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22-11-2015 10:46:56  #1


The future of typewriter repair

     I was reading Richard Polt's admirable page on typewriter repair shops, and I noted the large number of shops with comments like "I have over 40 years experience in the business". Such people are gold, of course, but the concentration of them does not speak well of the future. In fact, I am not rosy about the future of typewriters in general - it's been noted more than once that right now decent machines are still plentiful and fairly cheap. But they are not immortal and the number can only diminish, and the vast experience of people with over 40 years in the business is likely to diminish much faster - and catastrophically.

 


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
 

22-11-2015 13:36:04  #2


Re: The future of typewriter repair

I know of three professional repairmen in my area, and I live in the fourth largest city in North America. One was factory trained at Underwood, the other at Olympia, and the third worked for an independent repair shop during a time when such tradesmen were on the road all day servicing machines in the field, predominantly for large offices. 

Apparently there is a fourth man, another former Underwood employee, but I don't know anything about him.
 
All three of the ones that I'm familiar with still operate their own typewriter repair business in a brick and mortar storefront; however, I would only describe two of them as actually being active in the trade. One has unofficially retired, but he doggedly hangs out in his shop that has become a gathering point for his friends.

I've only had the opportunity to discuss the concept of passing the baton with two of them, and still intend to ask the third, but neither were at all interested in teaching someone the skills that have served them for so many years. As one pointed out (an 80 year-old who has been in business for 40 years now), professional typewriter repair is a skilled trade onto itself, one that took him four years just to learn the basics of, and has never stopped learning about since then. He actually laughed at how naïve some typewriter enthusiasts and collectors can be. One had approached him for training believing that it would only take a few weeks or months to pass on such learning.

I have no such delusions. I'm a licensed tradesman albeit no longer active in that trade, but I can fully appreciate what is involved in not just attaining the required knowledge and tools, but developing the skills needed to make use of them. The reality is that we live in an era that will see the extinction of the truly skilled typewriter repairman. Sure, there will always be mechanically talented individuals who are resourceful enough to revive a dead machine or restore the operation of one that is broken, but they should never be mistaken for those who were fully versed and extremely talented in the nuances and intricacies of typewriter repair, maintenance and adjustment. There will also always be those enthusiasts who think they know what they're doing when in reality they don't have a clue, but so long as they're only working on their own machines it's not a problem.

What does all of this say about the future of typewriters? The machines will keep on typing, many will limp along because of makeshift repairs and ersatz parts, but only a precious few will work anywhere near their original level of performance. It took the better part of a day for factory-trained experts to adjust and fine-tune a brand new typewriter that had just rolled off the assembly line. Such a machine would have sung like an opera diva and I'm afraid that such performances will soon be lost forever.


"To save time is to lengthen life."
 

22-11-2015 18:39:35  #3


Re: The future of typewriter repair

At the repair shop here, there is a younger fellow (relatively speaking) who is now working in the shop to learn the trade of repairing typewriters.  Apparently the local shop services machines for various businesses who still have typewriters in their offices.


Elliott 1
 

28-11-2015 14:23:26  #4


Re: The future of typewriter repair

Well Im young and slowly learning the trade....


 


Back from a long break.

Starting fresh with my favorite typer. A Royal Futura!
 

16-3-2016 19:10:12  #5


Re: The future of typewriter repair

I remember over the years I've seen typewriter repair shops drop off one by one.  I remember talking to all the old pros who used to run these shops.  I have even helped several clean out their places of business so they could work at home because they no longer could get out and about.  I have even been given lots of things, including a sign which reads, "Bob's Typewriter Service."  I've hung it up in my bedroom years ago in memory of the man who ran that shop.  His name:  Bob, of course.  I knew him every since I was 12.  I'd go down to his place and pester him about three days a week.  He usually had something really neat he'd sell me for $5.00.  I still have a 1957 Royal electric I bought from him back in 1989.  I also have a 1948 Royal manual typewriter my mother bought from him back in 1980.  But with his demise, along with the demise of quite a few others whom I've known, I feel as though, with all the stuff they've all given me, that a torch had been passed, and I feel responsible for preserving at least in part the art of typewriter repair and restoration down here in Waco, Texas while I'm still alive.  To all the mentors and Dads I've borrowed here and thee growing up, this one's for you!!


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

31-5-2016 05:42:00  #6


Re: The future of typewriter repair

I can't find the post I recently stumbled across - maybe it wasn't a recent post - about the kid who wanted to learn typewriter repair apparently thinking this was a three week course, and the look he had on his face when the octogenarian told him he was not sure he had enough time left to teach him.

I gather the deal did not go off, and the problem is, the kid just did not watch enough uplifting movies and did not know the plot!  He is supposed to come back several days later and say "Well sir, I thought about what you said, and we better get started as soon as possible". Then we intercut to a series of scenes where the kid is learning the trade, the years pass, finally he marries the guy's granddaughter and takes over the business and sadly, is attending the old man's funeral. But he learned to repair typewriters! Somebody send this guy a copy of Gran Torino. Sheesh.


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
     Thread Starter
 

31-5-2016 07:06:42  #7


Re: The future of typewriter repair

Repartee wrote:

But they are not immortal and the number can only diminish, and the vast experience of people with over 40 years in the business is likely to diminish much faster - and catastrophically.

I have the very same problem with my friend and trusted repairman Pascual. He´s been the chief of the assembly line at the Hispano Olivetti plant in Barcelona, and then he relocated to Valladolid, and that´happened 30 years ago or so. Put together the time at the factory and these 30 years servicing typewriters here and look in awe at how experienced he is. In addition he works with another master of the trade, Alberto, but Pascual is in his 80´s and his health is not as brilliant as his mind. And he is the only one remaining here...
 


TaktaktataktaktakcluccluctaktaktaktaktakDINGtaktaktaktakCREEEEEEEEECtaktaktak...

(Olivetti Linea 98)
 
 

31-5-2016 10:12:03  #8


Re: The future of typewriter repair

Repartee wrote:

I can't find the post I recently stumbled across - maybe it wasn't a recent post - about the kid who wanted to learn typewriter repair apparently thinking this was a three week course, and the look he had on his face when the octogenarian told him he was not sure he had enough time left to teach him.

I mentioned that incident a couple of times, once here, and again here.


Repartee wrote:

Somebody send this guy a copy of Gran Torino. Sheesh.

Thanks for the spoiler alert! I guess that's a Clint Eastwood film I can cross off of my list of films to see... 
 


"To save time is to lengthen life."
 

31-5-2016 21:53:33  #9


Re: The future of typewriter repair

Uwe wrote:

Repartee wrote:

Somebody send this guy a copy of Gran Torino. Sheesh.

Thanks for the spoiler alert! I guess that's a Clint Eastwood film I can cross off of my list of films to see... 
 

)))))) Sorry about that!

Look, the Clint Eastwood character is not a typewriter repairman, I have only revealed one aspect of the plot which is set up early in the movie and only in broad strokes as an archetype of the collective unconscious, and there are still a few plot twists that you may not anticipate.  

So go ahead, see the film. 


"Damn the torpedoes! Four bells, Captain Drayton".
     Thread Starter
 

08-6-2016 19:13:59  #10


Re: The future of typewriter repair

In the 35 years I've been repairing typewriters, I'm STILL learning things--even on the most familiar of machines.  Whoever said this wasn't a three-week course said a mouthful.  When I started out, I was destroying as many as I was repairing.  I'd pick up a few tricks and my ratio of fixed to unfixable increased in favor of the fixed.  It took years to do this, and even now there have been a few that have defied me.  I have one now--a Dutch-made Remington Travel-Riter--Ol' Jumpy.  This one always skips a few spaces--especially at the end of a line.  I have several theories, like a tired spring in the escapement mechanism.  Haven't gotten around to retensioning it by removing a few of the coils yet.  But this thing jumps spaces here and there--hence the name Ol' Jumpy."  But again, this is no three-week course.  As long as you're fixing typewriters, you're still in school.  Maybe that's why I'm still in it.


Underwood--Speeds the World's Bidness
 

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