Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The First: Royal Standard No. 5


I suppose any obsession or addiction has something that sparks it; that first taste that reels one in and keeps us coming back for more. For me, that is my Royal Standard No. 5 typewriter which I have named 'First', as it will be the first of many.

It was a warm early-summer morning here in southern California and the day showed signs that it would become downright oppressive later on. We had gone to the local swap meet, looking for tackle for an upcoming fishing trip. We perused the different vendors, selling mainly uninteresting new wares as Latino pop blasted all around us. My interest had began to wane as we rounded the corner to the third row, and two vendors in, my husband stopped.

"Honey, look", he said.

He had just been talking about a green motorcycle helmet he had spotted among the miscellany of random items that the vendor was selling. I had seen it, and since something in this set of items had piqued his interest, I scanned the vendors' entire spread from the top down...and still didn't see it.

"What?" I asked.
"It's right there, in front of you!" He replied, a slight tone of excitement in his voice.

Finally, my eyes made it to the front row, the things closest to my feet. About two feet in front of and slightly to the left of me was this:

I gasped, shocked I hadn't seen it sooner.
"How could you miss that?" He asked.
"I was just wondering the same thing", I replied distractedly as I gazed at the antiquated piece of technology before me.

Before I knew what was happening, he had gotten the vendors' attention and was discussing price. The vendor said twenty-five dollars, and my husband looked at me, awaiting a decision.

"...It looks a little janky..." I said, a bit doubtfully. He asked the vendor if he would take twenty dollars, and he agreed, and my husband picked up the typewriter and handed it to me.

Just as I had been struck by its condition as it sat on the ground, so too was I surprised by the sheer weight of the thing. I had never handled an antique typewriter before, and I was immediately awestruck by the craftsmanship and engineering and smitten by its antiquated charm. As we continued about the swap meet, it began to generate interest. Vendors peered over their tables, some smirking, a few even engaging us in conversation.

"Is that a typewriter?" A mustachioed man in sunglasses asked.
"Yeah. We found it over that way."
"Daaaamn. It looks old; my grandma had one that looked like that!"

And again, by an older gentleman under a canopy:
"Hey, is that a typewriter you've got there?"
"Yes sir, it sure is!"
"That looks like a 1911. Where did you find it at?"
"Just a few rows over. Another vendor sold it to us."
"What are you going to do with it?"
"I don't know yet, but the longer I hold it, the more I think I want to restore it."

The curiosity that it generated made me that much more excited about our find. At first, I thought I could use it as an interesting photo prop, at the very least. The keys were all frozen, and I didn't really know if it would be good for anything besides photography fodder or a conversation piece. But as we toodled about the swap meet, I began thinking about how I could go about restoring it.

Typewriter badonkadonk?

I knew it was in rough shape from the beginning; the keys were pretty much frozen solid, the platen rolled with a heavy hand to the knob and all the guts were a rusty mess. So, I sprayed the insides pretty liberally with WD-40 (I know I know, please don't yell at me!) and let it sit. In the meantime, I turned to the magical all-seeing-eye that is the internet to see if it could conjure any information about this relic and how to restore it.

Say 'keys!'
Over the next several weeks, I became immersed in typewriters. I contacted Alan Seaver about the rust problem and he was very gracious. I began looking up other types of typewriters, which eventually led me to ebay, and the acquisition of Behemoth. I even began to have dreams about typewriters!

A glamour shot.
Yestereve, I decided to finally get this creature documented, before I did anything else to it. I also played around and got a few shots That I could use as my avatar and background. I had some fun, but I'm certain that's apparent.

Today, we decided to see if the WD-40 had done any good. It seems to have worked wonders: backspace now works, albeit sporadically, shift actually moves the platen again, and the platen is free and moves side to side, though it still sticks. It also advances the paper, if you hold down the lever and twist, because the spring is loose.

We did find some parts were broken on it: a spring on the back, the bell striker, an internal gear is stripped. And most of the keys are still frozen. But it is progress, and I believe there's still some life in this one-hundred-and-one-year-old machine after all. I believe that if I cannot find the parts, then I can manufacture them...or take them off another old appliance, such as a toaster (thanks sis for mentioning that one!).

However, if you fine folks of the Typosphere have any suggestions on how to go about repairing it, where to get parts, et cetera, I'm all ears! I am also on the lookout for an Oliver and a very old portable to add to my collection. ;-)

Why yes, that is a Mosin in the background.

What has this typewriter done to me!? I've gone mad for typewriters! Delightedly mad. 


Anna Strad.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Commas Are My Friends


It was just yestereve when my darling said those fateful words: "You should send me a link to your blog!" I admit, I am a full-fledged member of the spelling police and have been told I'm an inductee into the grammar division. If a friend asks for an opinion or a critique of their writings, I always caution them with "Do you really want my honest opinion? Or are you just fishing for compliments?" No matter how many times we have done the dance in the past, they always ask for my true opinion. And they generally are quite butt-hurt when they get it, no matter how gently I phrase it, no matter what I may do to soften the blow.

My husband isn't an open member of the spelling and grammar police; he's more like a detective. He will mention to me how awful this or that writing is from this or that person, but he wouldn't dare utter a word of it to them, unless he is absolutely cornered. But we are comfortable with that which is familiar, and so I knew I was in trouble when he asked for the link to my blog.

Ever the self-conscious writer, I asked him tentatively, "What do you think?" 

Now, I always keep in mind that almost everyone has something they consistently do wrong when writing. Perfect spelling these days seems like a rare jewel, and perfect grammar even more so. However, some of those little idiosyncrasies and repeated imperfections give some writing character and can even be said to be a certain writer's style. So I wasn't at all surprised to hear from his corner:

"I like it, but you use way too many commas."

Yes, it seems commas are my little grammar pitfall. I do sprinkle them about quite liberally, wherever I believe they're required...and a few places I know they're not, but it seems that some sort of punctuation is needed. So, I throw in a comma or three for good measure. Commas are my friends. I may be a little too well-acquainted with them, according to my husband.

So if you see my posts littered with too many commas, please know that I am working on it. Old habits die hard.

'Youse yer grammer n spelin az uh weapin',
(Ye gods, that was painful to type!)

Anna Strad.

Who Says Creativity is Dead, or Oh the Irony


I have recently been having some lively conversations with family members about my quite-recent typewriter obsession. I believe they think I've gone batty...well, except for my darling, and he's every bit as batty as I. In fact, he is at least partially to blame, because it was he who spotted First (RS#5) to begin with. That bit is a story for another post, however (as in, the one when I finally introduce First to the world).

As we were sitting, lurking upon the internet and watching television the other night (simultaneously, I might add; I'm not certain if we're fantastic multi-taskers or dreadful wasters of electricity), I stumbled across an article reposted on the Typosphere about the underground typewriter revival. The sub-heading read: "Hipsters and newbies alike rediscover those beautiful machines that go clickity-clack" I read through the article, which I enjoyed. But then a thought dawned upon me, and so I posed it to my husband out-loud.

"Since typewriters have become hipster-fodder, does that mean I have an ironic typewriter? Oh no, I have an ironic typewriter, don't I?"

First, he gave me that funny look that he gets when some absolutely absurd conglomeration of words falls out of my mouth, then replied.

"You don't have to have an ironic typewriter. Your typewriter can be perfectly...uh...'ronic."

And at this, I giggled. But it was the beginning of a conversation we have had many times before, which generally consists of the topics "Why is Everything Ironic to Hipsters?" and the timeless classic "How the Hell Can Facial Hair be Ironic?" And from there, it generally devolves into a mutual, good-natured, laugh-filled rant.

The very next day, I was speaking on the phone with my cousin, and boring informing him of my newfound time-consumer. He then made the mistake of asking, "How did you get into these typewriters, anyway?" Which launched me into a fifteen minute monologue on how we discovered First, my forays into typewriter research which put the fire beneath my bum to restore it, and how I felt I had probably rescued it from a key-chopper. After my mini-speech, things turned into a Q&A session.

"A key-chopper? What's that?"

"Someone who cuts the keys off an old typewriter, uses them in some craft and tosses the rest of the machine."

"So, what were you gonna do with it?"

"Well, I wasn't sure at first. I figured at the very least it could be an accent piece in the livingroom or something. But since I began researching it, I decided I wanted to restore it. Then, I can take it to type-ins and mount a case on the back of my scooter for it, maybe use the keys as a template for new-made, keytop-lookalike objects that I can use in my steam-punking, possibly even produce enough to save some more old typewriters from key-harvesting."

He then laughed. "Who says creativity is dead!?" 

After that, I got to thinking about those poor, disfigured machines. After reading several blogs today about beautiful and rare machines being abducted by key-choppers before the collector cavalry could ride in (and feeling absolutely sick about it), I looked over to the corner, where my work-bench sits. I had an antique ammo pouch on it, and I happened to see the end of a shell sticking out of it. I looked from it, to the typewriter and back again, and decided that if I ever come across a harvested machine, I'll refashion keytops for it out of spent casings. I think it would be an interesting project and a little poetic justice in the realm of upcycling.

I do feel sorry for my family. They listen about my new disease quite a bit, and none have complained yet. They all seem to be happy I have something to waste copious amounts of time on...maybe because I'm no longer on the phone with them as much anymore?

Use your words as your weapon (you may be able to bore an enemy into submission with them!),

Anna Strad.

A Quick Note of Gratitude


I wanted to thank The Typosphere for adding my blog to their blog-roll! Cheers!  Since I have no photos of my typewriters to add in thanks, here is a photo of my scooter.

With heartfelt thanks,

Anna Strad.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

I Shall Not Be Moved


I suppose I'm a bit of a Luddite. My cell phone is a cheap model, kept only out of necessity. It is a very bare-bones, non-smartphone type flip phone, and I keep the very bare minimum plan on it that I can get away with. 

My computer is old, needs to be upgraded or replaced and for the most part, cannot play videos. It is slow and cannot have too many programs open at once. My darling tells me it has speakers, but I haven't figured out how to access them. I am not proficient in coding language, though I am making a begrudging effort to learn HTML and javascript for the sole purpose of improving upon my blog.

I have not used my scanner in several years, and I am not even certain it still works. I don't believe I still have the installation software to link it to my laptopasaurus. And I'm not certain they'd be agreeable, even if I did.

My televisions are old; one is high-def, but it is one of the old, gigantic high-defs that require cables that are no longer commercially available (and I have not used this television in months). Speaking of cable, mine is basic, and the only reason I have it a'tall is that it is included with my flat. I've gone the better part of the last decade without access to television.

I do not have devices such as ipods, ipads or tablets of any sort in  my home. The most high-tech items I own, in fact, are my gaming consoles, and it took some convincing to get me to budge from my old-gen systems to current ones.

I do not download...well, anything. I still buy hard-copy (i.e., CD's, DVD's) movie and music content. Likewise, I do not upload anything, either.

I'm certain I have driven my point home by now. My tech, for the most part, is ten years behind, at best. And it's by choice.

Recently, my sister and several of my friends have been opining to me the joys and benefits of e-readers. You can buy books very cheaply (including required college curriculum), store them all on this tablet-esque device, even publish your own works on a Kindle or a nook. One of the biggest advantages is that you can store many books...and it still weighs no more than the tablet, so when you move, you pack it in its case, instead of packing boxes and boxes of heavy, paper-from-trees books and then have to hire burly men to move them for you. This also makes it incredibly green and eco-friendly, as no trees have to be culled and processed for the making of your e-book, as it is all machine-translated code.

To this, I reply: Poppycock! I have thus far been unconvinced to purchase one of these devices, and I shall not be swayed now. To me, there really is nothing like a real book; its weight, present in your hands, the feel of the spine in your fingers, the smell of the paper, and the printed text. There's nothing like turning pages on an actual book. Even though my recent interest in law books have introduced me to some very large, heavy books with very fine print, it's nothing that a large magnifying glass can't remedy. Even though you probably could zoom in on that tiny text and not look like you're going blind at a very young age whilst reading said law books in public with an e-reader...I'm willing to take that chance.

I even had a long discussion on this topic with my mother-in-law several weeks ago; she concurred that there really is nothing like a real, good book, and she would not be purchasing one of these devices for herself in the foreseeable future. Even though this woman is very much more technologically literate than I; she has one of those new-fangled iphones that, for the life of me, I cannot figure out. And the fact it talks back is just plain creepy to my antiquated sensibilities.

Additionally, the over-availability of modern technology in general is causing us to not only lose touch with the reality beyond our front doors, but to forget how to personally connect with one another...or for the younger generation, never to learn how to connect with others face-to-face to begin with. It is becoming a lost art, as kids sit side-by-side, buried in their cell phones, texting each other instead of really interacting, really communicating. I fear it is this over-presence of technology that is creating a plethora of social disorders in our youth. And once they reach working age they are in for a horrible shock, as they are plopped into social situations that require real interaction, with no coping skills. I'm not saying e-readers caused this, of course, but I feel that they are but a small part of the problem, as they begin to make libraries and book stores (and the interaction that goes with them) obsolete.

So, call me a Luddite if you must, but I shall not be moved. Besides, moving those big ol' boxes of books yourself is part of the joys of owning them; they're very real, very present, and you usually get a very nice back rub afterwards. As long as you do the moving yourself, that is. Besides, it's good exercise! 

And when I pen my memoirs, they shall be written, at least in part, on my Royal Standard No. 5...or upon the Oliver that I am still pining for, and shall have, eventually.

My words (and heavy, throwable books!) are my weapon.

-Anna Strad.

Late Night/Early Morning Musings, Part II: An Idea


I have since been pondering upon my post musings of yestereve, and have had an epiphany, of sorts. Since I would like to cover as many antiquated technologies in this blog as I am able, I thought, since I'm beginning with typewriters, I may cover phonographs and cameras next. I would love some input on this, as well as thoughts for what you would like to see posted here. Thank you kindly.

-Anna Strad.

A Work in Progress: A Poem

By Anna Strad. DO NOT reproduce without permission AND sourcelink!

She stepped out of the streetcar in the foggy early morn,
Dressed to kill or to practice law.
Strand of pearls wrapped round her neck and tied in fashion of a noose,
New York had slain its golden goose.

She had been trapped, like a songbird in a gilded cage,
But the song rang out no more.
She had no outlet for her rage, as a tiger hunting in a meager fall,
Took a train out west to forget it all.

She looked out the car window as midday approached,
'Free at last' she spoke under baited breath.
Thoughts turn'd inward upon the past, eyes turn'd outward, toward the future,
Every new mile a fresh torture.

Her mind reeled, rife with anticipation and regret,
Corset too tight to care to eat.
Thoughts of the game afoot left her weary mind a-churning,
A chess-player, with gears a-turning.

From the station to the hostel in the cool of yestereve,
Victrola and typewriter, her bonds of normalcy.
Her fingers flew over the keys as neighbors complained, Victrola playing on,
Too noisy at midnight to host their salon.

From her fingers poured her pent-up frustration,
As music seeped from the phonograph.
A cacophony arising from the typewriter's keys, punctuated by the bell,
She raptly conducted the key-symphony's spell.

Past witching-hour she work'd, into early shades of dawn,
As ink upon paper, so spilled her thoughts.
Her own ransom note she wrote; her freedom and salvation,
To send news back home of her permanent vacation.

Gone was her old life of decadence and despair,
Sand-blasted away by the wastes of the West.
Her soul had been cleansed by the miles left behind on railroad track,
In the frontier she'd remain, never to look back.

Her spirit had been reborn in the somber desert,
Her sermon the typewriter's proclamation.
And baptized in the Victrola's sweet, crackling victory song,
The end of the world was where she belonged, all along.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Behemoth Approaches


As I was perusing my email messages earlier this day, I noticed one from an ebay seller from whom I had recently won an auction. The gracious lady was writing to inform me that my Underwood Standard No. 3 (the 18" model) of yet undetermined year was now on its way, traveling by mail-coach from Pennsylvania to where I reside in the still-wild Southwest. She also informed me of the total weight of the specially made crate her husband had constructed for my new acquisition in order to keep it safe en route, with the typewriter inside.

...It weighs fifty-five pounds.

Yes, you read that correctly: fifty-five pounds! That's as much as a good-sized dog or a young child! While I eagerly anticipate its arrival, I am filled with an equal amount of dread. When the postman delivers the Underwood, I am uncertain that I shall have the wherewithal to bring this monster into my home myself!

Therefore, I have officially decided to name my Underwood 'Behemoth'. Just as my Royal is called 'First'. I shall have photos of them both soon!

What are your typewriter's names? Do they have any? I would love to know.


Late Night/Early Morning Musings (Or, Your Thoughts Here)


Well, I do believe now is an apt time to throw some things at the wall and to see what sticks. The Facebook page linked with this blog has claimed the lofty goal of being about 'all antiquated technologies'. So, I would like to find out from you, the readers, what technologies from back in the day would you most like me to research and blog about? I would love some feedback from the blogosphere-at-large as to what you would like to read about here, and the best suggestions will be taken to heart. Please tell me what you'd like to see in the comments below. Thanks so much!


-Anna Strad.

'The Illustrated History of the Typewriter' Coming Soon!


While I realize it has been done before, I have decided to write my own 'History of the Typewriter.' I'm currently sourcing old typewriter advertisements and photographs of them in action from back in the day. This is proving to take a wee bit more time than I had hoped it would, and I will tell you why.

While it would be a very easy thing to do a quick web search, download all the cool old ads and photos that my hard-drive could hold and upload them to my blog, that isn't very ethical now, is it? And I must say, not very lady-like a'tall. Therefore, I am awaiting permissions from the owners of only the best old adverts I could find, and it is taking a spot of time.

So, I do hope you'll bear with me while I await confirmation. While plagiarism may be the sincerest form of flattery (ha ha, I made a funny! Ba-zing!), it isn't right, responsible or very good for the karma alignment.

Your patience is most appreciated...or your offerings of old ads and photos, so we can move the process along, doubly so.

-Anna Strad.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Spreading the Love


This is just a brief pop-in to let you all know that A Machine for the End of the World is on the Facebook! Like it, you must.


-Anna Strad.

My Heart's Desire: The Oliver Manual Typewriter

Salutations, ladies and gents,

It is an early, cool and overcast morn here in the desert, one of those rare moments when the urban sprawl can actually feel a bit lonely, and certainly post-apocalyptic. I am rife with insomnia and I am lovesick, pining over something I do not have.


Source: OzTypewriter

Yes. I am feeling this way over an ancient typewriter. I absolutely adore the old Olivers; they look almost draconic, with their green paint and horn- or wing-like key levers. These are truly a machine for the end of the world.

Now don't misunderstand me; I do currently have a Royal Standard No. 5 with an Underwood Standard No. 3 on the way, so I am not completely typewriter-less. But when compared to the Olivers like the one pictured here, they just aren't the same. I must somehow procure an Oliver. I can just imagine typing on this relic...and loving every moment of it. I am aware that they aren't exactly rare beasts, but that makes no difference to me. They are ancient, their look is wicked, their basic colour is green, and that's plenty enough to turn my gears. This machine is truly my heart's desire.

Suggestions? One for sale or trade? Love or hate the design? Please discuss in the comments below.

Use your words as your weapon,

-Anna Strad.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Salutations From the Beginning of the End of the World

Greetings. I wish we could meet under more fortunate circumstances. However, it's time for the masses to face an obvious and annoying fact:

The world is ending.

I'm not saying Biblical apocalypse or Mayan calendar ending, I'm saying we're feeding out just enough rope and bad vibes to hang our collective selves with. We're toeing the edge of a crumbling cliff and we're too power-drunk to back off, thinking we're invincible. But the simple fact of the matter is that society is on the verge of collapse, and on a global scale. Indeed, nothing lasts forever.

So, what to do about it?

Well, the obvious solution is for us all to get off our high-horses and lazy bums and work together to un-screw what we have been collectively screwing up for the last couple centuries. The reality, however, is that we will not do that. Most of us will remain complacent and won't even save ourselves.

So, for those who are paying attention, this is a guide. And it begins with...typewriters.


Yes, typewriters. Namely, clunky, old-fashioned, non-electric manual typewriters. These will be the machines for the end of the world. I'm certain you're probably asking yourself why, right about now, and what a typewriter could possibly have to do with the end of the world. The answer is quite simple: as society and our overly-depended-upon technological infrastructure fails, we will have to resort to more and more primitive means of communication. As the grid systematically falls, we will be plunged into a scenario similar to the 19th century. Typewriters, telegraphs and telephones (NOT cell phones; I'm talking your great-grandmothers' nailed-to-the-wall rotary phone that attached to a non-electrical and non-wireless landline) will be the last bastions of long-distance communication. And slowly these too will fail, if we let things progress that far.

This blog will be a guide for as long as our technology holds out to the machines for the end of the world. It may start with typewriters, but it doesn't end there (though there will be a good deal to do with typewriters). I will also cover disaster preparedness and my love and hobby, which is steampunk, as well as more random musings. I do hope you'll join me. Don't panic. Get yourself a cup of tea, pull up a chair, and let the sounds of keys and bell ring in the end of the world.

Use your words as your weapon,

-Anna Strad.