5 insane plans for feeding West Berlin you won’t believe are real

January 15, 2014 § Leave a comment


For the first time since the development of modern Chinese script more than 16 centuries ago, a way has been found to copy quickly all of the language’s thousands of complex characters. It is the unique “Mingkwai” (clear and quick) typewriter, invented by Lin Yutang, Chinese author.

Reducing a day’s hand copying to an hour’s typing, the electrically driven machine can print 90,000 characters and reproduce every known Chinese word. Chinese writing does not use the letters of an alphabet; instead, each word is an individual symbol. Other Chinese typewriters require memorizing the position of 5,000 characters and filling in missing words by hand.

A simple, “self-evident” keyboard, the result of 30 years’ research, is the secret of Mr. Lin’s typewriter. Perhaps even more important than the typewriter itself is the adaptability of the system to typesetting and teletype machines.

The keyboard has 72 keys: 36 representing the top and 28 the bottom sections of Chinese characters, plus eight printing keys. Pressing a top and a bottom key brings the type roller into position to print a “unit” of eight possible combinations of the basic sections–eight different words.

At the same time, duplicate cylinders bring a replica of this unit to where it can be seen by the typist through a “magic viewer” window. He then selects a character by pressing the corresponding key. This turns and shifts the type roller into position and prints the character.

The printing mechanism consists of six cylinders, each having six type rollers that contain 7,000 complete characters and over 1,400 components.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Brendan George Ko

Kerist I wish I was a skyscraper

August 26, 2013 § Leave a comment


Swintec, a New Jersey typewriter company, is one of the last manufacturers standing in a dying industry. What has helped keep it alive? Funeral homes.

Funeral directors in a handful of states must tap out death certificates on a typewriter, relics of the days when the machines represented a modern improvement over an undertaker’s handwriting.

“If they run out of typewriter tape, they’re out of business,” says Edward Michael, a Swintec executive…

On “The Wire,” a police drama that aired in the 2000s, Baltimore detectives pounded out warrants on electric typewriters. In reality, some law-enforcement agencies still use them. The Philadelphia Police Department has about 200 typewriters to write property receipts and search warrants, a spokesman said.

Swintec thrived on this type of government business, but sales were declining by the late 1990s. Then the company stumbled on an idea: a clear typewriter for prisons.  read more

PHOTOGRAPH: Bob Willoughby; COLOUR: traquea

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with typewriters at my nerves are bad to-night.