First Look: TWDB World eBay Typewriter Hunting widget

I’ve been at a loss lately how to get the eBay listing widget that is set up on various places on the desktop version of the TWDB to work on the mobile version. Part of the problem was that getting Javascript to run properly in the DOM-lunacy that is the jQuery Mobile framework is at best, a work of chance – and the output is positionally critical for it to work at all, and the other problem is that none of eBay’s pre-built widgets will gracefully resize in a responsive mobile site.

The solution was essentially “make yer own damn widget”, of course, and so this weekend I signed up as an eBay developer and started parsing through the opaque and version-uncontrolled world of eBay’s programming API. The goal was simple; basically replicate the functions of the basic eBay listing widget in a responsive way that would work with the layout of TWDB Mobile – feed the widget a keyphrase relevant to the page the widget is on (say “Royal Quiet De Luxe typewriter -ribbon”) and get back a nice list with thumbnails and current prices of the listings fitting that query. Easy peasy!

Having done that, I pondered what else I could do with the API. I’ve been working on a rebuild of the whole TWDB (dubbed “TWDB Delta”) using Bootstrap, a framework I recently used on the update, and I wondered if I could format the eBay search results into a nice, attractive slideshow.  I also got curious about how I might be able to parley the API functionality into a really useful tool for hunting typewriters (or whatever) on the various eBays around the world.

After a few hours, the result is this:

twdb-ebaysrc-1Not all that complex yet – it’s just a simple “title” search that builds a nifty slideshow of up to 50 results from any of the 21 regional eBays around the world. Listings are current, and prices are not marked with the currency because eBay’s API doesn’t return the currency symbol, but the price is in whatever currency is standard for that region’s eBay, whatever the heck they use for money there. The links are, like the ebay widgets on the rest of the TWDB, encoded with our affiliate ID, so if you click the result link over to the listing and buy something, the TWDB gets a slice of the fee charged by eBay to the seller, so a couple nickles in the kitty!

Simple as it is, it is a pretty neat way to search every regional eBay for a particular thing all in one place. As a Typewriter Hunting app, it could be made useful with more detailed searching options, and maybe a more informative display than a slideshow, plus maybe a simple search history. I have some more ideas, and I’ll be fiddling with it some more.  Give it a try and let me know if it seems useful enough to flesh it out some more..

also, it’s embeddable! :D

Breakfast At Tiffany’s: Paul Varjak’s Typewriter

"Breakfast at Tiifany's" - 1961. Smith Corona Galaxie, 1960.
“Breakfast at Tiifany’s” – 1961. Smith Corona Galaxie, 1960.

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Standard Pica 10CPI typeface.
Standard Pica 10CPI typeface.

2015-07-19gUPDATE: Brian asks below in the comments why I call this machine “red”. The simple answer is “it looks red to me”, but it’s an important question that deserves further examination. He owns a machine of this vintage which he describes as “dark orange”, so the question would be twofold:

1) is the color shown in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” the same color as Brian’s 1959 example? Are the observed differences just an artifact of a color-shifted film print?

2) if they are the same color, and all reddish-orange Galaxies of this vintage as well, what was the name of the color? The 1964 Service Manual doesn’t list any reds or oranges as color options, but does list “Apache Tan”.  If that was not the name, what was?

Here’s Brian’s machine, for comparison.

I also went and dug up some ads of the period. Interestingly, there’s a red Galaxie on almost every one I saw. The color was advertised heavily, but apparently was not popular, judging from the number of surviving examples.


Another sorta related interesting item: The color option list shows a switch at serial number 6T363650, a number that falls right inbetween these two machines in the TWDB:

6t363xxx-1You know what else I noticed? The “Smith-Corona” label was removed from the ribbon cover and added to the front faceplate on that serial number.

Update: here’s a machine that Richard Polt has which is post-1964, and therefore its color is “Sierra Tan”.

FINAL UPDATE: The color is “Hunter Red”. Here’s a close-up I found in a May 1960 issue of “Boy’s Life” magazine. The ad is printed in black & white, but it’s the same as one of the larger color ones above, and we see the color of the main machine shown is called “Hunter Red”:


Final Verdict: Paul Varjak’s typewriter in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is a 1960 Smith-Corona Galaxie with 10″ Carriage, 10CPI Pica typeface, in “Hunter Red” and carried in a deluxe blue Holiday Case.

.. and one final thought: the plot of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” could be thought of as Holly’s journey to master her “Mean Reds” so that she can finally commit to love with Paul and Cat. In thinking of plot reasons why Paul’s typewriter had to be red, one line of reasoning I followed was that perhaps the typewriter was representative of Paul’s “Mean Reds”, which prevented him from commitment. Holly solving his “mean reds” with the gift of a typewriter ribbon gave Paul control of his writing life again. Opinions on that?

IBM Typecasting Circa 1968

Here’s a gem of a paragraph, pulled completely out of context from the 1968 edition of the “IBM Journal”. This issue was composed of articles from the team that developed the IBM Selectric Composer, and the articles explain in painstaking detail the entire design philosophy and describe the minutia of every unique mechanism of the Composer.  This paragraph is from the article where the engineers explain the history of typesetting and printing and exactly where the Composer fits in the picture. Contender for the earliest use of the word “Typecasting”? :D

typecaster-ibm1968I may have to change the tagline of my blog to “A Hot-Type Typecaster”, but technically, that would actually apply only to someone who typecasts using an old hot-lead Linotype, prints it on a letterpress, then scans it for their blog. And here, I thought *I* liked doing it the hard way.

Oh, and I should note that the IBM Journal was typeset with a Selectric Composer, and I find it amusing that if you examine the baseline of the letterforms, the brand-new Composer used to typeset the Journal has a notable amount of wonk in places, similar to my 40+ year old Composer. I’m kind of wondering if they all printed with a tiny amount of wonk in the baseline.. :D

New Spring in Mothra’s Step, the arrival of Monster Zero, and DIY Composer Ribbons

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almost out of ribbon - the horror! what will I do?
almost out of ribbon – the horror! what will I do?


LIES! SII Carts do not fit in a Composer!
LIES! SII Carts do not fit in a Composer!


SII cartridge, way too big, and full of too much tape. Also, feed core is just wrong enough to not work.
SII cartridge, way too big, and full of too much tape. Also, feed core is just wrong enough to not work.

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Too unevenly wrapped. The ribbon develops folds. Solved the problem by cutting up thr snap-on part of the cartridge to rovide a flat surface at the bottom end of the spool core. That worked perfectly.
Too unevenly wrapped. The ribbon develops folds. Solved the problem by cutting up thr snap-on part of the cartridge to rovide a flat surface at the bottom end of the spool core. That worked perfectly.

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A man of the cloth and the steel he wields