It is not often you are graced with a typewriter collector’s recent finds. In this case an Oregon collector shared his recent catch of three Music Writer typewriters http://www.musicprintinghistory.org. Two are Olympia SG3 machines and one a R. C. Allen Visiomatic A machine. He had me service one of the Olympia and the R. C. Allen.
Each is a modified typewriter by the Music Print Corporation of Boulder Colorado to accommodate the idiosyncrasies of sheet music by the musical world. The previous owner marked the Olympia machines “Music” with a Sharpie. The customer had me keep the marking as part of the history of the machine. I like it.
After many machines you learn which are used by folks who smoke, eat and drink whiling away the hours at a typewriter. These machines were mused by a dedicated left handed smoker. All the tar residue was on the left side of the machines. It is interesting the legacy and history of use people leave behind.
As I took apart the Olympia to service the components there were labels indicating wires holding back specific functions of the machine. In particular the ribbon reverse function is truncated to one direction. Another is the escapement function that advances a keystroke is disabled except for the space bar. The Olympia uses standard IBM model 71 Mylar ribbon, 9/16 inch wide.
On the Olympia carriage under the left side carriage knob is a knurled knob known as the vernier, located behind the left platen knob, which enables the operator to make the very smallest horizontal positioning adjustments exactly. That allows the operator to adjust the margin rack right or left, manually, up to 3/16 of an inch. Imagine the detail it takes to document music in the written form. I’m quite impressed. The margin rack, other than the escapement wheel is the key to accurate key stroke timing. To have an adjustable margin rack is a very convenient feature. Just think, if you did not have a VariTyper typewriter, an adjustable margin rack gives you VARIABLE SPACING OF CHARACTERS! Even if it is a manually operated process. For the typewriter geeks out there here are a few close up photos. I’m sure it looks mostly like an abstract art project yet I hope a few appreciate the detail it takes to engineer a product to recreate accurate musical symbols.
The carriage return arm was removed as part of the conversion and key tops correspond to each symbol on the type bars. This is a rare opportunity to experience a typewriter with a specific language and purpose; MUSIC!
Oh, and who was the brilliant designer who created the type faces. Damn fine work.
I would love to find the instruction manual for one of these machines.
This Olympia, like all the other SG series is a repairman’s favorite. The carriage pops off the machine with the turn of two color coded levers and the frame of the typewriter comes out of the sheet metal cover with just four screws. The platen is removed easily by unscrewing each platen knob and the paper tray lifts out with no problem. Such a joy to service. Oh, as I was browsing the inner components, this machine is in “as new” condition. It was like traipsing through a new car dealer show room. Well, as a mechanic, not a buyer. Seriously.
The R.C. Allen has much the same features as the Olympia. Same ribbon advance feature and escapement disabled accordingly. It uses ½ inch Mylar ribbon on a larger format spool. This nice beast has much more wear and tear, being a bit older, yet is a good example of a specially adapted machine. I wonder what was glued to the left side of this typewriter. That is some heavy stuff. I tried to remove it with out too much damage, then stopped as I realized it would just not come off the paint.
The vernier on the R. C. Allen is designed a little differently and is a bit simpler than the Olympia. On the R. C. Allen the margin stops, margin release and tab functions are all removed. While the Olympia has a ribbon take up spool, the R. C. Allen lets the ribbon drop to the side of the machine. The R. C. Allen has Woodstock style ribbon spools if you loaded nylon ribbon yet a spool does not fit on the take up side as the modified ribbon feed is just a bit too large for a normal spool to fit.
The R. C. Allen machine had the typical while smudge on the key tops which cleaned up nicely with a wash with Scrubbing Bubbles. All in all, both machines cleaned up good. The R. C. Allen experienced the most use, and is well worn while the Olympia is near factory perfect.
Here is a good PDF article on the inventor and history of the company; http://www.colorado.edu/amrc/sites/default/files/attached-files/0506-1994-004-00-000002.pdf