Typewriter of the moment: Pete Seeger

February 15, 2014

Photo found at the blog of the good Robert Messenger at OzTypewriter:

I can find no identifying information on the photo.  It looks, to me, to have been taken in the 1950s, judging by Pete’s hair and no beard.

Pete Seeger at his typewriter, probably in the 1950s.

Pete Seeger at a typewriter, probably in the 1950s.

It’s an electric typewriter, I think, seeing a cord coming out of the back.  Probably a Royal (I’m not great at identifying typewriters, you know).   Was this taken at Pete’s home in Beacon?  Perhaps.

Can you help in identifying the time and place of this photo?

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Typewriters of the moment: Mitford and Carson, two environmental journalists

September 24, 2013

The great editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin of the Chicago Sun-Times illustrates the gender dimension of the controversy over Carson and Silent Spring. In this 27 October 1963 cartoon he pairs her with Jessica Mitford, author of The American Way of Death, a scathing indictment of the funeral home industry. Men from both industries have been flattened under the platens of the women’s typewriters.  All rights reserved © 1963 by Bill Mauldin. Courtesy of Bill Mauldin Estate LLC

The great editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin of the Chicago Sun-Times illustrates the gender dimension of the controversy over Carson and Silent Spring. In this 27 October 1963 cartoon he pairs her with Jessica Mitford, author of The American Way of Death, a scathing indictment of the funeral home industry. Men from both industries have been flattened under the platens of the women’s typewriters. All rights reserved © 1963 by Bill Mauldin. Courtesy of Bill Mauldin Estate LLC

Captured from Mark Stoll’s “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a book that changed the world,” at the Environment and Society Portal.

A well-fitting image in the few days before the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) opens its 2013 convention in Chattanooga, Tennessee (October 2-4).  It was the power of the typewriter in 1963; the power of the word processor in 2013, more likely.  In either case, it’s the hard work of environmental journalists, who are out to make the world a better place by showing us what it is, what shape it’s in, and how we might conserve it.

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Typewriter of the moment: Aaron Copland in California

August 15, 2013

Composer Aaron Copland at his typewriter in California; Aaron Copland Collection, Library of Congress, circa 1939 or 1940

Composer Aaron Copland at his typewriter in California; Aaron Copland Collection, Library of Congress, circa 1939 or 1940. The photos is placed as either San Diego or Palm Springs; I’m leaning towards Palm Springs with those mountains. Anyone know?

Oddly, the Library of Congress photo site is down for the weekend; here's an image that shows what the photo should look like.  Links should work again come Monday.

Oddly, the Library of Congress photo site is down for the weekend; here’s an image that shows what the photo should look like. Links should work again come Monday.

Details for scholars and history buffs:

ITEM TITLE

Aaron Copland at typewriter, Palm Springs or San Diego, 1939-1940.

SOURCE

Collection: Aaron Copland Collection; Music Division, Library of Congress
Box/Folder: 472/1
Original format: 1 print: b&w; 2.5 x 2.5 in.

DIGITAL ID

copland phot0077

I don’t think this photo is under any copyright, but the collection contains this general language:

Photographs – used by permission of The Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc., 254 West 31st Street, 15th floor, New York, NY 10001, phone 461-6956, fax (212) 810-4567. The Fund’s permission is limited to the right to reproduce the image of Aaron Copland. All rights to use individual photographs are controlled by the respective owners of the copyrights in those photographs. For those listed as unidentified, we invite users to contact us with any information they may have with regard to those items.

Is it odd to find a composer working at a typewriter, and not a piano?  Especially before 1990, music writers had much occasion to use the machines — for lyrics, for descriptions of their music and how the published version should look, and for correspondence — and, baby, do composers have correspondence!  The brand on this machine I have not been able to determine; it’s a portable, I imagine, looking at the case to Copland’s left — the typewriter case.

Was Copland a hunt-and-peck typer?  Looks like to me from this photo.

Did you notice the U.S. flag on the pole on the other side of the house?

I wonder what he was working on, in California, at that time.

More:

English: Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland at a machine where we’d expect to find him — years after the photo at the top. Wikipedia image


Typewriter of the moment: Superman’s (1950s television)

July 20, 2013

Stumbled across this photo of Superman typing away:

Superman typing.

Superman typing. Is that a Remington? (George Reeves played Superman in the television series that ran from 1952 to 1958, “The Adventures of Superman.”)

I’m pretty sure it’s a Remington, a manual  (if you can tell differently, please let me know).  Superman’s “alter ego” was Clark Kent, whose job in the comics and this television series was as a reporter for the Daily Planet, the newspaper for Metropolis.

Do you think the typewriters on Krypton used a QWERTY keyboard?  How did Superman deal with typographical errors, in the time before Correcting Selectrics?


Typewriter of the moment: Alice Denham, circa 1956

June 8, 2013

One needs a typewriter to type out a story; but one needs a story to tell, first.

Alice Denham and her typewriter, 1956

Alice Denham, Playboy magazine’s Playmate of the Month in July 1956; photo undated, but probably about the same time; from 20th Century Man

I haven’t been able to identify the typewriter.  A short story she wrote appeared in the same issue of Playboy as her playmate layout.

Denham led an adventurous life in the New York literary scene, as an aspiring writer, and as a woman who liked sex.  Was she working on her book in this photo?  It was eventually published in 1967, My Darling from the Lions.

In 2006 she got attention for another book, a tell-much memoir of her life and romances and flings along the way, Sleeping With Bad Boys – A Juicy Tell-All of Literary New York in the Fifties and Sixties, good enough, or historically interesting enough, to get a review in the New York Times.

If typewriters could talk, you know?

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Typewriter of the moment: Abigail van Buren’s IBM

January 17, 2013

Abigail van Buren,

“Dear Abby,” Abigail van Buren, sorts through letters asking advice. Newseum photograph.

News flash, on Facebook, from the Newseum:

Abigail Van Buren, author of the “Dear Abby” advice column, died Jan. 16, 2013. She was 94.

NPR’s e-mail added a couple of details:

NPR BREAKING NEWS:

‘Dear Abby’ Dies; Pauline Phillips Was Adviser To Millions

Writing under the pen name Abigail Van Buren, she wrote the world’s most widely syndicated column. The daily readership grew to more than 100 million. The column is now written by her daughter, Jeanne.

More at NPR.org:

http://n.npr.org/NPRI/jN375186981_1570913_1570912_Z.htm

What an incredible melange of history in that photo!  You can read about Mrs. Phillips at the NPR site, but consider just this photograph:

  1. “Dear Abby” which used to be regular reading in most households in the morning — literally millions of American households.  She and her chief competition, “Ann Landers,” could each by herself move the nation, to change habits, to question manners, to change behaviors with vaccinations or new medical procedures, and in a few cases, move legislation through Congress.  No one in newspapering or broadcast today has the clout this woman had, but rarely used.  Not even Rupert Murdoch with his empire, had so much clout as Dear Abby.  (Many of us were surprised to learn later that the women who wrote Dear Abby and Ask Ann Landers were twin sisters — another one of those twists in real history that no one would believe in fiction.)
  2. Isn’t that an early IBM electric typewriter? Our local Fry’s doesn’t stock even electric typewriters anymore, nor could I find one in my last run through Staples and Office Depot (catalog sales, perhaps). IBM probably hasn’t made one 20 years, and not one like that one in at least 40 years — that is not a Selectric.
  3. Dial telephone.  Not just a land-line, but an actual, analog, dial telephone.  Without seeing any identifying characteristics, we can assume that her telephone provider was the AT&T regional company — unlikely that it was Continental, the only other major provider in the U.S. at the time.
  4. The Yellow Pages telephone book under the phone.  I think even Yellow Pages stopped printing those things; we haven’t had a good update on our white pages in years.
  5. Newspaper syndication meant EVERYONE had access to her columns — no internet.  A dime for the local paper, and you had Dear Abby.
  6. The fountain pen in her hand, perhaps for more than just signing letters (what do you say, Office Supply Geek?).
  7. No computer, which in addition to replacing the typewriter, would probably also replace the four-drawer file cabinet in back of her (a locking cabinet, perhaps a HON?)
  8. Is that flowered pattern the wallpaper in the place? They don’t make orchid wallpaper like that any more.
  9. Look at that stack of mail.  Each came in an envelope, stamped, for less than 8¢ (1st class rates topped a dime for the first time in 1974).  No e-mail; no electronic version to cut and paste from.  Each letter to appear in the column had to be retyped on that IBM typewriter.  Most high school students today have probably never sent a letter through the mail, and many have never received one, either.

The Newseum didn’t credit the photo, nor say when or where it was taken; I’ve not found more details yet. At the Newseum site, the photo is credited to Phillips-Van Buren, Inc., the company that runs the column.  I’m guessing 1970 at the latest, and this may be in the 1960s or even 1950s.

Some of us old timers get future shock just looking at that photo.  Can your students date that photo with the clues in it, history teachers?  Journalism teachers?  (Photos at OzTypewriters suggest this photo could have been made in the 1960s.)

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Heck, it may be a 1950s typewriter (do you read German?):

Deutsch: Elektrische IBM-Schreibmaschine aus d...

Deutsch: Elektrische IBM-Schreibmaschine aus den 1950er Jahren Lizenz (Photo credit: Wikipedia)  (Translated roughly, “IBM electric typewriter from the 1950 license.”)


Typewriters of the moment: Isaac Asimov’s astonishingly prolific career

December 22, 2012

Isaac Asimov remains one of my favorite writers.  He wrote well enough, and his curiosity took him to topics I often find interesting.  At one time having published more books than anyone else in history on a wide variety of topics from quantum mechanics to trivia in the books of the Bible (does he still hold that record?), it was a sure bet one could find at least one book in one’s area of interest penned by Asimov.

When I started the spasmodic feature, “Typewriter of the Moment,” years ago I did a search for Asimov with a typewriter.  I didn’t find an image I thought suitable back when the internet was still operated by steam, and somehow I just never got back to that.

The other night this image popped up on one of my Facebook feeds, from “the Other 98%”:

Isaac Asimov at a typewriter creating, with pithy quote

Painting of Isaac Asimov creating at a typewriter, an early IBM Selectric. Who did the painting?

I appreciate the sentiment in the quote.  Asimov noted the Dunning-Kruger Effect, even if he didn’t have the advantage of Dunning and Kruger having named it yet, and he lamented the powerful undertone of anti-intellectualism that victims of the syndrome exhibit:

Anti- intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. (Asimov in an essay for Newsweek: “A Cult of Ignorance,” January 21, 1980, p. 19)

It’s an arresting image, a heckuva a quote, and it would make a good poster.  Plus, it’s an early IBM Selectric typewriter, marrying Asimov’s creativity with a great technological advancement in writing tools.

One boggles at the idea of Asimov with a great word processing program, a fast computer with great memory, and the internet at his disposal.  If Asimov were alive and creating today, we’d think Moore’s Law a great hindrance to the advancement of knowledge.

The painting delights me.  It’s almost photographic, and I like paintings that take great care to get small details right, photographically.  No dig at more spare or even abstract art, but this sort of painting takes great skill and great creativity.  Rising spirit-like from the typewriter’s platen we see a satellite (manned spacecraft, perhaps?), a flask of chemicals, and a leather-bound book, essential components in science fiction, and science.

So, who did the painting?  Was it done solely for that Facebook poster?

English: An IBM Selectric typewriter, model 71...

This is what that typewriter in the painting looks like, from the author’s angle. An IBM Selectric typewriter, model 713 (Selectric I with 11″ writing line), circa 1970. Wikipedia image

I’ve searched on TinEye, and Bing and Google, without success to identify the painter.

One version of the painting, before text was added, showed up at IO9, a site dedicated to science fiction, in an article discussing the writing habits of famous writers.

This does not appear to me to be the original, simply because data on the artist is not contained in the information section of the image.  The artist who did this illustration would be proud of it, and want to advertise her or his work.

This version has a slightly higher resolution; click on the image and note the reflections of lights in Asimov’s glasses, the reflections on the desk, and even the dings on the edge of the desk facing the viewer — this is great stuff!

But still I wonder:  Who was the original artist?

Any ideas, Dear Reader?

Painting of Asimov at work, at his typewriter

The painting of Asimov at his typewriter, before posterization with a quote over his head. Found at IO9

Did Asimov write on a Selectric?  Did he switch to the newer version, with a wider carriage, or stick with the old original?  Is there a photo upon which this painting is based?

Almost immediate update:  This site claims the artist is the same as the one at the bottom of the post, Rowena Morrill.  That’s a start.  Here’s more:  At Rowenaart, both pictures appear credited to Rowena.  Mystery solved?  Go buy a poster from her; this is great stuff.

More:

English: This image is a reproduction of an or...

Hello! Could this be by the same artist? Caption from Wikipedia: This image is a reproduction of an original painting by renowned science-fiction and fantasy illustrator Rowena http://www.rowenaart.com/. It depicts Dr. Isaac Asimov enthroned with symbols of his life’s work. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Typewriter of the moment: Ava and Linus Pauling, 1957

December 8, 2012

Can you identify the typewriter?  Update: In comments, Ed Ackerman said it looks like an Olympia.  Agree?

Linus and Ava Pauling, 1957

Caption from the Oregon State University Library: Linus and Ava Helen Pauling working on “An Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World”. 1957. Original held in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, Oregon State University Libraries.

Linus C. Pauling won distinction for his science work with the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, in 1954.

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1954 was awarded to Linus Pauling “for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances.”

In 1957, Chemistry Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling turned to other issues.  Having been beaten in the race to confirm the form of DNA by Watson and Crick in 1953, Pauling turned to peace activism.  He opposed atomic weapons and wars.

In this photo, posed, Pauling and his wife who partnered with him in his campaigns for peace, worked on a statement to be issued later, to be known as “An Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World.”

Note the tools of editing of the day:  Cellophane tape, glue, scissors, pencils and pens.  The typewriter’s output could be cut into strips and rearranged on a separate sheet of paper, to be retyped later in order.  This was manual, analog word processing.

An online exhibit of Pauling’s work and photos at the Oregon State Library explained the document being worked on, and its use:

While the debate raged, Pauling continued to keep a high public profile, speaking widely and appearing often in newspapers and magazines through 1956 and into 1957, garnering attention by positing shocking estimates of fallout-related damage to human health. By the spring of 1957 it appeared that his and Russell’s efforts were yielding fruit. Alarmed by the dangers of fallout, Japanese, British, German, and Indian politicians began urging a halt to H-bomb tests, as did the Pope and the World Council of Churches.

In May, after delivering a fiery anti-Bomb speech at Washington University in St. Louis, Pauling conferred with two other scientists, Barry Commoner and Edward Condon, about next steps. They decided to mount a scientists’ petition to stop nuclear testing as a way to draw attention to the concerns of a growing number of anti-Bomb scientists. Their “Appeal by American Scientists to the Government and Peoples of the World,” mimeographed and hand-mailed, garnered more than two dozen signatures within a week. Pauling took the project back to Pasadena, where he and Ava Helen, along with some volunteers, mailed hundreds of additional copies to researchers in more American universities and national laboratories. Within a few weeks they had gathered some two thousand signatures, including more than fifty members of the National Academy of Sciences and a few Nobel laureates.

On June 3, Pauling released his signatures to the world, sending copies to the United Nations and President Eisenhower. The petition made national headlines — and spurred an immediate attempt to isolate its primary author. Even the president took a shot at Pauling. “I noticed that in many instances scientists that seem to be out of their own field of competence are getting into this argument about bomb testing,” said Eisenhower, “and it looks almost like an organized affair.” This thinly veiled allusion to Communist backing for Pauling’s effort was echoed by a number of other critics of the ban-the-Bomb movement. The head of HUAC blasted Pauling on the floor of Congress for spreading Soviet propaganda. A few days later Pauling was subpoenaed to appear before a Senate investigatory committee (although those hearings were delayed, then canceled). Through it all, he continued to broaden the distribution of his petition through the end of 1957, expanding his mailing list to scientists around the world, including many in Communist countries. By the beginning of 1958, he and Ava Helen counted more than 9,000 signatures. When the expanded petition response was submitted to the United Nations, it once again made headlines worldwide.

Where is a text of the document?  I found one image of the document in holdings of the National Institutes for Health.  It’s indexed under “petitions” in the papers and documents of Linus Pauling in the Profiles of Science section.

For his work against war, Pauling won the Nobel Prize for Peace for 1962 (awarded in 1963).  Pauling is the only person to have won two Nobel awards alone, undivided with anyone else.

Does that typewriter survive today?  Is it in the collection of Oregon State University?

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Typewriter of the moment: Mark Twain’s Hammond

December 5, 2012

Still hoping to find a photo of Samuel Clemens at work on a typewriter.

But until then, this one will have to do:

Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter, Jerry J. Davis photo

A Hammond typewriter that once belonged to Samuel Clemens, or Mark Twain. Photographed by Jerry J. Davis, in an unstated location, probably Hannibal, Missouri

Other photos of Twain’s typewriter must exist; and since we know of at least two such machines, there must be some photos of each of them, no?  I wish museums and historians would consider the value of images of some of these objects, and make high quality photos of some of these famous machines.

Twain’s fascination with technology shines clearly in his work.  From his earliest writings we get lyrical and accurate descriptions of the mechanical workings of Mississippi riverboats, for one example.  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court paints a long paean to technology of the late 19th century, transplanted in the tale several centuries earlier.

Some accounts claim The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to be the first manuscript completed by typewriter — this one, perhaps? TwainQuotes.com features what may be a description of this history:

…I will now claim — until dispossessed — that I was the first person in the world to apply the typewriter to literature…The early machine was full of caprices, full of defects — devilish ones. It had as many immoralities as the machine of today has virtues. After a year or two I found that it was degrading my character, so I thought I would give it to Howells…He took it home to Boston, and my morals began to improve, but his have never recovered.

- “The First Writing Machines”

As a publisher and investor, Twain pushed the development of automated typesetting machines to quickly publish the memoirs of former President Ulysses S Grant.  Though the books were set quickly, and the best-selling memoirs provided an income for Grant’s widow, the technology was still balky and cost Twain his own fortune.

Mark Twain's Hammond typewriter - TwainQuotes.com

Twain’s Hammond at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image from TwainQuotes.com. Is this the same machine pictured above? There are similarities, but differences more than just the angle.

We shouldn’t be surprised with his acerbic comments on the machines; Twain’s caustic humor targeted everything in modern life.  TwainQuotes.com notes a fraction of a letter to his longtime friend:  Twain’s Hammond at the Mark Twain Museum in Hannibal, Missouri. Image from TwainQuotes.com

The machine is at Bliss’s, grimly pursuing its appointed mission, slowly & implacably rotting away at another man’s chances for salvation.

I have sent Bliss word not to donate it to a charity (though it is a pity to fool away a chance to do a charity an ill turn), but to let me know when he has got his dose, because I’ve got another candidate for damnation. You just wait a couple of weeks & if you don’t see the TypeWriter coming tilting along toward Cambridge with the raging hell of an unsatisfied appetite in its eye, I lose my guess.

- Letter to William Dean Howells, 25 June 1875

Were things really so bad?

I regret to note that in our visit to Hannibal last June I did not encounter any typewriters.  Clearly, I’ll have to go back.

Tip of the old scrub brush to OObjects.

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Typewriter of the moment: Sports broadcaster Red Barber

November 1, 2012

Sportswriter Red Barber at his typewriter - Florida State Archives photo

Sportswriter Red Barber at his typewriter – State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory, http://floridamemory.com/items/show/10011

The great Red Barber, when his hair was still red, working at his typewriter, with a volume of Roget’s Thesaurus close by.

Many of us knew Red chiefly through his weekly chats with Bob Edwards at NPR’s Morning Edition.  The biographies say Red died in 1992.  That was 19 years ago — it seems more recent than that.  (Edwards left Morning Edition in 2004.)

It may be ironic to show Barber at his typewriter.  He would be more accurately portrayed, perhaps, behind a microphone at a baseball park.

From 1939 through 1953 Barber served as the voice of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was working for the New York Yankees when he retired in 1966. Barber had the distinction of broadcasting baseball’s first night game on May 24, 1935 in Cincinnati and the sport’s first televised contest on August 26, 1939 in Brooklyn.

During his 33-year career Barber became the recognized master of baseball play-by-play, impressing listeners as a down-to-earth man who not only informed but also entertained with folksy colloquialisms such as “in the catbird seat,” “pea patch,” and “rhubarb” which gave his broadcasts a distinctive flavor. (Radio Hall of Fame)

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Typewriter of the moment: e. e. cummings

October 25, 2012

Typewriter of the poet and author e. e. cummings:

Typewriter of e. e. cummings at NYPL, photo by Chris Wolack, WildmooBooks

Typewriter of e. e. cummings, displayed at the New York Public Library, 2012. Photo by Chris Wolack, WildmooBooks

Through March of 2012, 250 objects from the collections of the New York Public Library were displayed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the library’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.  A few of the objects exhibited were typewriters, including this one.

Did you notice?  The keyboard shows only capital letters!  Did that anger cummings, or make him crazy?  Not that we can see.

More: 

Self-Portrait, Oil Painting. Cummings in the 1950s. Courtesy of Nancy T. Andrews, via Modern American Poetry

 

Tip of the old scrub brush to Chris Wolack at WildmooBooks.


Typewriter of the moment: LBJ’s teleprompter typewriter

August 6, 2012

LBJ Library photo by Mike Geissinger

July 27, 1967, in preparations for President Lyndon B. Johnson’s televised address to the Nation concerning civil unrest in American cities, an unidentified White House Staff member types President Johnson’s address for a teleprompter – LBJ Library photo by Mike Geissinger, public domain (Other sizes of photo available at LBJ Library site)

The first personal computers were more than a decade away.  Today’s teleprompters — a computer screen mounted to reflect into a glass in front of a television camera lens — had not been conceived.  Teleprompters were cathode-ray tube televisions attached to a massive television camera with a clunky device.  The image would be reversed to reflect correctly.  Into that television would be a closed-circuit feed of a scrolling piece of paper on which was typed, in very large letters, the script the speaker was to read.  In this case, of course, the speaker was the President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson.

In 1967, a special typewriter was required to type out the oversized-font, easy-to-read script on a roll of paper with sprocket holes along the side to enable an automated scrolling.

Just looking at the equipment for the technology of the time is an education.

Schematic of teleprompter system, from Wikimedia Commons

Schematic of teleprompter system:
1. Video camera
2. Shroud
3. Video monitor
4. One-way mirror
5. Image from subject
6. Image from video monitor

Teleprompters allow someone reading a script to look directly into the television camera lens, giving an impression to a viewer that the person is speaking directly to them, instead of glancing down at a script and back at a camera.  Research showed viewers tend to grow disinterested in people looking down at a script, and would more likely be engaged by someone appearing to look at them.

Teleprompters existed in the 1950s, but many local television stations did not use them until into the 1960s — news broadcasts of the time often featured the anchors reading from written scripts on a desk in front of the broadcaster.  A few intrepid news anchors, throwbacks to a more theatrically-inclined era, would memorize an entire script every night.

The schematic is based on modern, smaller television cameras and modern, thin devices to project the word images.  Older versions were larger — sometimes much larger.

Ed Mason as a studio technician, adjusting the teleprompter before a local broadcast - WCIA TV (Illinois) circa 1957

Ed Mason as a studio technician, adjusting the teleprompter before a local broadcast, WCIA television, Channel 3 in Champaign, Illinois; photos from site of DougQuick.com, an on-line tour of history of broadcasting

One popular version put a simple paper scroller mounted above the lens of the very large, studio television cameras — a broadcaster’s eyes could focus an inch above the lens, and viewers couldn’t tell he or she was not looking directly into the lens.

Modern teleprompter mounted on television camera, circa 2005 - Wikipedia image

Modern teleprompter mounted on television camera, circa 2005; text is projected from a thin screen on the top of the camera lens – Wikipedia image

Teleprompters emerged as a symbolic political whipping device in the early 21st century. Partisans wishing to impugn the intelligence of a politician complain that he or she cannot speak extemporaneously, without a script. Oddly, the charge was rarely leveled at President Ronald Reagan, famous for his use of scripts in almost every situation. Reagan’s White House pushed modernizing of the technical devices employed at the White House, including the latest in teleprompter devices.

The most frequently-seen politician-used teleprompters today are simple stands, “conference” teleprompters, designed as much to allow a speaker to use teleprompters with a live audience as to facilitate television use.  The devices are simple stands with a highly-reflective, clear plastic or glass on the top, and computer screen on the floor shining up.

A modern, "conference" teleprompter

A modern, “conference” teleprompter of the style usually seen at public appearances by politicians.

Modern teleprompters cost a fraction of earlier versions.  Everybody uses them now — I’ve even heard of first-time candidates who did not have to go to teleprompter school.

Here I am, reading from a teleprompter at the George H. W. Bush Library and Museum in College Station, Texas, in 2011:

Ed Darrell tries out the Presidential podium and teleprompter

Here I am trying out the teleprompter and podium at the George H. W. Bush Library and Museum, College Station, Texas, in 2011.

And more people using teleprompters, with years in captions, so far as I can get them.

Teleprompter script used by President Kennedy; JFK Library collection, image by thewastesmile

Teleprompter script used by President John F. Kennedy, from Kennedy Library collection; image by a private party.

President Reagan using a teleprompter, in speech from the Oval Office - undated

President Reagan often used teleprompters — in a computerized form by then.

Teleprompter in use:  LBJ addresses the nation prior to signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, on July 2, 1964 - LBJ Library and Museum photo

Teleprompter in use:  In the White House East Room, President Lyndon B. Johnson used a teleprompter to address the nation in a live television broadcast, just before he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act. People watching include Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Senator Hubert Humphrey, First Lady “Lady Bird” Johnson, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., F.B.I. Director J. Edgar Hoover, Speaker of the House John McCormack. Television cameras are broadcasting the ceremony.

A more modern use:

Judy Licht using a teleprompter in a broadcast from Italy.

Broadcaster Judy Licht using a teleprompter in broadcast or taping from Piazza Duomo, Milan, Italy, in September 2007.


Typewriter of the moment: Tom Hanks’s 1969 Royal Apollo 10 Electric

March 3, 2012

Some indications on Twitter that actor Tom Hanks may be turning into a collector of these historic items:

Typewriter - Tom Hanks Royal Apollo 10 1969 - Photo by Tom Hanks at WhoSay

Tom Hanks found a vintage 1969 typewriter (circa Apollo 13 mission), a Royal Apollo 10, and Tweeted this picture - Photo by Tom Hanks at WhoSay

In his Tweet, captured at WhoSay, Hanks wrote:

Typewriter of the day. Royal ‘Apollo 10′ model from 1969. Electric that got us to the moon! It’s noisy but types fine. Hanx

Do you think there’s a movie about typewriters coming?

Confess, Dear Reader — are you taken in by the magic, charm and dinging carriage-return bell of these old typewriters?  Do you remember the machine you used to use?  Do you still use a typewriter?  Minds soaking in the Bathtub want to know.

Grateful tip of the old scrub brush to Judy Crook @Jude2004.


Typewriter of the moment: Comedian Stan Laurel

January 16, 2012

Stan Laurel at his typewriter, via Mike Lynch Cartoons

Stan Laurel at his typewriter, where he composed notes to fans. Image via Mike Lynch Cartoons

That is Stan Laurel, half of the comedic team of Laurel and Hardy, famous from the movies of the black & white era, famous from the caricatures in the cartoons our children, perhaps, have seen.  The photo is circa 1958.

Oliver Hardy died in 1957 from a series of strokes, and Laurel suffered a stroke himself.  He was unable to make movies any more, he said.  But he did bother to personally answer all his correspondence from fans.  On the typewriter pictured, he typed out short notes in response the fan mail, like this one, from 1958:

Note from comedian Stan Laurel to a fan - via Mike Lynch Cartoons, via Letters of Note

Note from comedian Stan Laurel to a fan - via Mike Lynch Cartoons, via Letters of Note

Laurel died in 1965.  It’s a bygone era.

No, I haven’t identified the typewriter.

The text of the note can be found at Mike Lynch Cartoons.  I gather Lynch got the images from Letters of Note, a blog devoted to written correspondence of some historic value (it’s very interesting).

  • Laurel and Hardy in “Nothing But Trouble,” 1944

Even more: 


(Missing) Typewriter of the moment: Albert Einstein

December 30, 2011

Einstein at his office desk, Princeton, New Jersey, circa 1955

Einstein at his office desk, Princeton, New Jersey, circa 1955

He wrote papers, and letters, long-hand.  Sometimes they would be typed up by an assistant, perhaps Helen Dukas.

The desk of Albert Einstein features a refreshing, bracing lack of technology.  No typewriter.  No telephone.  No radio.  No Dictaphone.  No intercom.  Pencils.  Is there even a ballpoint pen?  A chalkboard in back of the desk provided a large sketch pad for new ideas, and new trials of ideas, from the man who gave us nuclear power, gravity as a deformation of space, the speed of light as a firm constant in the universe, and relativity.

Somewhere there may be a typewriter Einstein actually used once or twice.  I’d like to know about it.

More: 

Ralph Morse photo of Einstein's office the day he died, April 18, 1955 -- originally for Life Magazine, not published

Ralph Morse photo of Einstein's office the day he died, April 18, 1955 -- originally for Life Magazine, not published; via AllPosters. Note the antiquated telephone away from the desk, near the wall; Einstein's pipe and a tobacco tin appear the closest things to technology on the desk; is that a bottle of ink for a fountain pen next to the tobacco tin?


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