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Saturday 30 May 2015

Actresses and Typewriters

Director Monta Bell with his star Jeanne Eagels during the filming of Man, Woman and Sin in 1927.
Actress Arlene Judge in Hollywood, 1931.
Stage actress Leonora Bonda in The Churchmouse at the Playhouse Theatre in London in 1931.
Above, Jean Harlow (1911 - 1937) studies the novel Red Headed Woman in 1932. Below, Harlow works on her novel Today is Tonight between filming scenes for her new film 100% Pure (or The Girl from Missouri) in 1933.
The wedding of Ginger Rogers and Lew Ayres in 1934.
Italian actors Tino Scotti and Nyta Dover in the comedy film La Famiglia Passaguai in 1951.
Italian actor and director Vittorio De Sica and Franca Valeri in The Sign of Venus in 1955.
Italian actresses Nanda Primavera and Franca Valeri in Piccola Posta in 1955.
Above, Sophia Loren with fan mail in 1953. Below, Loren 10 years later.
Van Johnson and Elizabeth Taylor in The Last Time I Saw Paris in 1954.
German actress Ingmar Zeisberg in 1958.
 Italian actress and journalist Lianella Carell in  Rome in 1963.
Maria Luisa Garoppo in 1956.
English novelist and playwright Barry England with his wife, actress Diane Clare in 1968.
Family Ties starred, from left, Brooke Alderson, Meredith Baxter and Terry Wills in this 1983 episode.

One Afternoon in Ann Arbor

I was in Herman Price's office on Greenbag Road, Morgantown, West Virginia, when I got talking to another renowned typewriter collector, Mike Campbell (above, right, with Herman at his desk). Mike told me he came from Ann Arbor, Michigan, and I immediately remarked that that was where Jesse Owens had broken five world records and equalled another world record within 45 minutes on one afternoon, on May 25, 1935. I'm not sure if Mike knew that, but Richard Polt, who was within earshot, seemed surprised I could recite such details off the top of my head. Yet Jesse Owens' efforts in Ann Arbor were so astonishing that, once absorbed by a young track nut in 1959, they would remain forever deeply etched on his mind.
What Owens did in May 1935 was, put quite simply, the greatest single athletic achievement in the entire history of sports.
Jesse Owens surrounded by Olivetti portable typewriters in the Press Tribune of the Melbourne Cricket Ground during the 1956 Olympic Games - 20 years after he had won four gold medals at the Berlin Olympics.
The 80th anniversary of Owens' world record spree at the 1935 Big Ten Western Conference track and field meeting at Ferry Field, Ann Arbor, passed this week with barely a mention in the mainstream media. What media did mention the milestone got it wrong - Owens set five new world records that day, not three. Most also failed to factor in that the night before the meeting, Owens had fallen down a flight of stairs at the hotel at which his Ohio State University team was staying, and so severely injured his tailbone he couldn't bend to touch his toes. He had already been suffering from back pain for three weeks previously, and told Ohio coach Larry Snyder he might have to pull out of the Ann Arbor events. The sports world has been thanking its lucky stars ever since that he did compete.
The reason the mistake is made about the number of world records Owens set that day is because many Americans fail to understand that in setting new marks for the 220 yards and the 220 yards hurdles, under existing International Amateur Athletics Federation rules Owens also set world records for the 200 metres in both events. Two hundred metres is 218.72266 yards, therefore Owens' times over the slightly longer 220 yards were also recognised as 200 metres records.
One of the world records Owens set that day in 1935, of 26 feet 8 1/4 inches in the long jump, stood for more than 25 years, until beaten by Ralph Boston, from Laurel, Mississippi, at Walnut, California, on August 12, 1960.
In none of the tributes paid to Owens is it mentioned that in the 100 yards at Ann Arbor, all three stopwatches actually showed 9.3 seconds, which, if accepted by trackside officials, would have given Owens a sixth outright world record for the afternoon. However, the timekeepers said the clocks had stopped at just over 9.3 seconds, so Owens' time was rounded out to 9.4, rather than the 9.3 he ran. Thus he was officially credited with equalling the world record, which was first set by the "Glendale Greyhound", Frank Wykoff, in Los Angeles in 1932. With Owens denied the first 9.3 clocking, it was not for another 13 years, until 1948, that Mel Patton officially ran the first 9.3, in Fresno, California. And it wasn't until 1961 that someone - New Jersey's Frank Budd - ran 9.2, in New York.
At Ann Arbor on May 25, 1935, this was Owens' schedule:
3:15: Won the 100 yards from Robert Grieve in 9.4sec.
3:25: In his first and only jump of the day, he won the long jump from Willis Ward by a massive 19 inches, and added more than six inches to Chuhei Nambu's four-year-old world record.
3:34: Beat Andrew Dooley by 0.4sec in the 220 yards, clocking 20.3 and taking 0.3 seconds off the previous world record, set by Nebraskan Roland Locke in Lincoln in 1926. Owens also took 0.3 seconds off Ralph Metcalfe's 200 metres world record. set in Budapest in 1933.
4:00: Beat Phil Doherty by 0.6sec in winning the 220 yards low hurdles in 22.6sec. This took 0.4sec off the previous world records for the 220 yards and 200 metres hurdles, set by Iowan Charles Brookins in Ames in 1924 and equalled by Californian Norman Paul in Los Angeles 1933.
James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens was born in Danville, Alabama, on September 12, 1913, and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. He stood 5ft 10in tall and in his track days weighed 156lbs.
Competing for the East Technical High School in Cleveland on June 11, 1932, an 18-year-old Jesse Owens ran the 100 metres in 10.3 seconds!
Owens died in Tuscon, Arizona, on March 31, 1980, aged 66. At the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games he won four gold medals: 100 meters, 200 meters, long jump and 4 x 100 metres relay (with Wykoff, Metcalfe and Foy Draper). 

Friday 29 May 2015

Double Dipping into the Well of Joy

After a string of mornings on which I had had to get up in minus five degree temperatures, to cat-sit my absent son's kitten, I was looking forward to a sleep-in when life returned to normal. But the very next day I was woken at 7am (minus six degrees this time) by a persistent knocking on my front door. To my considerable surprise it was a parcel deliveryman. I was busily telling him I wasn't expecting a parcel from anyone, when I looked at the sender's name: Herman Price. And slowly, through the fog in my head, came the realisation of what was in the box. 
Back on April 30, I was included in an email from Herman telling fellow ETCetera board members that their copies of issue No 108 had been posted. Herman's email said "Special mailing to Robert", which I just assumed to mean my copy was coming post haste to Canberra via air mail. So for three weeks I eagerly checked my mailbox, only to be daily disappointed that the familiar envelope had not arrived. Enviously, I read the emails of other board members, saying how much they had enjoyed reading issue 108. Where was my copy?
Herman, of course, hadn't used a large box just to send my one copy of ETCetera. There was something else in it.
I can't say which was the greater thrill - receiving the news that Typex editor Mike Brown and I had won the 2014 QWERTY Award, or receiving the wall plaque in the real mail. We'd celebrated the announcement in Canberra back in October, and my friends went to a lot of effort to cover for the absence of the plaque back then. But now that the actual plaque is here, it feels like I've double dipped into the well of joy.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Invisible Quadrat Sent Alice Back to Wonderland

Barbara Blackman was the muse for Alice in her ex-husband's (Charles Blackman's) famous series of paintings based on The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland.
Barbara Blackman as she is today. Now 86, she has been completely blind for more than 60 years. But she still writes memoirs and essays using a computer, which is why she asked me to fix her printer problems.
It's more than 30 years now since I had the extreme good fortune to be trained in digital typesetting and compositing by people who knew what they were talking about when it came to typography and newspaper production. So few trainers today do - or could care less. And why should they? It's an already lost art. But the lessons I learned back then still hold good. They came in use just yesterday.
Computer language and the techniques of formatting for typesetting were a lot different in the early 1980s, when I first used computers to lay out pages and set copy. For one thing, it was far more basic and one could actually see on screen what formatting was being used. Much of the coding and methods we used then are now as outmoded as typewriters. For example, one Canadian system was so basic that, in order to typeset in italics, one had to insert "alt-f9" (forward nine degrees) and "alt-f0" before and after the words to be italicised. Antiquated? Yes, but at least we knew for certain what we doing and how the copy would be set.
Original use of quadrats
One word which had stayed locked in the back of my mind - until yesterday - was "quad", which is short for quadrat, originally a metal spacer in the days of letterpress printing. Later, in Unicode, "quad" was extended for phototypesetting and digital typesetting to be a keyboard command which aligned text with the left or right margin, or centred between them, as quad left, quad right or quad centre.
All at sea with the printer
Yesterday I went to visit a close friend, Barbara Blackman, who had a problem with her printer. Barbara, who turned 86 last December and has been completely blind for more than 60 years (she was diagnosed in 1950 with optic atrophy), still writes memoirs and essays using a computer. The tower is a bulky 1987 "no name" model, the printer an almost equally antiquated Brother (HL-1240) and in between she has a Dell keyboard with a Accent text-to-speech (TTS) synthesiser system. No Braille for Barbara! And no monitor for me to see exactly what was going on - what the tower was telling the printer to do.
Barbara is an author, music-lover, essayist, librettist, letter writer and patron of the Arts. The former wife of renowned painter Charles Blackman (they were married from 1951-1978), she worked for many years as an artist's model. She was born in Brisbane in 1928 and as a teenager was the youngest member of the Barjai group of writers. In 2004, she pledged $1 million to music in Australia: funds have since been distributed to Pro Musica, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Australian National University's School of Music and the Stopera Chamber Opera Company,  among other groups. 
Anyway, back to her printer problem ... when Barbara printed out her essays, just one line, including the heading, sub-head, byline and first few words, appeared repeatedly line after line for 20 pages. Nothing else. 
First I was able to ascertain that the printer was working fine. But in the absence of a monitor, I had no idea what was happening as Barbara wrote - how did she create a document? How did she save it? How did she find and correct errors? And how did she print it out? The TTS sounded like Stephen Hawking with his testicles in a squirrel grip - I couldn't make head nor tail of what it was telling Barbara.
Finally, something caught my eye - the letters "qq" attached to and before the first word of the essay. As I pondered this curiosity (as Alice might call it), the word "quad" came back to me from the depths of my brain.
Barbara used the letter "q" in combination with a command key to instruct the computer and printer. Somehow, in her blindness, she had mistakenly used it twice without the proper command key. The printer, not knowing quite what to make of this instruction, went haywire. It had simply ignored all other "quad" directions and printed, repeatedly, just one line of copy.  "Quad queer" one might say!
Anyway, after removing the "qq" from the story, the printer returned to normal and started printing perfectly. Was I glad I could recall the word "quad", and what it meant in Unicode? And still be able to use very old skills to fix a very modern problem!

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Emma D. Mills: Inventor of the Typewriter. Emma Who?

One young student, earnest and eager to assist with a college Powerpoint presentation addressing a previously unheralded female contribution to mechanical invention, boldly declared: "Emma D. Mills invented the typewriter." Under these startling words she placed a photo of an Olympia SG1.
Well, Emma D. Mills certainly, it seems, did invent something, and that something was related to the typewriter.
But what that something was we may never know. The best clue we have is that it was a governor of some kind.
Scientific American, April 4, 1903
Although, from 1889 to 1903, US publications from Scientific American down credited Mills with patenting typewriter inventions, there is no surviving evidence of any such thing to be found anywhere. Apart from as a witness on other, non-typewriter-related patents, Emma D. Mills comes up in no patent search.
And that pretty much goes for Mills' whole life - almost nothing is known about her.
Yet clearly, given that she was declared by newspapers across the US in 1890 as the "founder of typewriting as a profession for women in New York." and "one of the pioneers in the typewriting business", Emma D. Mills deserves to far more widely recognised for her efforts in promoting use of the typewriter.
Mills was, one US newspaper declared in March 1890, "the mother of typewriting as a profession for women".
For once, I have to confess I am stumped. Days of research have failed to unearth anything but the most rudimentary facts about Emma D. Mills.
All that is known is that Emma D. Mills was born in Pennsylvania in 1857, that her father came from Connecticut and her mother was English. Was Mills her birth surname, her maiden name, or was it her married name? Are her patents in her single name, perhaps?
From at least 1900 she was a widow. Before that time, US newspapers usually referred to her as "Mrs Emma D. Mills". After 1900 she was more commonly called "Miss Emma D. Mills". In writing one of her two typewriter books (A Typewriter's Conquests, 1897), she called herself "A. Backhander".
I cannot say when Emma D. Mills died. She lived most of her adult life in Brooklyn, and by 1920 was employed as a school teacher. Before that she had run her own publishing company (Manas) and had been a public and bank notary and commissioner of deeds (then extremely rare for a woman) and as such was a regular witness for patent attorneys. But she was perhaps best known as a stenographer, a typing instructor, and for owning her own franchised copying businesses.
Mills' first book, published in 1895, had a title far longer than any known biography of her. It was called The Mills Book of Typewriter Forms, comprising a complete series of legal and business forms of every brand of typewriting work; also, a complete table of abbreviations of American, English, Scotch, and Irish law reports; a complete list of Latin words and phrases; rules for the use of capital letters and punctuation; a list of abbreviations and signs in common use, and printers' proof marks.
Some things we DO know about this particular Emma D. Mills:
SHE WAS NOT Emma DeLong Mills (1894-1987), the Stamford, Connecticut-born American philanthropist and activist for the Chinese Nationalist cause and a close friend of Madame Chiang Kai-shek (seen with Mills above). This Emma D. Mills did, nonetheless, complete an intensive sub-professional engineering course before working on the Manhattan Project.
SHE WAS NOT the Brooklyn Heights, New York-born socialite and "goodwill ambassador" Miss Emma Mills (1876-1956), the lecturer and critic who was a book and play "expert":
SHE WAS NOT Cairo, Michigan-born Emma Douglas Mills (1877-1956), who married a man called Ruttan.
SHE WAS most certainly NOT, as suggested by Autumn Stanley in Mothers and Daughters of Invention: Notes for a Revised History if Technology (1993), E. Deloss Mills. This E.D. Moss, born in 1845, was a New Jersey boot and shoe dealer and a sometime inventor. He was, in fact, a man, the son of Andrew and Marilla Mills and, long before same-sex marriages were thought of, the husband of a woman called Louise.
But I readily confess I could do no better than Autumn Stanley did 12 or more years ago in tracking down Mills's patents, or anything more substantial about her life for that matter:
NOR SHOULD SHE be confused with Emma Mills Nutt (above, 1849-1926) the Rockland, Maine-born woman who became the world's first female telephone operator, when on September 1, 1878, she started working for the Edwin Holmes Telephone Dispatch Company in Boston. Wikipedia would have us believe this Emma Mills was born in 1860 and died in 1915, both of which are way off the truth. But she did give us EMMA, a synthesised speech attendant system created by Preferred Voice Inc and Philips Electronics NV. And September 1 is commemorated annually as Emma M. Nutt Day.
Typewriter enthusiasts would definitely commemorate a Emma D. Mills Day, if only we knew a little more about her! Can anyone help me here?