Category Archives: Technology

Best of ’68

caravelle-transistorized-watch-ad-1968

In 1968 I was with my Dad wandering around on our summer holiday in Lake Placid. I hated the place. There was nothing to do but swim, walk around town, or take a boat out, all of them by myself. There were no kids my age except twits at figure skating camp, and they were a closed group. Beside, I was a hockey player and thought boys that figure skated were weird. Perhaps my Dad took pity on me, because for no reason we went into the jewellery shop and he bought me a Bulova Accutron. At the time it was the most accurate watch, and the one used on Apollo missions! I still have that watch, and it works fine, 49 years later. However, it takes a mercury battery, and they are obsolete. If you want a battery for an Accutron now you have to pay $12 plus shipping. As wonderful as the watch is, I’m not so keen that I’d spend $15 or more to run a watch for a year, after which it would need another battery, etc, etc. I have too many other watches to wear. Recently I picked up another one for $4 at a thrift shop:

Caravelle 1968 "transistorized"

Caravelle 1968 “transistorized”

Yep, the same watch as in the advert up top. Made in 1968 or thereabouts, this was the cheaper baby sister to the Accutron, and it has a Japanese made movement made by Citizen. This is a hybrid between a regular windup watch and an all electric one, having a complete movement minus power spring. Instead of a spring it has a tiny motor. The battery is a standard 1.5 volt affair, still available today. I opened the watch and removed the dead battery which may well have been the original one, since it had the name Caravelle engraved right on it! For $2 I got a pack of 5 alkaline cells, and installed one in the watch. At first it didn’t run, but that was due to the bottom of the cell shorting out against the innards. I put tape on the base of the battery and cut a small slot for the contact, then replaced it in the watch. It started up and has been keeping perfect time ever since. It ticks like a windup watch, too. The question is, which watch proved to be the better one in the long run?

Here’s the Accutron. It said waterproof, and it was – I swam with it for years. I wish I could get a cheap battery for it.

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Accutron 214, 1968

no stem, it's on the back

no stem, it’s on the back!

Which brings me to another recent piece of 1968 technology that lives on and on and on…

1968 Olympia SF

1968 Olympia SF

I took the shell off to clean and adjust this one. The automatic ribbon reversal mechanism on the right side was jamming so the ribbon would get taut at the end and not reverse. After some examination I saw the problem, and fixed it by filing off the point on the plateĀ  attached to the ribbon flipper, so it no longer hit the arm it was supposed to push over and thereby flip ribbon direction. Aside from that I blew out the dust and gave it a spray of silicone lube. It’s from Britain, and has many fractions but no exclamation mark. How British – no exclamations… only stiff upper lips, hmmm? I get great results with Olympia portables (the baby ones) by using old mylar ribbons. I drop the spool onto one side and thread the ribbon onto the opposite spool without going through the flipper gates. Half the mylar will fill up one regular empty spool, after which it can be turned over and reused on the bottom section. I’ve tried mylar on some other typewriters and it doesn’t work well on every machine, but works perfectly on these.

mylar ribbon

mylar ribbon

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Filed under Technology, Thrift shop finds, Typewriters, Watches

The Road to Elvis

Elvis with his phonograph/amplifier

Elvis with his phonograph/amplifier

When I discovered long ago that I shared my birthday with Elvis, it came as something of a shock. Despite knowing that millions upon millions of people had the same birthday, January 8, somehow I relished the thought of Elvis and I as birthday buddies. When I was a young teen I even bought several of his current hits on 45, including Return to Sender, She’s the Devil In Disguise, and One Broken Heart for Sale. Two of those must have been on one 45, but I can’t recall which, nor the song that filled out the other missing side. I also had such hits as PT 109 by Johnny Horton, The Twist by Chubby Checker, and Hello Dolly by Satchmo. I’m slightly embarrassed by all this, with the exception of Louis Armstrong, who I still revere as a true musical legend. This may be apostasy with regard to Elvis, but I have this sinking feeling that Elvis’s fame, though seemingly immortal, will one day fade away to a footnote. Only his early stuff will, and should, endure as great music; the rest should be forgotten.

That being said, Elvis still exerts a strange fascination which was piqued yesterday in the aftermath of my examining an interesting old portable phonograph in a thrift shop.

it resembled a typewriter, but wasn't

it resembled a typewriter, but wasn’t

Opening the lid I saw it was a phonograph, and a very interesting one indeed. It was a Perpetuum Ebner Musical 5v Luxus, as near as I can determine.

Rex, stands for the King

Rex, stands for the King

I took a picture of it and went home. Later I did some research. Now I wish I’d bought it, but when I returned this morning it had been sold. Perhaps another buyer had Googled it right on the spot and seen what it was! Maybe I’m fortunate however, seeing as how I really have no use for it, and nowhere to put it.

The point is of course, Elvis had one in Germany. He used it not only for listening to records but as an amplifier for his guitar.

What sort of look is this? Puzzlement, curiosity, or disdain?

What sort of look is this? Puzzlement, curiosity, or disdain?

the one that got away

the one that got away

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Be Careful on the Stairs

Three weeks ago I missed a step going downstairs. There was a terrifying crunch from my left foot and within no time I was lying on the basement floor in shock, spewing curses and hoping the pain wouldn’t get worse. I can walk now, but my foot still aches. I stubbornly refused to get an X-ray, confident that my bones don’t break that easily. I’ve only ever broken one bone, a cracked finger due to a hockey mishap. Don’t ask. But a sprained foot is bad enough. It is amazingly difficult to get around with the use of one leg, I have learned.

I blame the poor design of the stairs in my house for the accident. Of course it wasn’t MY fault! It was the ARCHITECT’S fault. These stairs are built thus: the rise is 7 1/2″, the run is 10″, with a 1″ nosing in addition. The nosing is fine for going up, as it allows for an effective tread of 11″. Going down however, which I am 110% certain is the operating direction of most stair accidents, the tread is still 10″ long. Now look at your feet. How long are they? Mine are longer than that. This means that when descending stairs my toes generally hang out beyond the tread nosing. If you overstep a little too much, as I did, it’s very easy to miss the step entirely, and then WHAM!

In architecture we had manuals giving standards for things, like chairs, tables, closets, doors,ramps, stairs and a thousand others. The old rule for stairs was 2R+T=25″. That meant 2 times the rise plus the tread length should equal 25″. The stairs here conform to that old saw, i.e. 2 (7.5) + 10 = 25. I am living proof that rule is not good enough! I always thought it wasn’t, to which end in my working life I have endeavored to make stairs less steep than that formula allows. I have measured and observed lots of stairs, and here’s my conclusion: ideal stairs should have a 12″ tread, with 6″ rise. Per the formula: 2(6) + 12 = 24. I have measured and tested many stairs as I said, and I can confirm that 6 x 12 is both comfortable and very safe. You can practically run down stairs of that slope, but don’t try it. Note the slope difference here: 6×12 is 50%, while 7.5×10 is 75%. Both conform to the old rule but within that rule you have the possibility of slope variance factor of 1-1/2. When descending stairs you should: 1. hold onto the handrail, and 2. watch your step. I was doing neither when I fell, as I was carrying a ladder using both arms, and couldn’t see my feet. It will be a long time before I make that mistake again.

Lesson over, here are some photos from my walk/limp around the lake the other day. The bushes were teeming with birds, and many more were deep inside brush, chirping, hopping, flitting, pecking, eating and doing what birds do. They do seem to be very active these days, full of spring fever.

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Analog Moonshot

A SLIDE RULE

A SLIDE RULE

Document (41)

Document (42)

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Filed under Photography, Poetry, Technology, Thrift shop finds

Slowly But Surely

OCT 15 -009OCT 15 -010

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Filed under Book Reviews, Technology, Typewriters

A Royal Revolting Idea

one of my Royalty

one of my Royalty

Here’s another funny old advert I stumbled across in-advert-ently.

I’ve never come across a Royal with this feature, although I’ve had at least five of these, and seen more.

ROYAL QDL QUICK CHANGE RIBBON AD

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Fun With Coffee

Vintage British motorcycle

Vintage British “Panther” motorcycle

After my first adventure with Caffenol film developer I loaded one of my twin lens reflexes with a roll of film, that was best before 2007, trusting that it would still be good 7 years out of date. Here are some of the results, and I can report that it worked quite well indeed. I much prefer medium format when it comes to film. Of course I always did, but it was so expensive that I ceased doing it around the time I bought this film. I scanned this at 1200 dpi and the resolution is amazing. I once read that even if the lenses on medium format cameras never approached the resolving power of the best 35mm cameras, they still could outperform them due to the huge advantage of the large negatives.

These pics were shot recently, one at a British car rally, and one on a trip to Port Angeles. They seemed to go together. Ricohflex TLR camera, Fuji ACROS Neopan ASA 100, developed in Caffenol C-M for 12 minutes. Scanned on an Epson 2400 with a homemade 120 format cardboard mask.

Vintage American gas station

Vintage American gas station

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Filed under Cameras, Photography, Technology, Travel