Thursday, October 11, 2012

Annotated Miscellany - Typewriters Here and There

Forgive me for not writing a proper typecast. For all my love of retro tech, I found myself awfully put out last week when our internet connection died; and I am overjoyed that the techs at Swisscom restored it before the weekend so I did not have to spend my time off work hunting for public wifi access spots. The funny thing was when I called the help line and they asked me if my telephone was working - what telephone? Yes, there is a connection for a land line included in our monthly bill, but we have never owned an actual phone and I don't even have one around the house for testing purposes. It even has a number! Which I found myself scrambling to retrieve when I needed to call the phone company...

 These pages are from a book I was delighted to discover in an Italian bookshop last month. "Techno Vintage" did not disappoint; the very first chapter is on typewriters! However, these black and white pictures are not doing justice to their subjects.

The gorgeous eggshell blue of the Lettera 22, and the bright red of the Valentine are completely lost in these pictures. Pity.

A bit of redemption here, with the red Valentine poster displayed in all its monochromatic glory. Still, it could have been a stunning book but falls rather short.

Moving on to actual typewriters spotted in the actual wilderness - I came upon this SG-3 last month on a very rainy day, lying in the midst of bushes by the side of the street. The paper rolled around the platen had "Gratuit" (Free) written on it, but that was washing off fast and it was obvious no one had taken the bait.

I leaned down to pet it a bit and look wistfully; it occurs to me that this is the first SG-3 I have come across in the wild, and I do wish we had met under better conditions. Then I saw a few slugs and snails had sought shelter under it and I scurried off with a shriek...

Yes, in Geneva it (almost) literally rains typewriters... a shame, as I know this SG-3 is highly-regarded by many writers. My friend Deek over at Type Clack comes to mind...


A day after the first sighting, I saw it again. This time, moved into a more sheltered spot where it waited for the removal truck in the company of some stained couches. I can only save so many typewriters from the trash, you know.


Speaking of one man's trash and all that - here is a look in the shop window of a printer store in downtown Geneva, offering an Olympia Traveller C (far inferior in quality to the SG-3) for a whopping 200 francs. To be fair, I cannot imagine they are moving many of these units in any case; this is the only store I have come across in Geneva actually claiming to sell (at least one) new manual typewriter.


At a garage sale, a lady was keen to offer me a good price on this late '70s Royal when she noticed my interest. "Oh, no, Ma'am", I waved her off, "I do not find my life at present devoid of typewriters. You have no idea." She backed down graciously.


And here's one for the "should-have-got-it-just-because-but-successfully-resisted" archives: this pretty nice-looking orange Hermes Baby. Still kicking myself, but only half-heartedly. No special typeface, but still, these don't turn up so often. And from the looks of that shiny white space bar, it had seen limited use. Oh, well.

Looking forward to returning to the flea market this weekend; it has been ages what with travel, and bad weather, etc. Fingers crossed for clear skies on Saturday! I think this has been the longest stretch (six weeks?) without hunting; I do hope to spot something intriguing after the long wait.

23 comments:

  1. Abandoned SG3! Pardon me for a moment while I sob quietly in the corner...

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    1. There, there, Michael. I know. Just hug yours (SG-1 or SG-3) a bit tighter tonight...

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  2. That brown and beige Royal Mercury that the lady offered you - I have one the exact same color. It's my vacation typer, I've taken it for typing on the beach in California.

    Sounds like a nice book, thanks for posting.

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    1. Glad to hear someone has one of these and likes it! It is a bit plain-looking, but I do appreciate the understated style.

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  3. We can see your resolve is firm if you can leave behind a free SG3 that stares at you like a soaked, mewling kitten hiding in the bushes... Salute! (:

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    1. Kitten? That is a full-grown tiger! And it would take a fortune (in space) to keep...

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  4. You should have carried the sg3 to the shop with the high price - they might have given you a commission!

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    1. Good idea, but I fear the Traveller C, mediocre though it is, would have been an easier sell for them (cuteness and all that). I do wish I knew others in Geneva who would appreciate the (free) finds I cannot absorb, though!

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  5. You have great luck finding abandoned typewriters! I cannot believer someone actually abandoned an SG-3 You should have really carried it home.

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    1. I know, I had to wonder whether they had genuinely tried to get rid of it (Freecycle, local Craigslist, etc), before dumping it outside in such horrid weather.

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  6. I wish I can find a typewriter someday on the street! I always look to see if there are any.

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    1. You never know; keep looking! Probably an electric one will turn up first, and then one day a manual will catch your eye...

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  7. That abandoned SG-3 is one of the saddest things I have seen. I've run across many 1960s recliners left by the side of the road, but never a typewriter! I suppose the former owner bought a laptop and got rid of the analog word maker. I doubt that digital tools will look as good in 40 years.

    Thanks for sharing this and other photographic awesomeness.

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    1. Not many recliners in this neck of the woods, I'm afraid. In fact, not very much that I can identify as being from the '60s, either... the most predictable sidewalk item here is a CRT TV; I guess they're the new manual typewriter (still useable but obsolete).

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  8. Oh my goodness, a typewriter in the bushes?! D:
    That's really awesome in a sad way. Meh.
    And, I can't believe how many Hermes Babies there are on your end of the world. We dog fight for the Babies here! :p

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    1. Fortunately, typewriter-in-the-bushes is not an everyday experience here - it would break my heart otherwise! It was bad enough leaving this behind...

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  9. I don't know how you can resist...

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  10. Your findings never cease to amaze me! I just can't imagine this fantasy world you live in where you step outside your apartment or your workplace and just find typewriters sitting there for you to take home. And some well sought-after ones, to boot!

    I was just thinking about you the other day. It's close to the end of the year and the past two years, I anxiously awaited a Swiss packaged typewriter. This year there is a void and I wish I could think of something I really, really want you to find:)

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    1. Fantasy, sort of... all that is missing is a place to put all these strays!

      As for your usual end-of-year Swiss package, hmmm... fancy a Hermes 2000 to complete the set :-)? Not much I can think of to find you on this end, either; whenever you have an irresistible craving I can help with, I would be very glad to help out as always :P

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  11. The sight of that SG3 "in the wild" was one of the most SURREAL things ever!

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    1. I kept going back to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me... and each time I hoped it would be gone, rescued by someone else. I will continue to tell myself it was...

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  12. ...I had to do a double-take on that big white beast. I have never seen a typewriter so literally in the wild! You, madam, have far more resolve than I; if I were surrounded by wild typers at every corner I would literally have no space to move in my flat! They would be stacked vaulted ceiling-high like Tetris cubes. I'm not certain whether to applaud that iron resolve or writhe in agony! Ha!

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    1. I have been building up my resolve for a couple of years now; got it down pat! Look, photograph, wring hands, stiffen upper lip, walk straight ahead and try not to think about it. That, or sleep on the street while my typewriters live it up in the apartment...

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