I mentioned a while back that I was planning to pick up an IBM Selectric II because to my way of thinking they were the absolute best keyboard ever made.  That is, if you don’t count that seven-pound marvelous mechanical keyboard that shipped with the original IBM-PC’s and which I used at a number of job sites in Ure’s Halt & Catch Fire-era.

Lots of UrbanSurvival readers write.  And not useless social jots.  Since A.G. Kimbrough wanders by often-enough I’ve actually focused on reducing typos.  And then there are colleague – like G.A. Stewart, probably the best Nostradamus writer on the planet, presently. Plus, I hold Chris Tyreman of The Chronicle Project in very high regard as well.  Not just as a reader, but as a graphic artist to boot.  And let me not overlook Lt. Col. (Retd.) Chris McCleary who picked up the National Dream Center project I launched back in 2008 and continues producing fine reports on what dreams foretell.  It’s an honor to be in such esteemed writing company.

Thing is, we all bash words for money (or love of research and intellectual jollies) and that requires the RIGHT machine.  Like selecting a spouse, car, or right sailboat, there are classics.  And that gets us to an interview with Daniel Marleau, another professional wordsmith, who has a dandy site The Typewriter Review which you can find over here…

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While my own preferences run to the Selectric I or correcting Selectric II, Dan’s focus is on the REAL machines.  Ones with no plug.  The manual machines that birthed everything from Hemmingway to…well, you name it.  Most great books haven’t come off keyboards, at least until lately.  Hemmingway wrote standing up, writer Coy up the street reminds us.  First of the Stand-Up-Desk crowd?

Since Urban is about making money and prepping (in other words, buy a future instead of social status crap) I though it’d be interesting to pop some questions over to Dan and see how a real typewriter aficionado looks at that’s out there…

I began my chat with Dan of Typewriter Review with the obvious: Are old geezers like me (*and maybe you) the only ones interesting in getting back to our typing roots?

Seems like the crafting crowd has gotten into typewriters for crafty projects. I’ve seen a new typewriter for sale at Michael’s craft store. I played around with it. As expected — unless you’re tapping out a few greeting cards, then avoid.? Plus, I’m not much of an electric guy, as you can tell. Though I’d love to give the vaunted IBM Selectric a spin! It’s an ICON! My dad’s secretary was a whiz on that thing. 

I could regale you with tales of the quarter-million newscasts I cranked out of a Selectric during my broadcast days.  The sound of the old Model 19 teletype, precut half-sheets of news print for stories…cigs going up in smoke in the ashtray… real audio tape cassettes of news-makers recorded on an early vintage Sony TV-110 – yeah, that was journalism at it’s finest.

Back to point, I asked Dan, “If you were a prepper – and wanted to be able to type when the net goes down (and presumably the power) what would you recommend? Your top 10 list?”

A proper prepper packs a pallet of pencils! I wouldn’t want to be making undue noises that’d call attention to my stash. ?Unless you’re living in an underground bunker, then I’d recommend at least 5 meters of concrete between you and your noisy machine. Still want to take chances with drawing looters? Go with the Remington Noiseless. I had one, it was so quiet that it barely made an impression on the paper! But if you insist on posting communiques with the outside world and want a minimalist machine with a small footprint that is somewhat quiet, go with the Olivetti Lettera 32. Zip up case for easy travel in case you need to hit The Road. It’s so small you don’t even need a table. Works great on the lap or from the horse’s saddle. I want a horse if things go south. 

What about full-sized machines? We see a lot of copy about the smaller portables, but what about those YUGE machines that were such a joy?

Full-sized , aka, The Standard. I wrote a post, “Titans of the Typosphere,” that touched on this subject. Despite their size, the YUGE ones are often superior machines — even if your fingers are small.


Having had a machine get wrecked in shipping (the first effort to buy a Selectric II) are there any packing (and for that matter shopping) tips you could suggest?

You read my mind! Got a post in the works with detailed instructions on how to pack along with pics. BUT — getting the average seller to abide by these tips is another matter! See answer to next question. ?Quick answer. 4 inches of padding all around the case. Ranpak is fine. Bubble is better. Use a rubber pad to disengage the carriage lock. Keep the carriage free floating. But, wrap the typewriter in plastic wrap to keep the carriage from moving. The carriage is the most sensitive part. I’ve got a story about Royal doing a stunt involving dropping typewriters by parachute. Those that landed flat were ok. If it landed on the side — the carriage got out of whack. Don’t know about packing electrics. I use FedEx packing services. I drop off typewriter, they pack it in a new box with loads of Ranpak. After I’ve secured the carriage. Never had a problem. FedEx seems to actually care about doing a good job. It costs about $10-12 for this service, depending on typewriter size. Totally worth the peace of mind! Plus, I don’t need to keep packing supplies in stock. 

A Selectric mechanic retired to his own shop in a big city (after 50 years btw) tells me that buying a machine on eBay is like roulette – with maybe better odds in the casino due to shipping. Would you buy a machine on-line? Or, would you stick to Craigslist and an in-person type-drive?

I agree, eBay for me has been 50/50, even after giving packing tips and the offer to give them a great review! But, eBay is a buyer’s market. I look for typewriters that claim the machine is “fully working” or some such language. If it arrives not in working condition, you have the eBay buyer’s guarantee. Full refund, including shipping both ways. The seller usually just tells me to keep the machine. I have quite a few busted ones in the basement. But still bummed — the world has one less working typewriter. I don’t have a repairman nearby. Sad!

What about old-fashioned publishing? Does ANYONE have old linotype machines, presses and such? I’d sure like to set up a hot lead machine one of these days but damned if I can find one.

Forget that and the mimeo — look up Risograph. That’s what I want.? They still make ’em and you can get good used ones. Great for doing a zine. But still need some power to run the thing. Not good for the doomsday scenario. 

(Hmmm…rocks and chisels?) 2. When the whole world electronica backbone fails what role do you see the printed/typed word?

When, not IF?? I’m optimistic about the world grid staying ON. As it turns out, it’s much easier to control (distract) people when you get them hooked on these little gizmos and screens. If they go offline, they’re liable to read and think and, well, we know that’s not good. However, I’m seeing young people opting out and looking for something more fulfilling than nonsensical snippets. I suspect it’s mostly brief moments of sobriety before they drink the magic potion and lull themselves into a semi-conscious state of swiping and tapping or gaming. If reports are true, teens drink less, don’t drive and delay having sex. What’s the fun in life?!?! Not much to write home about. I yeah, I forgot, they don’t write much these days. I’ve been reading my father’s letters from WWII to his parents. While the circumstances were dire, the writing was heartwarming. Suppose these days the warriors just fire up Skype or FaceTime….

Got that right, brother.  Still…care to make any side bets (after reading books like “One Second After”) about whether the Post Office will still be delivering?

Don’t know about that book, though I watched Kevin Costner in The Postman. Still delivering after the crash! There might’ve even been a typewriter involved in that movie.

All great questions! While I might not share your view on the current state of world affairs, I am a fan of post-apocalypse tales. And it seems these stories are never in short-supply. What is it about things falling apart that is so compelling? Do we yearn for a return to simpler times? Do we need to destroy the present to restore the past? I don’t know. About the only thing I’ve been advocating is the potential for a typewriter to reduce distractions and reveal a voice that might’ve gone undiscovered. Plus, it’s damn fun to pound the keys and see those typebars make a lasting impression! I never have that much enjoyment on a computer, which always seems like work. 

Enjoy and happy trails, amigo!

Dan’s site is https://typewriterreview.com/ and also has some great sources if you’re looking for a good manual machine with a little “character” to it.

If you’re feeling flush, you can get a mechanical keyboard like the Plugable Full Size 104-Key Mechanical Keyboard for Typing Enthusiasts and Gamers with Adjustable White LED Backlighting, Blue MX Style “Clicky” Switches, Double-shot ABS Keycaps, and N-Key Rollover (long enough link for yah?) for $50 bucks, but I get occasional double-strikes with that and finding a useful double-strike filter for Win-10 (the included one is useless, won’t go less than 0.5 sec.).

Hard to be a good mechanical machine – so check Dan’s reviews of some oldies but goodies.

Or, head to Amazon and pick up a very nicely reviewed (there) Nakajima WPT-150 Electronic Typewriter which with a ribbon or two will be under $200.

It’s the write thing to do.

Write when you get rich,


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