Saturday, July 18, 2015

A mini type-in

Herb Permillion and Gigi Clark:

Herb checks out the Music Writer:

Ken had just the right ribbon spools:

Gigi's pink ABC and baby blue Cole-Steel:

Her 6-pitch Magnatype teaching Remington 5:

Ray Chavez checks out Gigi's Torpedo 18, her favorite for writing. (Ray was the photographer for the story; Angela Hill was the reporter. Here is the story.)

Some of the treasures at the shop:

Ken and Carmen recently had a table at a "fix-it fair." The typewriters they brought, including an early Royal 10, were a major attraction for visitors—especially kids—and other repair people, including the many who were offering to fix iPhones. This manifesto is perfect!

Detail of an unusual Quiet-Riter at the shop. The "Cr$" stands for Brazilian cruzeiros. (According to Wikipedia the symbol was used 1970-1986, but the typewriter dates from the '50s. Was it updated?)

Carmen Permillion, Herb Permillion, and Ken Alexander:

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Typewriter simulation apps: a mini-review

No real typing on a plane: it would be obnoxious to my fellow passengers, and I didn't even bring a typewriter. (There's one waiting for me in California.) But I can amuse myself with my three virtual mini-typewriter apps on my iPhone. 

I can't say I enjoy doing any writing on a tiny touch screen. My thumbs can't type the way young thumbs do, my index finger is slow and inaccurate on this miniature three-row keyboard with no tactile feedback, and autocorrect is an enemy as well as a friend. As for dictation, yuck. I don't like talking to machines. 

But given these limitations, which app works best? I tested them using the little-known dialect of Montenegrin favored by the Romanian minority when speaking yeggman's argot with Peloponnesians. 

miTypewriter has been around the longest and most convincingly simulates a typewriter, with its four-row keyboard, return lever, color change switch, moving typebars and ribbons, and other attractive details that seem to be inspired by a 1930s Remington portable. 

It can only be used in horizontal mode, and there isn't much room for the text. The backspace key works like a delete key. The text looks like a typical dark faux-typewriter font. It can be shared as image or text. 

The Amazing Type-Writer takes the opposite approach. The interface looks nothing like a typewriter, but the output is impressive. 

The darkness of the characters varies randomly. You can't delete, but you can move the typing point to any spot on your "card" to create all sorts of typewriter art. I often see texts created with this app on Instagram. You can also post a card on the developer's site, and other users can add to it in a unique form of collaboration. This app can be used only in vertical mode and it creates images only, not digital text. 

Then there is the now famous Hanx Writer, the brainchild of Tom Hanks. It offers several different typewriters as in-app purchases, beyond the basic free device. All are three-bank writers with well-animated key motion. 

This app can be used in vertical or horizontal mode. 

Each Hanx typewriter has its own font. You can either use the backspacer to delete, or use it to X out your typing. Oddly, if you X something out, the cursor ends up before the X'ed out text and unless you move the cursor, as you write, the X'ed text is pushed along in front of you. Your text can be shared as a PDF and the keyboards can be used with other apps. 

Each of these apps has its points. None of them is much more than a fun novelty, although the makers of Hanx Writer recommend trying it with a wireless keyboard for a more serious writing experience. That might work with miTypewriter too. The Amazing Type-Writer gets my vote for the most artistic potential. 

Do you have any other typewriter apps?

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Exotic characters: &/or


Thank you, Jim! It's nice to hear from you. This is the only typewriter I've ever seen with this exotic character. I happily remember trying it out when I was in London. I'm reminded of the old academic joke about a theologian who published a blistering critique of Kierkegaard's Either/Or, titled Both/And. When he was accused of being unfair to Kierkegaard, he reconsidered and followed up with a book called Both/And And/Or Either/Or.

PS: Jim has used my Lucien font to write the name and address of Aloes Books.

PPS: I'm about to go out of town for a month, so postal mail won't get any speedy replies. I plan to report on a type-in in Berkeley, California this coming Friday and the typewriter scene in Portland, Oregon.

PPPS, personal to theshytypospherian: Thank you for your kind and encouraging note.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Glimpses of a Gourland

My Gourland is leaving my collection; I'm trading it for another rare portable, a Victor. Before it hit the road I took some photos to share with my readers.

One distinctive feature of the Gourland is the cutouts in the frame, presumably intended to give access and to lighten the machine. There are even two cutouts in the right and left areas just above the keyboard (hard to see in the photos).

Compare the photo above to this picture:

The mechanisms aren't identical, but the shape of that rear cutout is a giveaway. As Greg Fudacz has observed, this 1916 patent by Jesse Alexander seems to have provided inspiration, at least, for the Gourland. Renowned typewriter inventor Charles Spiro (responsible for the Columbia index, the Bar-Lock, and the Visigraph) then worked with the Gourland typewriter company to develop the machine; he received several patents for it (none of which mention Alexander's patent).

In the photo below, you can see two rails. The carriage slides along the back rail (with no ball bearings) and a wheel runs along the front rail. The system is actually similar to that of the Underwood. The notched rack is the tabulator rack, which tilts back when you hit the tab key.

On the right (below) you see the backspacer mechanism running next to the tabulator rack. The lever at the bottom of the picture tilts the paper shield forward. The control seen just above it is for reversing the direction of the ribbon.

To tilt the carriage back, you simply push firmly. The drawcord remains attached to the carriage.

The escapement is now revealed and can easily be cleaned.

Ad from Typewriter Topics, 1922:

One of the strangest facts about the Gourland is its afterlife in the 21st century. Someone in China decided to make a faux, decorative "typewriter" based on a photo of a Gourland (possibly mine). The name came out "Govrland." This then morphed into "Governor's Land" in an imitation of the imitation.  What's next?

I think Jesse Alexander, Charles Spiro, and M. J. Gourland would have a hearty laugh!

More information on the Gourland: