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A very early Remington Portable, ser. no. NA00259

Remington Portable No 1 NA00259 photo 01 tw

This is the earliest known Remington Portable, dating to December 1920, the first year of production for this typewriter. Advertisements for the Remington Portable first appeared in January 1921, with sales slowly increasing as the year progressed.

I’ve only seen two other specimens dating to 1920, including one in Thomas Russo’s collection (NA000261), which is featured on p. 52 of his book, Mechanical Typewriters (2002). His machine has platen prongs which were used to hold small labels in place (thus making it the earliest Remington to display this feature). The other sighted machine (NA00346) appeared on eBay some months ago. Interestingly, the Remington logo on that machine is scratched out, as is the logo on mine, as if to unmark these machines for sale. Russo’s machine is pristine.

It’s noteworthy that the serial numbers on these machines are clustered sequentially. Though the prefix “NA” designates a December production date, one wonders if in the first year the “NA” prefix designates any machine from that year. The Remington Portable first appeared in Typewriter Topics in 1920, displaying a letter showing a date of August 1920, around when tooling for the Remington Portable was completed. Remington must have spent some period of time amassing a supply of these machines. It is possible, however, that production only began in December.

Remington Portable No 1 NA00259 photo tw

Remington Portable No 1 NA00259 photo 07 tw

Remington Portable No 1 NA00259 photo 03 serial number

Remington Portable No 1 NA00259 photo 04

Image and detail from Typewriter Topics, 1920:

1920 Remington Portable in Typewriter Topics - August machine

Remington from TT 1920

As seen at TypewriterDatabase.com.

© 2016, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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A very early Corona 3, ser. no. 20226

Corona 3 Portable Typewriter ser no 20226 007

The Corona 3 was a wildly successful portable, selling well into the 1930s. Introduced in 1912 by the Standard Typewriter Company (later the Corona Typewriter Company), this folding portable set the standard for portability and functionality in its day.

I have a number of these in my collection, including the one featured here, which may be the earliest extant, unmodified machine in this line. Its serial number is 20226. Its carriage number, a secondary number etched into the lacquer on the underside of the carriage, is 11006. If you subscribe to ETCetera, you hopefully read Ed Neuert’s article on this numbering scheme, entitled “Unfolding the Early Corona” (Nos. 106/107 – Fall/Winter 2014-2015). He outlined the development of the No. 3, describing its earliest iterations. He also offered a theory as to why the frame and carriage numbers are dissimilar.

Subsequently, Type Oh published a post displaying his No. 3 with a frame number of 20007, the lowest to be found, and a carriage number of 15020. Neuert noted in his article that the lowest he had found was 20844/11645 (frame/carriage). Type Oh’s machine, however, had been modified and painted yellow. Commenting on the post, Neuert wrote, “It looks like someone inserted the carriage and guts of a newer Corona into the old frame of your machine. It is certainly possible to do this.” Who modified Type Oh’s machine is unknown, but it’s possible that a dealer made these modifications in the 1920s or 1930s, not some subsequent (unwary) collector.

Throughout the run of the No. 3, Standard/Corona modified it, creating many variant models. Below are photos describing the earliest features (a more detailed analysis can be found in Neuert’s article).

The famous pigeon logo is absent on the earliest machines.

The famous pigeon logo on the paper table is absent on the earliest machines.

The space bar is narrower on the earliest iteration.

The space bar is narrower.

Neuert describes three variations of the typebar hanger on the No. 3. The earliest is a pivot bar segment.

Neuert describes three variations of the typebar hanger on the No. 3. The earliest is a pivot bar segment.

Called the parenthetical machine, the Corona displayed the words "Standard Folding Typewriter" in parentheses. At the base of the machine are the words, "Standard Typewriter Company." In 1914, the company changed its name to Corona.

Called the parenthetical machine, the Corona displayed the words “Standard Folding Typewriter” in parentheses. At the base of the machine are the words, “Standard Typewriter Company.” In 1914, the company changed its name to Corona.

The earliest No. 3s had straight ribbon selectors, not the more common fan-shaped selecters. I note that the one of mine is slightly curved.

The earliest No. 3s had straight ribbon selectors, not the more common fan-shaped selecters. I note that the one of mine is slightly curved.

The serial number is stamped on the back underside of the frame. The number on mine is stamped directly in the middle. Most others are slightly to the side.

The serial number is stamped on the back underside of the frame. The number on mine is stamped directly in the middle. Most others are slightly to the side.

If you own a No. 3, check out the underside of the carriage. There may be a second number there, etched into the lacquer.

If you own a No. 3, check out the underside of the carriage. There may be a second number there, etched into the lacquer.

As seen at TypewriterDatabase.com.

© 2016, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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Long live QWERTY!

IMG_6250

What is astonishing about the QWERTY keyboard (CNET is hailing July 1 as QWERTY’s 142nd anniversary) is not simply the durability of the arrangement, but that the keyboard itself remains the dominant input mode. Prior to the invention of the typewriter, people set down every idea, every thought by hand or else communicated ideas via oration. That rapidly changed with the advent of the typewriter. Even in this age of smartphones and tablets, the keyboard (physical or virtual) dominates. Why is that?

For one, the keyboard is just that efficient. There may be better arrangements, and more modern modes of input, but for now the QWERTY keyboard suffices. That could change.

Voice recognition is quickly coming to the fore. How many now text by voice? (I know I do, and my text messages have become substantially longer!) Voice input is also being employed effectively in TV remotes, GPS units, and products like Amazon Echo. Increasingly, we are speaking our thoughts, not typing them. But this technology has some limits: for one, voice input seems to work best for short, focused thoughts, not stream of consciousness. I have periodically experimented with Dragon Naturally Speak, but have found (comma) that it is not as natural a way of writing as the company would have us think (period) When such technologies anticipate punctuation and emphasis, I imagine use of voice input will increase exponentially.

Digital pens sometimes seem poised to usurp the keyboard, but are stymied ultimately by cost, size, and portability. I’ve long been a fan of the Livescribe series of pens but discouraged their cumbersomeness. Having to use special, micro-dotted paper is not especially convenient. (Yes, there are digital pens that do not require special paper, but they require having a second piece of equipment: a receiver.) That so many of these digital pens feel cheap does not help the cause either.

Lately, I purchased an iPad Pro 9.7 with digital pencil and folding keyboard. I imagined that I would mostly use the pencil (in my estimation it is the best out there), but for even short bursts of writing (such as giving a video a title), I regularly turn to the keyboard. As for scribbling notes, I use paper, for the tablet’s screen just doesn’t have the same pleasant (or familiar) feel of paper.

That one day we will be able to think our thoughts is tantalizing. Such advancements are not far fetched, as scientists are working in remarkable ways to assist the disabled in controlling objects with their minds (see here, for example). One day, I will think my blog.

In retrospect, I imagine the greater reason why the keyboard dominates is that our brains have become accustomed to thinking/writing with our fingers. I touch-type so rapidly that I write as swiftly as the thoughts come — or so I believe; it is perhaps just as likely that I have adapted my thought processes to my typing speed.

In the 1860s and 70s, Christopher Latham Sholes experimented with a number of arrangements before settling on QWERTY, and QWERTY has done much to shape our ideas.

Long live QWE.TY, er, QWERTY!

Note: Did you know that touch typing was not even envisioned when Sholes designed the QWERTY keyboard? See ETCetera No. 111 (available only by print subscription), “Touch-Writing by the All-Finger Method: The Bates Torrey Typewriter,” by Flavio Mantelli.

© 2016, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

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