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Thursday 30 April 2020


The National Museum of Australia no doubt thought it was as innocuous an object as any it could put on its Facebook page. This Olympia SM8 semi-portable typewriter was captioned, “Using this typewriter in 1978, the Yuin people from Wallaga Lake presented a claim for their land. They wrote: ‘When the white people came ... they took our land from us, using the gun, poison and disease to help them. It was then ... that terrorism first came to these shores’.” One hundred and thirty-three comments and 97 shares later, the museum might have come to realise the typewriter represented a still very touchy subject.
 Just the third comment sparked an outpouring of anger: “ … and the typewriter came from a white man?” To which there was a quick and thoughtless response: “White man has more than earned his rights to live here and progress in a civilised way. If not for white man, the Japanese would have killed them all off long ago …” Then it was “on” for young and old. “REALLY? Are you actually that stupid? You stand on stolen land. How, pray tell, does one earn what is stolen? I don't think 200 years of ‘white civilisation’ really measures up.”  And so it went on, getting nastier and nastier. Even Coronavirus was dragged into it, and rather offensively at that. There was ultimately an attempt at off-colour humour: “Sure we invaded your country, drove you off your land, raped and murdered your people and stole your children - but hey! Typewriters!” “And if they [the Yuin people] had done a handwritten letter, you would have complained that you couldn’t read it … . Without the white man there would be no typewriter to write all this.” “Every country in the world could write the same letter. It's called history.”

The headline declared, “Microsoft Word now flags double spaces as errors, ending the great space debate. One-spacers take the victory in an end of an era.” And the story went on, “Microsoft has settled the great space debate, and sided with everyone who believes one space after a period is correct, not two. The software giant has started to update Microsoft Word to highlight two spaces after a period as an error, and to offer a correction to one space. Microsoft recently started testing this change with the desktop version of Word, offering suggestions through the Editor capabilities of the app.
“If you’re still (strangely) on the two-spacer side, you will be able to ignore the suggestion. The Editor feature in Word allows users to ignore the suggestion once, make the change to one space, or turn off the writing-style suggestion. We understand Microsoft has been testing the feature change recently and it will roll out to everyone using the desktop version of Word soon. Feedback to the change has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Not from this quarter it isn’t. One of the reasons we use typewriters here is that no-one, least of all Microsoft, can tell us how copy will appear on a page. Fortunately I have no recollection of Microsoft Bob, but the memory of Clippy still rankles (happily, he was killed off in 2007). It was first Clippy, then the insistence of Word in creating an indent after “Enter”, or indented dot numbers, that permanently ended my relationship with Microsoft.
Kirk Gregersen, partner director of program management at Microsoft, told The Verge, “Much of the debate around one space or two has been fuelled by the halcyon days of the typewriter. Typewriters used monospaced fonts to allocate the same amount of horizontal spacing to every character. Narrow characters like ‘i’ got the same amount of space as ‘m’, so the extra space after the ‘.’ was needed to make it more apparent that sentences had ended. Word and many other similar apps make fonts proportional, so two spaces is no longer necessary.”
This pleased me as little as the news that the battle for the possessive apostrophe was over. I will decide when that will be, not John Richard. Late last year retired sub-editor Richards, 96, above, founder of Britain’s Apostrophe Protection Society, declared an end to his own 18-year-old fight to protect the correctly placed apostrophe. “The ignorance and laziness present in modern times have won!” Richards said as he shut down the group. There was much worldwide publicity about that, but none, it appears, about the society resurrecting the APS site two weeks ago. The punctuation barbarians had taken Richards at his word and believed that was it. Big mistake. Its still my call!

This Olympia SF portable typewriter was photographed in Wytaliba, north-eastern New South Wales, after bushfires destroyed the village late last year. It belonged to musician and actor Philip Hine, below, a local identity since 1988. His was one of 50 Wytaliba homes hit in the devastating firestorms which swept across Australia at the height of our summer. Hine managed to escape the Kangawalla blaze by driving off in his car, parts of which melted. Built on a former cattle ranch by hippies and nudists in 1979, Wytaliba was a place for people who sought peace and solitude outside of the mainstream.


This Olivetti Valentine portable typewriter was used by Alex DeLarge (Malcolm McDowell) in the 1971 movie A Clockwork Orange. It was displayed as part of the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition at the Design Museum in Kensington, London, last year. Below is a large typewriter on display during the Full Frontal With Samantha Bee - Not The White House Correspondents Dinner Show in Washington DC. The first of these events was held at the DAR Constitution Hall in 2017 and raised $200,000 for the Committee to Protect Journalists.


This Underwood three-bank portable typewriter was photographed inside the late French writer and artist Boris Vian's apartment in Paris's 18th Arrondissement. The centenary of Vian’s birth, into an upper middle-class family in the wealthy Parisian suburb of Ville d'Avray (Hauts-de-Seine), was celebrated on March 10.  Vian, who died on June 23, 1959, was a French polymath: writer, poet, musician, singer, translator, critic, actor, inventor and engineer. Today he is remembered primarily for his novels. Those published under the pseudonym Vernon Sullivan were bizarre parodies of criminal fiction and were controversial at the time of their release. Vian's other fiction, published under his real name, featured a highly individual writing style with numerous made-up words, subtle wordplay and surrealistic plots. His novel L'Écume des jours (“The Foam of Days”) is the best known of these works.
Vian was also an important influence on the French jazz scene. He served as liaison for Hoagy Carmichael, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis in Paris, wrote for several French jazz reviews (Le Jazz Hot, Paris Jazz) and published numerous articles dealing with jazz both in the United States and in France. His own music and songs enjoyed popularity during his lifetime, particularly the anti-war song Le Déserteur ("The Deserter"). On the morning of his death, Vian was at the Cinéma Marbeuf for the screening of the film version of I Will Spit on Your Graves. He had already fought with the producers over their interpretation of his work, and he publicly denounced the film, stating that he wished to have his name removed from the credits. A few minutes after the film began, he reportedly blurted out: “These guys are supposed to be American? My ass!”, collapsed into his seat and died from sudden cardiac arrest en route to hospital.

This Olympia SM4 semi-portable typewriter is a permanent exhibition in the German Newspaper Museum Wadgassen, Saarland. The museum has been showing special exhibits from its collection during its 15th season. The Premonstratensian Abbey at Wadgassen was used to house a large number of outbuildings grouped around an inner courtyard. Only one of these buildings has survived over the centuries, and in the 1990s the building was restored. Originally it was planned to turn it into flats, but in 2004 it became the home of the GNM. The core of the museum is made up of a collection belonging to an academic specialist in newspapers, Martin Welke. The Saarbrücker Zeitung newspaper donated documents and printing machines to the Saarland Cultural Foundation, which is responsible for the museum. The 18 rooms in the museum cover a total of 500 square metres and contain around 150 exhibits that tell visitors about the history of newspapers from the beginnings right up to the Spiegel affair in 1962, and the technical history of printing from the printing press to the mass production line.


The Museum of War Journalism in Rostov-on-Don in the southern federal district of Russia is unique. The museum was founded by three former war correspondents, retired colonel Alexander Naumenko, and retired lieutenant colonels Sergei Belogrud and Andrei Bonev. They rented the basement of an apartment building, completely renovated it at their own expense and amassed there a collection of hundreds of items dating from the Russian Civil War, Great Patriotic War [the Eastern Front of WWII], and Wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya. Naumenko is pictured here at a standard machine.


German concrete poet Eugen Gomringer is seen writing on his Triumph semi-portable typewriter in his office in the town of Rehau, Bavaria. He turned 95 on January 20. Gomringer was born in Cachuela Esperanza, Bolivia. He is head of the Institut für Konstruktive Kunst und Konkrete Poesie (IKKP, Institute for Constructive Art and Concrete Poetry). Between 1977 and 1990 Gomringer was a professor at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf, the Arts Academy of the city of Düsseldorf. He writes in German, Spanish, French and English.
Concrete poetry is an arrangement of linguistic elements in which the typographical effect is more important in conveying meaning than verbal significance.It is sometimes referred to as visual poetry, a term that has now developed a distinct meaning of its own. Concrete poetry relates more to the visual than to the verbal arts although there is a considerable overlap in the kind of product to which it refers. Historically, however, concrete poetry has developed from a long tradition of shaped or patterned poems in which the words are arranged in such a way as to depict their subject.


Artifacts that belonged to purged Jews are used to recreate the interiors of apartments common among Kharkiv natives who were shot dead in Drobytskyi Yar during World War II at the Kharkiv Holocaust Museum in north-eastern Ukraine.


A Royal Futura portable typewriter adorns the stage as Hanna Einbinder performs during the Vulture Festival at Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth in Los Angeles. “Curated with the mind of a critic and the heart of a fan”, this pop culture extravaganza is a weekend of live events, podcasts, cast reunions, and unforgettable conversations with the most influential names in entertainment. Einbinder’s mother is none other than Laraine Newman, who was an original cast member on Saturday Night Live! (I think she’s a niece of the late, great Paul Newman.)


At Saxony-Anhalt, Marienborn, a table with a typewriter and is placed in front of a portrait of East German Communist leader Erich Henecker in a room of the German Division Marienborn Memorial. Until the fall of the Berlin Wall, the largest border crossing point on the inner-German border was located at this site. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Wall, on November 9 last year, the states of Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony held a festival event there. 


Left, a Royal standard typewriter sits on the shelf inside Avenue Victor Hugo at its new location in Lee, New Hampshire. This red barn is home to Avenue Victor Hugo, a year-old reincarnation of the sprawling Boston bookstore that novelist and bookseller Vincent McCaffrey owned on Newbury Street from 1975 until 2003, when soaring rents and then a fire forced him to close shop. Right,  a red Privileg portable typewriter has note paper  titled “Frankfurt Authors. All about writing” for the Frankfurt Book Fair.


A protester confronts Malawi Defence Force soldiers guarding the entrance to the Malawian Parliament in Lilongwe during demonstrations by Malawi opposition supporters against the rigged re-election of President Peter Mutharika. Mutharika, leader of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, narrowly defeated Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party. Chakwera called it “daylight robbery” and protestors alleged Mutharika had retained power by fraudulent means, and that many results sheets were altered using the typewriter correction fluid Wite-OutMalawi's Constitutional Court heard a challenge to the election result issued by the Malawi Congress Party and the United Transformation Movement and in February annulled the outcome. New Presidential elections will now be held on July 2, Coronavirus permitting (they were originally scheduled for May 19).


In Schenefeld, Schleswig-Holstein, Günter Kunert's electronic typewriter and his portrait, painted by Friesel Anderson, stand in front of the altar of the Bonifatiuskirche for a memorial service for the deceased author. Kunert was born in Berlin on March 6, 1929 and died aged 90. Because of National Socialist race laws, Kunert, the son of a Jewish mother, couldn’t continue high school education. After World War II, he studied graphics at East Berlin's Academy of Applied Arts from 1946–49. His first poem appeared in 1947. Supported by Bertold Brecht, he published in the satirical paper Ulenspiegel. In 1950, his first poetry collection appeared.
In 1976 Kunert signed a petition against the deprivation of the citizenship of fellow writer Wolf Biermann  and lost his Socialist Unity Party membership. He moved from East Berlin to the West three years later and established himself near Itzehoe in northern Germany. Kunert was regarded as one of the most versatile and important contemporary of German writers. Besides lyric poetry, he also wrote short stories, essays, autobiographical works, aphorisms, satires, fairy tales, science fiction, radio plays, speeches, travel writing, film scripts, a novel, and a drama. Kunert was also a painter and a graphic artist. He received international honorary doctorates and awards and published in numerous literary magazines, such as Muschelhaufen.


Richard P said...

Good stuff. I didn't know about a single one of these items!

Rae said...

I just recently found your blog and it was quite timely, as we are currently clearing out my father in laws house and he was a huge collector/restorer of typewriters. We have at lease 22 different portable typewriters that we don't know what to do with. He has spent so much time on them and has documented hand written notes that he carefully tucked into each one or a manila tag is attached with information about that specific unit. It is a shame to just dispose of them, but quite frankly, we are at a loss as to how we can find homes for them. If you have any insight as to what we can do please let me know. I have really enjoyed the recent posts of the gentleman who wrote a letter to Tom Hanks as well as the young man from Australia whose name is Corona and the nice response Mr. Hanks sent back to him. My FIL is now in a rest home, but he was well aware of the typewriter collection that Mr. Hanks has and would enjoy the story of the letters sent to him and his response. Thank you for any help or advice. Rae (MN)