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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Typewriter Convention Travelogue 1

Here I am in northern Ohio at about T minus 72 hours and counting until I launch off to the convention for typewriter enthusiasts that's being held down in Cincinnati by Richard Polt. I'll be posting travelogue entries here on this blog and hope to get a full update each day about the events.

As I prepare to start to begin to think about possibly scheduling which of my myriad machines I might bring, I'm reminded overall of the vast variety that will be presented and displayed not only by Richard but by everyone and one thing has come to the front of my mind - and that's Beeching's repeated asserticn (which all of us know to be correct) that there was probably no quicker way to lose a fortune than to engage it in the building of a typewriter!

Typewriters, believe it or not, were really NOT super-high-profit items to build. Really. They weren't. Sure, the Union typewriter trust fixed the price of their standard machines (office machines, that is) at $100 at the end of the 19th Century so as to control the market and control profit, and profit they did. However, we also know that any company that tried to make a fully competitive but substantially lower priced machine failed, and we know that many lower-quality, lower-priced machines failed too. If you wanted a quality machine you had to get a good design, good materials, good machine tools and great workers, and then you had to have an expensive and well-trained staff at the end of the pipeline to make sure that every machine left the factory in perfect condition, adjustment and alignment. Then you had to ship 'em out very well-packed.

The real game-changer was the portable. When it began, the Corona was selling for half the price of standard typewriters but in reality cost much less to make. In other words, the profit margin was MUCH greater. The big companies figured this out first, and very soon they all got into the market. Except Woodstock, that is, which is always kind of a special case no matter the time frame you pick.

When you have this in mind as you look at a typewriter, you really get into the machine itself. Operational qualities become fairly secondary as you consider how all of the parts are made and assembled, and how the whole design that began in someone's head was translated through foundry and stamping press and extrusion die and assenbly jig and leather gloves and type bar maul and crate and nails to a real machine in the hands of a real user. I think it's that part I'm looking forward to most from the "typewriter" angle; from any other angle of course it's meeting people I've worked with for years but never met face to face.

Overall, as I begin to change my connection to the typewriter world from what it once was (intense, all-consuming, passionate) to what it will be (who knows until you're there.. and then do you, really?) I am really looking forward more to the human aspect and not the mechanical. But for one glorious weekend I'll merge the two and see how that works. Stay tuned.

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