Thursday 29 June 2023

GT examination

I have taken a good look at another of my recent collection additions, the Smith-Corona GT Ghia with it's cute though rather curious automotive styling. The typewriter works well and is a quiet typer though needs a new ribbon. I think i'll order ribbons for this and the Underwood.

Tuesday 27 June 2023

Mysterious keys (6) : The German edition

These are only really mysterious keys if you live in somewhere like the UK perhaps but my Triumph-Adler Tippa has some keys for use in German language typing. The extra language keys mostly use the keys often used for fractions on other typewriters. The typewriter also does not have a QWERTY layout as Z and Y have been swapped (so it is a QWERTZ typewriter instead!) It would be nice to add some more non-English typewriters to the collection.

Thursday 22 June 2023

Taking a look at the Underwood

Although it's been in the collection for over six months now we haven't yet had chance to play with the Underwood 315 yet. So, that has now been rectified to an extent. The typewriter works well and is pretty quiet, though shift lock seems to jam so should be avoided. The ribbon still has some life in it but i think it will be the next in line to receive a new one.

Tuesday 20 June 2023

Exchange letter codes

A recent typewriter purchase (the Tippa) had a nice surprise in store for me on the inside of the case. A dealer's sticker for Metyclean of London. The most interesting feature of this being the telephone number which was TAT 9438. TAT? What kind of telephone number is that?

Let us dial back a bit (so to speak). In the earliest days of telephony most phone calls were directed via an operator, especially if the number you wanted was on a different telephone exchange to the one you were connected to. In the 1950s this changed with the arrival of Subscriber Trunk Dialing (though it took a couple of decades to be fully rolled out). Each exchange had it's own three figure code which you would dial first, then the individual number that you wanted to reach. These three figure exchange codes were described in letters. TAT was therefore the code for TATe Gallery! Now, the telephone exchange code was really a number (828 in TAT's case) but letters were easier to remember.

But telephone dials have numbers not letters, so how could you dial TAT? Simple, the telephone dial actually did have letters too! So if you wanted to dial TAT you would actually be dialling 828.

To dial TAT you would dial 8(T) 2(A) 8(T)

By the 1970s the use of letters in telephone numbers was dying out, the reason being that exchanges were running out of numbers for their original code and therefore needed to have more codes allocated. However, here and there the numbers survived on old signs into the following decades. Below is an example of an ERDington exchange number on a shop sign in the late 1990s. Unfortunately this sign has now long gone.

Thursday 15 June 2023

Manuals (3)

Two more manual covers, from public domain sources, this time of typewriters of the electric variety.

Thursday 8 June 2023

Tippa ribbon

The latest typewriter to join the collection, a Triumph-Adler Tippa, appeared to work fine but i could not be one hundred percent sure as it had no ribbon! That has now been rectified and it works pretty well apart from getting stuck towards the end of the line, this may just be a blockage that can be fixed. The typeface is a nice one.

Tuesday 6 June 2023

Using foolscap folio

So, here is what a sheet of foolscap folio looks like in one of the typewriters in the collection. To be honest it doesn't look a huge lot different to A4 but somehow looks more "right". I will need to adjust the margins of the typewriters as i switch over to the new paper size though!

Thursday 1 June 2023


We have already seen how typewriters were used to create art, most items of office equipment tends to be (mis-)used to some extent in ways never intended by the creators. The humble fax machine, still a common if seldom used piece of equipment in company offices, is no exception. Fax machines were used to circulate humorous jokes and spoofs, urban myths even conspiracy theories long before social media was even thought about.

This is called faxlore and was mainly for the circulation of jokes and cartoons. Spoof office memos and meeting agendas were also sent. It wasn't all light humour though, some quite dangerous myths and conspiracies could also be circulated. One example circulated by fax (and other methods) was that cars driven at night without their lights on was a sign that the driver was a member of a criminal gang! 

Another example sent to school administrators in the US was warning that people wearing lesser known religious symbols (though even in some case the star of David) were "Satanic" or members of secret societies. This was complete nonsense of course but the fact it was sent by fax no doubt gave the message an air of authenticity and the wearing of the symbols was banned in some cases.

Luckily these days faxlore is a rare occurrence, we just have the deluge of nonsense sent by the internet instead!

Panasonic fax machine (from public domain source)