Yesterday I purchased my 10th typewriter. To say “old” typewriter would be a tautology no? The one I just got dates from 1959 or so. As tools and objects with useful lives go, that’s old. I may be older but that’s different. I am not old. I am seasoned. In my mental rough guide to typewriters an old-old typewriter would be from the 1930’s, i.e. before my time. This I admit might be an insult to some folks I know, so perhaps I shall revise the date further back in time to when no one living now can remember. That would be an old-old typewriter. Antique even. But in technological terms, anything that is more than say, six months old, is now “old”. Just look at your phone. It’s already obsolete isn’t it? I bet there are six generations since it was made.
Back to the machine: Smith Corona “Sterling”, virtually identical to the last typewriter I acquired – a Smith Corona Silent Super (aka series 5) with the Eaton’s label. Except this one has been used a lot. It had 2 non-functioning keys, and the letter “n” was crooked and too high on the page. I raised the hood to have a better look inside. It has a hood like a car. Not only that, it has a trunk! To top it off there are rabbit ears ( the antenna – ok cars didn’t have rabbit ears). There is no radio however. Under the hood is the engine, the guts, all those little pieces that are connected together by other little pieces. The reason that the 2 keys were not doing anything was that the intermediate arms, (connecting rods – engine analogy) had come detached from the type bars. Not only detached but rather bent. Some fiddling and straightening done I managed to reconnect these now straighter rods to the bottom ends of the 2 corresponding type bars. This connection is ingenious to behold: a tiny spring clip. Perhaps some sort of safety feature, like a telescopic steering column, designed to separate under excessive force.