Monday, 1 April 2013

The seeds of obsession

After my paper was hurridly finalised and sent off to Interact around a minute before the March 26th deadline.... After a mad rush of proof reading my diligent students' assignments prior to their March 28th assessment deadline..... And after driving the 160km back to Warwick to "relax" over the Easter break with the old folks (read: cycling, bush walking and chopping their wood), I can now sit down and tell the story of how I came to be sitting here blogging about typewriters. The timing is good too, as this post comes almost a year to the day after I saw my first typewriter advertised on eBay.

The seeds of my obsession with typewriters were sown in late March 2012 and I remember it like it was yesterday. Ironically, what started the chain of events leading to my interest in old and obsolete writing technology was my girlfriend going out one sunny day and buying an example of the latest cutting edge writing technology: A shiny new MacBook Pro.

This sleek new machine, despite its many gigabytes and gigahertz and awesome clarity of display- when you press the ON button, it still makes that endearing old-school Apple start-up sound “chhmmmm!!” which I’m sure you’re all aware of. This sound transported my straight back to my childhood in the 90’s and inspired me to locate and fire up Dad's old hand-me-down 1993 Apple Powerbook 180c for comparison. This laptop I had salvaged from Dad’s tip-trip pile years ago when I still lived at home, considering that it was far too cool and chunky to throw out. The 180c was one of the first colour laptop models made by Apple and was as compact, techy and classy as computers got when it was first released. Unfortunately I’d thrown out the battery for Dad’s laptop some time ago, as it was starting to corrode. As such, there was a big hole in the side where the battery goes, so it didn’t look half as nice in the comparison photos as I’d hoped. To compensate I took another one with the offending hole framed out as best as I could. It did, however, still work fine with mains power and still made the endearing "Cchhmmmm!!" when booted up.

Deciding that it just wouldn’t do to have this big gaping hole in the side of this otherwise groovy old laptop, I got on eBay and started looking for a replacement battery for an early 90’s Powerbook. Now I don’t remember quite how, but somewhere in this search I happened upon a listing for a "vintage" typewriter selling for a similar amount to a replacement laptop battery. As soon as I saw it there, I knew it wasn't the laptop battery I needed, it was one of these! Staring back at me was an example of a classy writing machine much older than both the computers, could this be possible?!?

Knowing absolutely nothing about typewriters, I went purely on looks and age and stayed up very late one night to bid on the oldest and coolest looking typewriter of the two that were being sold in Brisbane at the time. This happened to be a Lexikon 80 being sold only a couple of suburbs away, which I shall blog about subsequently. The sale turned out to be the regretful sale of a much loved and much used typewriter by a retired university professor. The story that this professor told as he showed me the basics of how to use it, the exhilaration I felt as I staggered back to the car with it and the enjoyment that I had (once back at home) of dusting it off and trying to work out how the thing worked...... I knew from that moment I was hooked! 


  1. Ahh, the day the fever takes hold and doesn't let go. That Lexicon is a great place to start, and such an interesting color combination. has it been repainted?

    1. Hi Ted- the paint job is a mystery to both me and its previous owner unfortunately. It defintely looks repainted, but this must have occurred proir to the early 70's when he bought it.

  2. That Lexicon 80 is quite a nice typewriter. The bug has bitten and the collections will eventually multiply.

  3. Sounds like your first typewriter came with a history and character -- which always adds depth to the experience of owning and using it. Thanks for telling us about it.

  4. Hi Steve,
    What I think has happened is that the Olivetti you have was of the original colour that is on the carriage and on the sides. The Ribbon cover is of another machine. The top cover is the only part of the typewriter that is detachable and so it would not be a far stretch to think that it got lost at some stage only to be replaced by another . The thing is that both of those colours are Olivetti colours.... Cheers, John

  5. I agree. Looking for a replacement battery is a lot less interesting than browsing for a new typewriter. And even though you'd really only ever need one replacement battery - it would seem there's no upper limit to the quantity of typewriters it is possible to bring home.

  6. Ah! So that's how you started off this addiction!

    Loved reading the tale. Nice work. I'm going to have to check out that Lexicon