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2008-03-30

Free Things on the Internet

Now it works smoothly and beautifully, a hunk of metal from 50 years ago that looks alive and fresh and types with a vibrancy and staid portability that makes it fun to smash text onto paper.

We responded to a Craigslist posting the other day that listed 3 free typewriters in a house over by San Diego State. Appearances indicated that the poster of this ad was a guy who had just bought a house with a lot of crap in it and we swooped in to pick up the three typewriters that he wanted to get rid of as quickly as possible.

Of the three, the one in the poorest condition (our friend to the left up there) also happened to be the one that was most interesting. It's a Smith-Corona Silent-Super from sometime in the middle of the 1950s (I think, the serial number isn't much help here, but this is when these were made, '53-'58 abouts).

When I got it, the thing was an encrusted and filthy mess with an abandoned spiderweb in its gears, but over the course of two days, I was able to clean it and grease it and also rewind the tension on the main spring (and I put too much tension in at first because I didn't know any better, but this made the thing jump spaces every time I hit space bar or a key).

Now it works smoothly and beautifully, a hunk of metal from 50 years ago that looks alive and fresh and types with a vibrancy and staid portability that makes it fun to smash text onto paper. I was surprised how easy it was to get it going again (and it did take some tinkering), but the result was thoroughly worth the play.

The other two typewriters we picked up are already later-models that have been lodged in their own cases for the past however many years. The spare ribbons we were given with the typewriters have handwritten dates in the 80s on them, so that indicates the last time any of these were used by their previous owner. I wonder what he or she would think about bringing this Silent-Super back to life?

Actually, two of three typewriters are Smith-Coronas, so the owner was obviously a fan, and they all take the same kinds of ribbons that all of these manuals use, so it shouldn't be a problem finding ink. The only real problem is finding time to pound on the keys with text that's as fun to read as it is to produce.

I don't plan on becoming a collector, before you ask, but it is fun to take a piece of trash and rehabilitate it back into its former state as a producer of information, efficient and quiet. It doesn't bounce around when I type on it. It is a reliable thing.