For the Cheapskate on the Go

Transcribed below. The typewriter is a Montgomery Ward Signature 100 (made by Brother), with 10½-pitch type, which is something only foreigners can get away with.


A pen is still the most portable and convenient writing tool. But typewriters have certain advantages, notably speed and legibility. If you want to take a typewriter with you, there are hundreds of different portable models.

Some of those portables, though, are quite a challenge to port. The best ones are not really meant to be toted casually wherever you go. They are meant to be carried laboriously to their next assignment, and then left there for a good long while until you work up the ambition to move them again.

For the typist who needs to be constantly on the move, we have the ultraportables. They are not superb typewriters, for the most part. But they are small and light, and they will fit on your lap on the train.

Some of these little typewriters were marketed as glamorous fashion accessories for the busy and literate traveler. Not this one. This one was sold by Montgomery Ward, and it was not designed for the fashion-conscious. It was sold mostly on its cheapness.

This is about as basic as a typewriter can get and still be fully functional as a writing machine. It was made (in 1963) by Brother in Japan, at the beginning of what would soon be a full-scale invasion of the American market. It was kept cheap by paring down the features: no tabulator, no two-colored ribbon–nothing but words and spaces. With those minimal specifications, it could be sold for about $37, half the price of better-specified portables.

For that price, you got adequacy. The writing is neat, and the machine is rugged because of its simplicity. It would be good for a poor college student. And it’s small. You can take it with you where bigger typewriters would be an intolerable burden.

Of course, you have to make compromises. The feeling of typing with one of these little ultraportables is never going to be as good as the feeling of typing with one of the larger portables, which in turn will never be as good as the feeling of typing with a big office machine. But some of those big office machines can weigh thirty or forty pounds. You do not want to take them camping with you. You want to leave them on their desks forever.

You can make words happen on paper with a cheap little typewriter like this. You will be happy to get back to your bigger and better typewriter when you get home. But you will also be happy that you did not have that big typewriter on your lap for six hours on the train.

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What Is This Place?

There is a certain amusing dissonance about a site on the Web whose theme is writing by making marks on paper. But that is not the only dissonance you will find here. This is a supplement to Dr. Boli’s Celebrated Magazine, and we’ll have long digressions on random subjects, instructional articles about writing instruments, and even poetry—but everything will be written out on paper, and only then published to the electronic world at large.