Going Old-school with Typewriters


My favorite recent addition to my desk is a 1959 Smith-Corona Galaxie typewriter. Its purpose is to encourage more non-email personal correspondence, but without my personal worries about handwriting. I’ve created some nice old-school personal letterhead and printed it, I have a stock of envelopes and stamps, And I’ve already written my first brief letter. I have to say, it feels great. Plus, the thing looks super cool sitting on my desk next to my iMac.

No, I’m not a collector (at least until I buy a second one).

Does anyone else have a typewriter they use in this way?

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Yep. I have a Smith-Corona Classic 12 on my desk. Purchased new during grad school. Using it pretty much like you are but perhaps not so much for letters; but you’ve given me the idea.

I arranged for a local repair shop to fix the ribbon spool mechanism which didn’t move the ribbon while typing. They were unable to do so as they could not find parts. I took it home, took off the bottom cover and found the wayward gear that broke off the spindle holding the ribbon spool. With a little Super Glue spotted on the bottom of the spindle. Working fine! Now to see if I can clean it a bit. Down to me, I know.

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That’s excellent that you were able to repair that yourself. I went down a rabbit hole of typewriter research in the process of looking for this one (bought from FB Marketplace). This is how I found out the year of my model. I could see this becoming a nice little non-tech hobby.

My mom has a 1957 Smith-Corona that’s been in her basement for 40 years. It’s a mess, and I tried cleaning it but the keys are still sticking. The guy I bought this from said his repair person recommended carburetor cleaner on the typebars. Spray it on and let it work some magic in there. Put a towel under it to collect the goop. Once it’s clean in there, apparently, it’s okay to spray a little WD-40 – but if you do that before it’s not clean, you just gum up the works even more.

Nothing beats the electric typewriters IBM made in the mid -80ies IMHO. Still love both the Prestige 12 and Orator heads. A bit noisy perhaps…

I learned to touch-type on these. The only high-school class I have had use for each and every day since.

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Be really careful with carburetor cleaner, as its role in life is to strip things down to metal. This could include plastics. When they used methylene chloride they were especially bad, but the EPA has done away with that.

Also, WD-40 is more of a penetrating lubricant than for long-term lubrication (some will protest here about their squeaky doors, etc. which is their right). Instead I would recommend a needle oiler (like this) to precisely apply the oil, and doing some research on what the manufacturer uses or recommends. That’s part of the fun of a hobby liked this, I restored it and it has the correct oil.

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Good to know, thank you! There seems to be a pretty active “typewriter community,” so I’m hoping I can get my hands on what I need for restoration.

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For home use a long time ago I had a manual Royal - giant pain in the … hands. Went to a portable electric Smith Corona (2200?), whose strong carriage returns pushed the typewriter at a tiny angle each time, until I’d have to move the typewriter back in place every few minutes. (I loved the pop-in ribbon-carts and correction-carts though.) Decided I needed an internal carriage return to stop the vibration and unit movement so I picked up the classic clacky golfball-head IBM Selectric, then finally switched in the early 80s to a delightful 1st-gen Xerox 610 MemoryWriter that had memory to set columns and know the center (and could save phrases, and paragraphs), could underline (a unique advantage compared to most other typewriters), and auto-erase up to two lines. Cost around $1100, which in today’s dollars is about, um, $2700. :roll_eyes:

Classic manual typewriters can be gorgeous, but I don’t need another thing to collect, and there’s no way I’m going back to those days for getting something printed. In 2020 I’ll leave manual typewriters to the artists.

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Typewriter - Brandenburger Symphoniker

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I have two Remington typewriters.
No current correspondence goes out on them. Although my boys are interested in the one that is unboxed.
Alas, I saw an Olympia SM-4 cursive typewriter (or a Hermes) on Offer Up. I should have snagged that when I had the chance…

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That Remington is gorgeous. And I covet a Hermes or a big old Underwood from the 30s.

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Thank you! It was a great gift.
I think my dad still has an Underwood.

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My wife is an artist and has 4-5 old typewriters (which weigh a ton) in storage. We used enough typewriters when we were young (I can type 50-60+ wpm) but prefer my computers.

I’m not spending any money or time to repair them.

There is a collectors’ market for old typewriters, especially interesting models, such as certain Olivetti’s.

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Any repairs would definitely be in the realm of “hobby” for me. I did, though, knock out a letter of congratulations to go along with a gift for a high school graduate yesterday, and while I don’t know if she will think it’s cool, I can say that I felt like I’d given her something much more personal than if I’d written an email or even printed a letter in pages.

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I learned to type at school on an IBM Selectric. While I had at home some kind of uninspired Brother typewriter, the golfball head of the Selectric, which couldn’t jamb, was amazing.

Much, much later on I was reading about DACs, or digital to analog converters, which of course underpin all of the devices we use to listen to audio on our phones or stream music on our devices. This video makes the case that the Selectric was in fact a very early digital-to-analog converter; it’s simple design illustrates the promises of DAC technology nicely.

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I used to, but then it stopped working

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Example of collectible typewriters. Red Olivetti is in the Museum of Modern Art. See https://www.moma.org/collection/works/4576![image|231x500]
(upload://1g3SmJEKBWPhaps84aKrHVqn4sf.jpeg)

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ah, the Lettera 22, '50s, '60s and '70s laptop! :man_technologist:

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