OT: Vintage Typewriters




"forces you to slow down"?? My high-school typing teacher typed 80-90wpm on a manual typewriter in the 1970's! I'm hardly over half that much on the PC keyboard. There's some validity however to the part about not just writing the first thing that comes to mind; because I don't think in a good order to communicate, so it's nice to be able to keep move things around and insert and delete sentences, phrases, and paragraphs.


We had to use "vintage" teletyping machines at the army which had a "lockup" function when typing more than 50(?) characters per minute. That was really annoying, as you just couldn't type as fast as you could, instead it was a good idea to just only use one finger to slow you down. (Funny sidenote: We had to do a typing exam to reach at least 100 characters per minute. I made a bet with our instructor, that I'd pass with over 200 characters using only 2 fingers. I came out with 215...<g>)


I worked for 4 months in a Smith Corona typwriter plant in NY.

I guess I'm old.

(There were only electric typewriters built in this plant at that time, so maybe I'm not so old!!)


"forces you to slow down"?? My high-school typing teacher typed 80-90wpm on a manual typewriter in the 1970's! I'm hardly over half that much on the PC keyboard.

I took a year of typing in high school in 1944. The best that I could manage was about fifty wpm, but that was after subtracting five wpm for each error that I made. The girls who were in the secretarial sequence typicaally managed eighty wpm. In typing class we had to touch type as the typewriters did not have letters on the keys.

I still have the Smith Corona portable that I purchased in 1947 at the University of Minnesota. I haven't used it in years. I also have a Coronamatic 2200 that I purchased in about 1980. It's advantages over the older mechanical machine were (1) because it was electric each character appeared with the same intensity (2) it had four keys which cooulod be replaced to provide a limited capability to do scientific symbols.

Others in this thread have addressed longevity. I still have the Simpson Midgettester that was provided by Honeywell to field engineers in the late 1950's. It still works but I have replaced the test leads many times. The test leads screwed into the tester. Thatt was a real advanttage when working on aircraft on the flight line. If you dropped the tester you could rescue it by holding onto the test leads.


I've not followed the link yet (I can't from this computer) but it's an interesting coicidence as my 10-yo daughter just asked for a mechanical typewriter for her birthday.

I've written a couple of letters with this and it certainly leads to a more considered style of writing. My analogy would be like going back to a film camera from digital. The resulting output isn't necessarily any better or worse but you have to think about it a bit more which may be a good thing.


Hello, vintage technology lovers,

It's not only a personal kind of living or working. It's a kind of society changement. New technologies allow a lot of people doing things, which they were unable to do in former times. It's a kind of going on more democracy. But it seems although become true, the quality of the products become lower and lower.

For example a lot of people can publish with the help of the internet. But the quality of enormous bunch of written articles...


but you have to think about it a bit more which may be a good thing.

I can remember working for a large engineering firm that had a floor devoted to a typing pool. For reports and proposals we would hand write a draft and then "submit" it to the typing pool where it would be entered into the typing schedule. Since it might take several days before being typed, we spent a lot of time making sure our first draft was as close to final as possible. There never was enough time to allow for more than two passes through the typing pool. The result was a very well thought out first draft and final report.

Later on when we switched to local word processing, we saw a lot of sloppy reports due to the fact that the thinking was "just put something on paper - it can always be cleaned up". Of course it's hard to clean something up if the original thought process was bad.



I think it is worth noting that the motto of one of the most successful computer companies in the world, IBM, is "Think".

The original manual on the programming language BASIC, at Dartmouth College in 1964, contains this sentence: "Typing is no substitute for thinking."

As a teacher, "thinking" is what I teach. I introduce principles and concepts and want my students to use their brains to understand these things, and experiment. It is through experimenting and thinking that learning really occurs.

I've been called a Luddite (I wear that badge proudly) regarding programmers who let the compiler catch their errors, and I cringe a bit every time I notice a programmer writing code but not testing it. In my mind, the programmer's job is not done until he or she thoroughly tests their code, and I don't necessarily mean by using an automated testing system either, although I do support those if used in support of other testing.


Hi Don,

I think it is worth noting that the motto of one of the most successful computer companies in the world, IBM, is "Think".


During my first summer of college, I worked for the radio shop of the Jefferson Proving Grounds in Madison, IN. This was a army amunition testing base but staffed mainly by civilians. Barney (my Boss) was a great believer in thinking before doing. We had to install radios in various army trucks, cars, jeeps, and tanks. He would have us spend many hours (sometimes days) reviewing how we were going to mount the radio, run the wiring, etc, before we ever started the work. The result was always a beautiful installation with no errors or rework being required.

Barney's work method of thinking it all out first has stayed with me. His favorite expression has also stuck with me: "I cut it off twice, but it's still too short."



... my Boss was a great believer in thinking before doing.

Good idea in an ammunition testing base!




Hi Martin,

It was a very interesting place to work. We'd be working on a transceiver, doing a little bit of soldering, and the warning whistle would sound. We would freeze, wait for the big gun to go off, wait for the lights to stop swinging, and then go back to soldering. This would happen several times a day. Great fun.



... We'd be working on a transceiver ...

Was it from the AN/VRC-12 (-43 to -49) series (RT-246/VRC, RT-524/VRC, R-442/VRC)? That is a vehicular tactical low-band VHF-FM set (30 to 76 MHz).

The U.S. AN/VRC-12 series is an amazing and likely the best example of extremely long service life for a complex and very widely deployed (with U.S. and allied military forces) set of electronics. It was first issued in 1961, and was not retired in U.S. service until 2008. That's a service life of 47 years! The only major life-span alteration was introduction in the mid-1960s of silicon transistors in the A-models in place of germanium transistors in the original models. Never was an IC or uP to be found anywhere in it.

I know of nothing electronic anywhere, military or civilian, that equals this record. None of our favorite HP calculators come close.

Edited: 9 Dec 2011, 4:06 p.m. after one or more responses were posted


Hi Mike,

We used standard police VHF radios, Motorola Motrac with the remote control head. The tanks were the most fun to try to fit them into.

A funny sidenote: Barney wanted to have air conditioning; so he went on a campagn shutting down the repeaters, wait for the complaints to roll in, and then tell them that the excessive heat was causing them to shutdown. After about three weeks of this, a crew showed up, partitioned off the transmitters from the work space and installed a massive air conditioning unit on the transnmitter side of the partition. It ran full blast - no controls - and could keep the space, with the transmitters running full time, in the 60-65 deg F range. Barney quickly brought in some lawn chairs and we took our work breaks in comfort.



Sparky: 1
HQ: 0



My analogy would be like going back to a film camera from digital.

They've got digital cameras now?

Nikon F2 nut.


That mini-documentary was shot by Jason Scott on his new equipment that he will be using to film three feature-length documentaries: Arcade, Tape, and 6502. I am most excited about 6502 followed by Tape (as in tape backup). You may want to checkout his other two completed documentaries: BBS and Get Lamp. The former needs no introduction. The later is a documentary about interactive fiction and text adventures. Both are very well done and have great interviews.


Very interesting. For me, there was a subtext of how change is understood differently by those who lived through it compared to those who simply see it in retrospect.

And the mechanical device. No batteries or circuits to corrode. Still working fine after 50 years.

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