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Friday 8 November 2013

Torka Typewriter Metronome

My post yesterday on Gabriel Burbano's Kee Lox typewriter ribbon tester drew a comment from Richard Polt on Gab's typewriter metronome. Gab demonstrated both of these machines at Herman Price's Typewriter Collectors' Gathering at the Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum in Fairmont, West Virginia, last month. Gab used the metronome to test Marty Rice's typing speed when he was demonstrating his Oliver.
The typewriter metronome was invented by German-born Frank Torka, a Seattle, Washington, scientific instruments maker, in 1945, and patented in 1949. When applying for the patent, Torka assigned it to Walter John Terry (born Genesee, New York, August 21, 1889), who ran a dental laboratory in Seattle with his son. However, Terry died in Phoenix, Arizona, on Boxing Day 1945, 3 1/2 months after Torka had applied for the patent. So which company eventually made the machine I do not know. Seven months after Terry passed on, Torka himself died, in Seattle  on July 27, 1950. Nonetheless, I have called this the Torka typewriter metronome, because Torka invented it.
Torka described it thus: "The purpose of this invention is to provide a time measuring device for use in typewriting classrooms which is readily adjustable as to cadence and sufficiently audible [Richard and I can vouch for that!] . The invention is a motor-operated rotatable disc having pitch indentations therein with a spring-controlled hammer operated by said indentations and adapted to strike a sounding plate. Time measuring devices have been used in music and other fields and although these are adjustable they do not produce sufficient sound to be heard in a typewriting classroom. The object of this invention is therefore to provide a sound measuring device which is positively operated and adapted to produce sufficient sound to be heard in a typewriting classroom. A further object of the invention is to provide a sound measuring device which is of a simple and economical construction. With these ends in view the invention embodies a stand, a disc rotatably mounted in said stand, a motor with a belt adapted to rotate said disc, a time indicating plate on said stand, a frame pivotally mounted on said stand having a pointer registering with characters on said indicating plate, a sound plate on said frame, and a spring forming a hammer with one end engaging indentations in said disc, and the other adapted to strike said sound plate as it is actuated by the indentations with the disc rotating." All quite simple, really.
Torka had an interesting life. He was born in Breslau (now Wrocław in Poland) on May 3, 1878, and arrived in America in 1901. Very soon afterwards he started a scientific instruments making business with a man called H.T.Telgman in Vallejo, California. Telgman was one of the passengers on the steamship Valencia when it was wrecked on Vancouver Island in 1906. As if that wasn't bad enough for the business, the very next year Torka was the victim of fraud. Perhaps, after this run of bad luck, Torka sensed California wasn't the place for him, so he hightailed it north to Seattle. There, with his brother Wilhelm, Torka established Torka Brothers Scientific Instruments.
Frank Torka had a particular interest in photography. Among the seven patents which were issued to him was one for a focusing device on a folding camera. Others included a levelling device and a combination lock. 


Richard P said...

So cool!

Bill M said...

That is a unique device.

All we needed in typing class was Miss Troutman .. "all right now class rhythm...1 - 2 - 3, 1 - 2 - 3" or whatever tempo she wanted to get to the speed she wanted.