Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Typewriters in Japan

Tokyo Typewriter Shop is a typical Japanese time capsule, tucked beside the railway tracks and smelling of ink and old furniture.

In business for more than 80 years, it still refurbishes typewriters and rents out or sells second-hand machines.


Manager Masayuki Oka hauls an Olivetti Lettera 32 from a rack. Its lowercase set types in katakana, while the shift key produces uppercase latin letters.

 "A katakana typewriter would be used by doctors when writing prescriptions," he says.


Some katakana typewriters omit the latin letters and offer a wider set of symbols instead. This is illustrated on an Olympia Traveller:




Most machines in the shop do not, however, offer Japanese at all. Typewriters spread in Japan mostly among those doing business with foreigners.

"These mostly have English keyboards," Oka says. "English typewriters were used by trading companies. Nowadays, of course, they use the personal computer."




Tokyo Typewriter Shop sells reconditioned typewriters for around $240 and ribbons for $12.60. It stocks replacement parts such as ball heads for electric typewriters and daisywheels for printers, and several dozen platens wrapped in yellowing paper are stacked in a corner.

The shop also stocks true Japanese typewriters, a redesign of the traditional typewriter to accommodate the roughly 2,400 characters needed to write common words correctly.



Several designs emerged, but all were slow to operate and required precision. It was simply more efficient to write longhand.

By contrast, the katakana and hiragana alphabets fitted neatly onto the traditional typewriter. The only modification needed was an asymmetric type head to print the two diacritical marks.



True Japanese typewriters are now frequently offered for sale on Japan's post popular auction site, along with the many conventional typewriters now abandoned by businesses and individuals.

Since most sellers accept payment only through the Japanese cash-on-delivery network or through Japanese banks -- which remain somewhat cut off from the global banking network -- they will often reject bids from overseas collectors.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Working typists

Excellent little BBC video:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-24760538

The artist in that video is Keira Rathbone. What skill.

In our Moscow office one day in the 1990s, a press release arrived by fax promoting a typewriter artist from India. What his story was we never discovered, but I believe the artist was Uday Mahadeo Talwalkar:

umtal.webs.com

Now, I'm sorry to say that when his press release arrived we paid no attention and in fact somebody pinned it up in the kitchen alongside some absurd-but-true wire stories from the AP. These included TAJIKISTAN ESTABLISHES SPACE PROGRAM and, my favourite, RUSSIAN SOLDIERS KILL OFFICER, FLEE ON TRACTOR.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Indian ink

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Well run-in Facit; a working letterpress printer; and a clatter of roadside typists
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The Godrejs, being lifted into a waiting taxi
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Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Pomp and good humour

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Left: the honour guard. Right: the bayonetted orange. Vive la revolution.

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Paris pays tribute to the elegant Royal Quiet Deluxe. Okay, so the typeface still needs aligning. Did anyone say Paris was perfect?

Chasing Obama (to be continued)

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Georgian style

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No close photos I'm afraid. Part of the disguise. The black Mercedes is full of flamboyant French photographers who got no further than this Russian checkpoint. TT sailed through. To my regret though I never photographed my priest. Picture a young man with wiry black hair and beard, in flowing black robes, and slightly smelly.

But not me please

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Friday, 19 September 2008

A schoolboy error

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These U.S. soldiers had orders today to collect terror suspects from Camp Cropper, America's highest-security jail in Iraq, and release them.

The 14 detainees might have killed U.S. troops. They were being released in the name of reconciliation because, commanders say, prisoner release is one of demands most often made by tribal leaders.

The Iraqis emerged blindfolded and were led onto a bus. For some reason it was a beautiful old chrome-plated touring bus with Dutch licence plates -- as if Camp Cropper was a faded European spa resort.

We drive some way to the release point on the outskirts of Baghdad.

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The detainees were supposed to be released into the hands of local tribal chiefs, who would promise to keep the young men on the straight and narrow.

Except that the officer in charge here today was a U.S. lieutenant of about 25 years of age who forgot that there was meant to be some kind of solemn handover -- and, releasing the bad guys, jumped back in his Humvee.

Within a few minutes the radio burst into life with colourful Airborne Assault-style language. The lieutenant was going to get a kicking upon return to HQ. Partly because the ceremony hadn't happened, but mostly because his team had messed up in front of a journalist.

Living typewriters

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Campaign veterans

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Lonesome: SM3 in Saudi hotel room
Airborne Assault: Royalite inside 101st Airborne brigade HQ, Baghdad
(Yes lousy photos; they weren't taken with this in mind.)

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

A wing and a prayer

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On a clear day in Baghdad Belladonna's sister jet loads passengers

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Friday, 13 June 2008

Taking on the Burmese, badly

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Clumsy layout. Sorry. Early days. But no excuse for that jarring grammatical mistake above.