Friday, May 19, 2017

The Fox and the Hound and a Whale Named Monstro

One of the members on ATC posted to FB that he was giving everyone permission to buy an affordable typewriter. There weren't any listed that I wanted...until this behemoth came up for sale.

I have a love/hate relationship with electric machines. On one hand, I like the fact that it keeps you away from the internet, but still lets you compose with blinding speed (if it's needed), and if you're using a good ribbon, quality print is almost guaranteed (perfect for folks with weak hands). Yet, you can't relax your fingers on the keyboard, lest you accidentally push too hard and make a mistake. I've only bought five in my history of collecting: A SCM wedge, a SCM Electra 210, a Selectric 71, and an Olympia daisywheel. If I had bought a new, refurbished Selectric, this Olivetti might not have appealed to me. But my Selectric doesn't work right, yet I bought it anyway because it's red. I was able to get most of the problems fixed with help from Vern, but it still bunches up letters on the left hand margin and sometimes it takes several minutes for the machine to get into gear so I can use it.

I was also lured by the measly $5 price tag. Then I read Steve K's post on the model here.

In a rural county awash with Royals, Remingtons, and Underwoods, it was nice to see something exotic and obscure float to the top, so after talking to the lady on Facebook, I decided to take the plunge. The lady was very kind and told me she only bought the machine at an estate sale because it came with a desk she really wanted. Nothing was said about the previous owners or what they might have used the typewriter for. As you can see, it came with a lot of extras.

Gotta love state pride!

Let's start with the obvious: the Lexikon 90 was one of many attempts to capitalize on the phenomenal success of IBM's Selectric line with its revolutionary "golf ball" print element. Earlier Olivetti electrics, like the Lexikon 82, brought this concept to a small, portable machine. The model 90's element is completely different, and it lays on its side. Looking at the little gem, I'm reminded of an egg for some reason. Mine is a 90C, since it features the correction ribbon. 

There are three differences between the Selectric and Lexikon 90 that I have observed after a casual typing session (and reading the booklet).

1) The Lexikon 90 has a traditional carriage that moves from left to right. This might annoy devoted IBM fans, but I'm not bothered. I actually prefer the traditional carriage, as it's easier on my eyes to follow what I'm typing. 

2) The Lexikon print element is much easier to change out that the Selectric ball. It doesn't use any plastic parts that can get broken. You just pull the little triangular tab to the left until it clicks and then lift straight up. Reverse to insert a new one. Mine is labeled 12 Cicero, but I'm not sure if that means 12 cpi or something else. Wouldn't mind having a second one if there are any around.

3) The biggest advantage of all: the Lexikon 90 can use fabric and carbon ribbons without any special modifications to the feed mechanism. The Selectric can't do this. You have to have one or the other, and a Selectric II ribbon won't work on a model III and etc.

Advantage #3 sounds good in theory, but reality isn't so simple. The Lexikon 90 was only produced from 1976-78, which means there is a definite shortage of supplies available on the second-hand market. I consider myself extremely lucky to have three unused ribbons and a good carbon ribbon already in the machine. You can find off-brand ribbons for this model on eBay for fairly cheap, but I couldn't find a single machine for sale. As far as I know, Steve K and myself are the only ones in the Typosphere who've blogged about it. Yet, since the machine will also use fabric ribbons, it might be possible to re-purpose the plastic cartridges one day and re-ink the fabric, should the need arise. 

Serial # El8-2409160. Approximate date of production: 1977-78.

And now one of Olivetti's famous ads featuring this very model.

(Seriously, did secretaries really get that excited about new equipment?)

When Janet refers to the stationary print element, listen carefully to what Betty says at 00:09--"Mine runs all over the place." Nice jab, Olivetti.

That's all I have to say for now, but I'll post more as I get familiar with it.

There's another fox I want to talk about, one I've been hunting for awhile.

Those who've read this blog for awhile know that Bambi is one of my all-time favorite novels. Since then, I've been looking at other authors who focused their stories in the natural world (Richard Adams, Beatrix Potter, Tad Williams, E.B. White, etc). Some of these are borderline fantasy while others are as close to the real critters as you can get. Mannix is one of the latter, known for meticulously researching his subjects (though his writing career covered all sorts of strange things). I stumbled upon a Reader's Digest volume with a condensed version of The Fox and the Hound. Unsatisfied, I was determined to find the real thing.

I was surprised how fast and how lucky I was. I snagged both of these books for a mere $75. The other first edition copies of TF&TH were going for at least $130. I haven't read either of them yet. Still working through Tailchaser's Song, but I have high hopes. Fine additions for the collection. They just don't put the same about of heart into a book's presentation anymore (unless it's a cult phenomenon best-seller that goes through a million reprints).

In writing news, I've just hit the 40,000 word peak in my science fiction novel. I'm seriously considering stopping where I am and taking a break. I've been so close to the material for so long that I'm beginning to lose perspective. Instead of staggering ahead through two more sections that I only have a vague idea of and whose importance to the story is questionable, I might need to step back and reassess it later. Most of what I wanted to say is now on paper, so it'd be a matter of finding what's missing and cutting what doesn't belong. I'm seriously considering expanding one of my short stories into a novel-length work for children. It's been getting a lot of praise from my critique group. 

Finally, Front Stroke will continue once I get settled into the new routine. We've hit the busy season and I've got a six-day work week coming up. My off days are never consistent from month to month (and sometimes week to week), so dedicating a day to film when I could be writing...well. You see the dilemma. 

Power to the pen!