The interwebz are rife with references to people's childhood memories of the odiferous, lavender "ditto," a proto-photocopy handed out in damp, stinky piles to school children of the 60's and 70's. I remember them too.
I'm not surprised that the Dead Media Project has tackled this worthy subject; their ultimate goal is to create an open source "Dead Media Handbook" cataloging just this sort of oddity.
Highlights of the Dead Media discussion include the distinction between the Mimeograph, the Hectograph, and the Spirit Duplicator (the last of the three being the source of the notorious 'ditto'), and the author's own experience picking up a Spirit Duplicator at the Rutgers University surplus store, and then attempting to buy its attendant noxious supply chemicals at a "crumbling bastion of industrial age manufacturing," the Repeat-O-Type Manufacturing Corporation.
Unfortunately and perhaps by design, this wry anecdote stops dead just as the author is handing out his retro reproductions to his class. How did these post-Millennial students react to a stack of faded lavender mimeographs?
We will never know.
Definition: Ditto Machine | Everything2 - Zorin
Spirit Duplicator definition | Wikipedia
Remembering the Ditto and Mimeograph | The Chattanoogan
'The Ditto Machine' | Paper Tiger
Monday, July 30, 2007
Friday, July 27, 2007
The Smith-Corona Galaxie Twelve is everything I remember about manual typewriters. It was the one and only manual I had when I was young, and I used it in the 1980's to write diary entries, dramatic letters to my cousins in the South, and reams of what is now called fan-fiction about an anachronistic and embarrassing roster of musical acts.
I loved that thing. It was compact and 70's suave. It came in different colors, like a proto-imac. And yet, a few years ago, when my parents asked if I wanted it back, what do you think that I told them?
Although Smith Corona has manufactured portable typewriters for seventy years, I choose to believe, with no evidence to support me, that there is something iconic about the Galaxie Twelve. I think people become attached to these machines. You don't think so? Here's another example.
With its compact, curved styling and choice of colors, the Galaxie Twelve was a young person's typewriter; the ipod of its time. According to Smith-Corona, "The Galaxie Twelve was designed with students in mind." It certainly reminds me of being young and taking my first comical stabs at the writing life.
I'm definitely keeping my eye on eBay for the right one to come along.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
I've recently received several Moleskine notebooks as gifts; indeed I've gotten many notebooks as presents over the years, as I've left the not always accurate impression on others that I am a prodigious producer of words.
The problem with notebooks is this: the nicer they are, the less you want to sully them with your own unimpressive creations. Take the Moleskine. It has a rather officious, leathery-looking cover, a little elastic band, and even a cord bookmark, like a King James bible. Who wants to put stray phone numbers and grocery lists in that? Thus they sat, spines unbent, in a small stack on my nightstand for several months until I decided to get involved in this business of Moleskine blogging.
It's not a new idea, although it is generally reserved for Actual Artists who draw things. And yet it is the perfect format for papercasting: the notebooks fold flat, which is ideal for scanning. They are small and nondescript, so easier to sneak into boring corporate meetings than say, a large sketch pad. And they create an organized diary of the random things you might want to scan and post on your blog about papercasting.
This is the format I use for papercasting on this blog.
The webs have a few things to say on the subject of Moleskine blogging. It's quite a little trend. See how one man organizes his pocket diary with a reference system, and a discussion of using the Moleskine for analog blogging. See various hacks of the Moleskine to add features that don't ship with the product; a tab hack, and a pen hack.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
I am currently reading Century of the Typewriter by Wilfred A. Beeching (who once ran the British Typewriter Museum in Hampshire, England, apparently no longer in existence according to this unverifiable, random Internet source). It was written in 1974, although its formal prose style and the yellowed pages of this old library copy make it seem much older.
The most interesting parts of this book are not the encyclopedic lists of typewriter makes and models, but rather the cultural asides: the role of the typewriter in the emancipation of women, Mr. Beeching's own prescient forecast of the typewriter's future ("The day may come when the letter typed will appear in front of the operator on a television screen in any selected type face, and by pressing a button, be transferred electronically to sensitized paper") and especially, his proud and paternal statement on the longevity of the machine:
Very few typewriters ever appear to be thrown away and consigned to the flames or the dustbin. Some find their way to the auction sale and come under the hammer, and many are rebuilt-- some of them on more than one occasion.
Typewriters can last for fifty or sixty years or even more and, it may perhaps be said, seem almost indestructable.... It is also worth pointing out that a good reconditioned typewriter is generally a better proposition than a used car. There are far more second-hand typewriters being efficiently used then their are second-hand motor cars of the same age. No four-bank typewriter should be condemned solely because of its age. In this connection it is worth pointing out that machines should be kept in warm, dry offices and should be regularly maintained for they suffer more from neglect than use.
He said, brandishing his cane! But, he has a point, no? There is a rare garage or yard sale out there without at least one typewriter laying in wait beneath the folded up deck chairs and fake Christmas tree. It is somehow hard to throw one away.
Perhaps the current generation of whippersnappers may never know a device built with the intention to last; they were born too late to appreciate the quality that issued forth from companies unversed in the cynical art of planned obsolescence.
All of this is good news for those of you thinking of getting yourselves a refurbished typewriter; it will probably be almost as good as new.
There was a time when I was interested in wooden stamps; that is, until I realized that I lacked the artistic talent to put them to proper use. Making stamp art and cards is like any other artistic gift, you have it or you don't.
I remain interested in stamps as objects, the imperfectly unique impression they leave each time you use one. Stamps are staunchly unplugged; in order to use them you need ink and paper, and scissors and all sorts of three-dimensional unpixelated accessories that by nature take up time and space. Stamps aren't subject to mechanical failure, format upgrades, and other plagues of our digital times. Feel free to leave them in a drawer for ten years; they're going to work the same way when you dig them up again.
There are a lot of vintage typeset stamps online. You can find the one pictured above at left here. You can find customized punch tape and typewriter stamps (ah, punch tape. A subject for a future post) and even old typewriter stamps: here are some interesting vintage typewriter stamps illustrated by Edward Gorey: Chicago Underwood
I think typewriter stamps would make an interesting addition to typecasted posts. Might have to find a couple and incorporate them.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
If you are at least as old as me, some part of your nascent history is captured on slide film. These little square transparencies sit stacked by the thousands in old shoe boxes in some relative's attic; no one has looked at them in decades. You might remember that humming, donut-shaped slide projector that sent a dusty beam of light up toward a tacked-up sheet in your house thirty years ago, while the slides rotated with a thunk; if the person running it was truly the artistic type, they might have run and put on a record in the background.
I'm sort of horrified by the way family photographs rot; the way they collect and fade and return to anonymity, friends of older relatives who you've never seen, hoards of people in backdated hairstyles at ancient backyard barbecues, pictures of little poodle dogs and big American cars with fins, none of it anyone can put a name or even a decade to once a little time goes by and a few relatives pass away. It's a shame. My own family hoards countless suitcases, boxes, and bags of these anonymous moments of time. I might be looking at my own great great grandmother, and I wouldn't know it was her.
Scanning such slides would merely update their format, but their meaning is gone. They remain beautiful in a way, but whatever story they are really trying to tell, well, your guess is as good as mine.
These slides were found in a box belonging to my husband's late mother. They tell a story of a parade, somewhere, in the 1960's. I think they are strangely beautiful.
Scanning slides has a technique to it; just look to the internet if you want to get it right. I didn't follow any particular guidelines with these, I just tossed them on an old Epson flatbed scanner to see what they would reveal.
I'm a technical writer who has recently become enamored with manual typewriters and the general resurrection of pre-digital forms of communication online-- drawings, old film, typewritten or handwritten personal documents, tangible things that seem to be disappearing from everyday life.
I've poked around online and found a handful of encyclopedic pre-WWII typewriter collection links and a few nerdy grad students papercasting to make a semiotic statement, but generally speaking, not a lot of content for the average person who's just interested in seeing some of this old stuff make a comeback on the web.
Well, that's me. I am hoping that you'll consider joining the conversation as I dig up and discuss books and links about this topic, scan slides, typecasts, and notebook drawings, and hunt around for information about manual typewriters to share.