is an international archive of information about the world of writing and attitudes toward design in the 20th century. You will find fabulous vintage photos of typewriters (of course) but also portraits of inventors and artists, their homes and villages ... Do check it out, it’s lovely."
As regular readers will know, I love nothing better than to touch base with the descendants of typewriter inventors from long ago. One such is Professor George Roe, director of ethics at the College of Business Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago. Professor Roe is also the great-great-grandson of Edward Reynolds Roe, who I wrote about in an "On This Day in Typewriter History" post in early December. The post was headed "Flesh on Bones and Roe's Recognition" and Professor Roe was pleased with the job I did in putting flesh back on the bones of his long-dead great-great-grandfather. "My family goes back (documented) to about 1630 in the United States, and of all of my ancestors, some of whom were fairly interesting people, my great-great grandfather is high on the list of those with whom I would love to talk. He was quite a character, and your article did a great job in showing his many interests and talents."
I am out of touch after being on the road for the best part of the last two weeks. So I've seen no reaction to an email sent to "fellow typewriter enthusiasts, collectors, bloggers and professionals" by one Uwe Wachtendorf. Uwe says he has "created a new forum for typewriter enthusiasts. I had become frustrated with the clunkiness of the two existing Yahoo message boards, and since the Google version has fallen into disuse, I decided to set-up a more contemporary forum to make it easier for everyone to share information with other typewriter collectors, especially photos. I've also included a Buy & Sell section which includes ads for parts to help us collectors keep the machines alive, and a sub-forum for bloggers to promote their blogs in." The forum is here. Please let me know what you think.
Uwe says, "This is a community project and not something I’ve undertaken as a business endeavour."
Someone has listed this wrecked old Underwood portable on Australian eBay as a "Gerlach Typewriter". The seller says "it is not in working condition but it would make a nice display". Oh yeah?
I know it's hard to believe, but NINE Australian eBay bidders have entered the fray for this topless Olympia Splendid, pushing the price up to $33.
Then again, there were 12 bids for the Adler Tippa with the ribbon spools cover around the wrong way, and it sold for $48. I guess at least it wasn't topless. The box of matches was an added extra.
Our always funny friends at o-so-funky say a Remington Envoy II is "rare" - and guess why? Yes, folks, it's because "The characters on the keys are the same colour as the body of the typewriter". Wow! Fancy that! "This is pretty rare and a beautiful feature. The keys are spliced into two colours – absolutely stunning." "2-tone - really cool keys - Love the rare colour - works a treat".
Here is yet another variation on the Underwood 16-Antares portable, one of the most awful typewriters ever made. This time it is one of about a dozen different typewriters all labelled in Australia as a Craftamatic Mark 1. The distributors didn't even bother to change the style of the branding, which went on Lisas, Nakajimas and many, many other models.
The Melbourne seller of this Columbia index first listed it for sale for $US7000. There were no takers. So it was immediately relisted at 99 cents - the relisting drop of $6999.01 would have to be an all-time eBay record, surely. Not surprisingly, this time there have been 20 bids and the price is now over $2000, with five days left. Wouldn't it be hilarious if the bidding went over $7000?
There were no surprises in the sale of this Olivetti on Italian eBay. It reached 8050 euro after 70 bids ($US10,357):
What really was astonishing was that Alan Seaver's Royal portable attracted 31 bids and "sold" for $317. When the buyer received another Royal portable entirely (since Alan's was still in Minnesota), he or she gave positive feedback: "Great seller, product arrived safe and well packaged thanks!" There's one born every day, they say.
Alan's Royal
The Royal sold
I received a lot of useful mail after my post on this deception. Meanwhile, Alan contacted the seller, who added a line in tiny Adsans type to the bottom of the listing, "the main photo is not of the actual typewriter itself, but from"
The seller has the eBay name of hard2find03. He's hard to find, all right, because, like Brer Fox, he lay low. And with very good reason.
From all the correspondence I received, I was able to work out that I had had the grave misfortune of regrettable dealings, some years ago, with this seller. The reason I couldn't contact him about the Seaver Royal deception is because, with the connivance of eBay, he has barred me from doing so. Little wonder. He has done so because he knows I know his form, all too well. The reason he still has a 100 per cent feedback record is that he simply creates a new eBay trading account each time his rating drops below 100 per cent. Previous accounts he traded through had negative feedbacks - I know because I was one of the unfortunate buyers who bought items from him and had very sound reason to give him negative feedback. For one thing, he sells filthy typewriters. Also broken typewriters. But, to be best of my knowledge, he has never once owned up to his responsibility for doing this. On one occasion, he blamed his own daughter for posting a filthy typewriter! That's the sort of guy he is.
I'm glad I now know who this seller is. I'm also pleased to be able to alert other typewriter lovers to the dangers of dealing with him.


Gerard said...

Hi Mr. Messenger,

Thank you for quoting my comment.

Actually, I flubbed in my comment, which says that Flying Fish was essentially Adler Cotessa.

Please allow me to correct it: The Flying Fish is essentially the Addler Tippa S. It has a basket-shift design while Hero is invariantly carriage-shift except for the ephemeral Model TP910.

I've searched some pics from, which is China's ebay to illustrate the various Hero typewriters.
the classic Flying Fish Model PSQ, later renamed Model TP100, The logo says it is a FLYING FISH/Model PSQ. This is one of the earliest Chinese-made typewriters. The one encased in checked rucksack is really one of the first batches. Both machines are pretty much like the Adler Tippas.
These typewriters were produced by Shanghai Precision Equipment Factory, more like trial products.
this is the second batch of Chinese-made typewriters, technically same as previous ones. They came in rouge, black, white, turquois, beige, green. Note the different logo which says the machines are officially named Hero and thereafter.
Then in 1991, the streamlined TP900 was launched, unlike the metal-encasement for TP110, the TP900 has plastic case. Black and white, totally black are commonly observed in this model, but light cream is not rare. Again, technically exactly the same as TP101. My very first typewriter is this TP900 which my father bought me as a gift in July 1990 at 266 yuan (around US$33)

Hero TP930
the Hero 2000, surprisingly, I didn’t know it this model until quite recently.

I can’t find TP910 which looks pretty much like OMEGA typewriter produced in Yugoslavia, but it has a basketshift design.

Gerard said...

part two

Flying Fish 200, which is the most common Flying fish
This is essentially the Flying Fish 200, but with a different dust cover
Again the same as Flying Fish 200, but different dust cover and known as Hua Xiang, meaning China Flies! What a name translated in English!
flying fish Freda
flying Fish Desktop
a rare Flying Fish with a repeat spacer.

Flying Fish 88TR launched in around 1993, which is an imitation of Silver Reed.
the red one is really rare
a rare Flying Fish, I didn’t even know it exist
The above-mentioned Flying Fish portables are carriage shift. But the carriage rail only lift the part that is adjacent to the slugs.

earlier Hangkong typewriters
Later TP910
a rare KOFA 400

All these typewriters came in PICA fonts, with very little variations.

As for the Rover and Olympia Traveler C typewriters, I don’t know much about them. Unlike the previous state-owned Big Three brands, the later comers are privately-owned businesses. They probably have shut down too by now.

Sorry for posting too long, but I think typewriter lovers would love to know a bit of Chinese typewriters. As former Premier Zhu Rongji once said, China missed the “typewriter age”, meaning that if China had the manufacturing capability, the country would have replaced Japan in 1980s-1990s period, producing cheap typewriters for the West.

Anonymous said...

Nice to hear typewriters are catching on in Queensland. Your mention of your forensic workshop made me hunt down the story on Leopold and Loeb on your blog. An interesting read indeed!

Scott K said...

Yeah.. They have been very, very thin on the ground up here.

Age a great time in NZ Rob!

Richard P said...

A good batch of news.

I love the iPad vs. paper video!

Very encouraging news about the popularity of typewriters Down Under. The trend has swept across the Anglophone world and is spreading farther. I've got to finish my book ASAP!

Have a great time in NZ.

John said...

Hi Rob,
I remember the Flying Fish Standard typewriter quite well. And your engineer friend is correct about the Underwood body and the Remington Carriage. In fact, it was the SJ carriage just like the machine bought by Steve Snow. Of course the first question that comes to mind, why did it not take off in Australia? Well, the clue is in the name of the manufacturing plant, the Shanghai Precision Manufacturing PLant, which turned out to be a bit of Chinese hyberbole/wishfull thinking. There were lots of problems, ribbon feed, ribbon lift but the worst, almost incurable, was the line spacing, it was almost impossible to prevent from over-throwing.
Having said all that I would like one for my collection!
PS the name did not help either in 70's OZ.....