How to use a Selectric Composer Font Ball that has a broken top

The font elements for Selectrics come in 3 basic types:

20150827_184020First Generation (Rabbit Ear): 1961 to about mid-60’s. 88-Character Selectric I/II elements only. These are the simplest design, just a bent wire held in place by a plastic half-cap. You pinch the rabbit ears to open. Delightfully easy and super-durable. They almost never break. Why IBM switched from this design, I’ll never understand. Perhaps they *wanted* their elements to break easily because around the mid-60’s came…

Second Generation (Inevitably Broken): mid-60’s to mid-70’s. 88-Character Selectric I/II and Selectric Composer elements only. You can tell these by sight from the chromed pivot lever ends and how the lever is attached to the pivot by only a thin plastic loop. This is what inevitably breaks. These are a much more complex design than the First Generation elements, and most of them you find in the wilds now 40 or 50 years later are busted. Sadly, the few of us with Composers learn quickly that most of the elements made for the Composer were Second Generation elements, and we learn to live with broken levers. It’s such a weak design that it was none-too-soon replaced by…

Third Generation (The Fix): Mid-70’s until end of production. Some 88-Character Selectric I/II, some Selectric Composer, and all 96-Character Selectric III elements. These you can recognize because the entire pivot post is plastic with a wire pivot inside, and it’s molded to the snap lever. This is a far more robust design than the Second Generation, and break far less often than the previous design does. It’s not anywhere near as robust as the First Generation design, but is a reasonable compromise.

All this doesn’t mean that broken Second Generation balls are useless, though. The mechanism for clipping the element to the carrier post is simple enough that you don’t even need the clip-top at all. Here’s what I do with most of my Selectric Composer elements that I collect that are busted:

Here's a type element from my Selectric Composer with a busted lever. The first thing you want to do is note down the color of the triangle and the typeball name. In this case "PR-11-B" (Press Roman 11 Point Bold) Note also which direction the arrow points. This is the front of the ball. If you're missing the top already and don't know where the arrow points, note that it will always be 90 degrees to the left of the catalog number stamped in the ball edge. On a Composer ball, it points to the lowercase "s".
Here’s a type element from my Selectric Composer with a busted lever. The first thing you want to do is note down the color of the triangle and the typeball name. In this case “PR-11-B” (Press Roman 11 Point Bold) Note also which direction the arrow points. This is the front of the ball. If you’re missing the top already and don’t know where the arrow points, note that it will always be 90 degrees to the left of the catalog number stamped in the ball edge. On a Composer ball, it points to the lowercase “s”, and on an 88-Character Selectric I/II ball, it points to the lowercase “z”.
Second step: break off the lever and toss it.
Second step: break off the lever and toss it.
Start breaking out the plastic top with a pair of needlenose pliers
Start breaking out the plastic top with a pair of needlenose pliers
when you break off enough plastic, grab the pivot post and twist it out.
when you break off enough plastic, grab the pivot post and twist it out.
Finish breaking off the plastic bits and remove the clip wire and save it. Clean all the stuff off the top.
Finish breaking off the plastic bits and remove the clip wire and save it. Clean all the stuff off the top.
on the top of the ball, write the element info and draw a small line towards the front of the ball where the arrow used to point.
on the top of the ball, write the element info and draw a small line towards the front of the ball where the arrow used to point.
Install the element with the "front" line pointing forward.
Install the element with the “front” line pointing forward.
Slide the clip onto the post to hold the element in place. Push it on more with a pair of pliers if you want to, but it's harder to get off later.
Slide the clip onto the post to hold the element in place. Push it on more with a pair of pliers.
An even better solution is to pull the top off of a First-Generation ball and use that rabbit-ear clip for all of your topless typeballs. (:
An even better solution is to pull the top off of a First-Generation ball and use that rabbit-ear clip for all of your topless typeballs. I hereby throw this idea out to you Makers with access to spring steel wire bending equipment, you could make some money just running off a whole bunch of these First-Gen clips and selling them to Selectric owners.. (:

How the Gacillia Nut saved me a sh*tstorm of grief…

Hey, it’s been a slow summer, so when an email comes in promising a high-dollar job for what looks like simple HTML formatting of existing content, I give it consideration despite the prospective client’s atrocious command of the language.  Not *much* consideration, though. Sounds suspiciously like a certain Nigerian dialect common to form letters distributed to credit card thieves.

Thanks for your  swift response and l have small scale business which i want to turn into large scale business now it located in city and the company  is based on importing and exporting of Agriculture products such as Kola Nut, Gacillia Nut and Cocoa so i need a best of the best layout design for it. Can you handle that for me ?. so i need you to check out this site but i need something more perfect than this if its possible . [website url redacted] the site would only be informational, so i need you to give me an estimate based on the site i gave you to check out, the estimate should include hosting and i want the same page as the site i gave you to check out and i have a private project consultant, he has the text content and the logos for the site.
Note:
1. I want the same number of pages with the example site i gave you to check excluding videos and blogs.
2. I want only English language
3. I don’t have a domain yet but i want the domain name as [website url redacted]
4. you will be updating the site for me.
5. i will be proving the images, logos and content for the site.
6. i want the site up and running before ending of next month.
7. My budget is $2000 to $4000
Kindly get back to me with:
(1) an estimate
(2) your cell phone number
(3) And will like to know if you are the owner ??
Thank you

Oh, man. You can wave that kind of money in a man’s face and it can make him quite incautious, but seriously, this stinks of a phishing expedition – and also, WTF is a “Gacillia Nut”??

Well, what the Gacilla Nut turns out to be is a handy unique search term which you can use to discover exactly what this email is all about. I tried Gacillia Nut on Google, and yup. Turns up nothing but scam alerts saying that if you engage these guys, they try to get you to run a charge on a stolen credit card and send them a cut back. You end up eating the chargeback, fees plus the amount you send them back, which is of course the whole point of the scam. Beware, fellow web architects, the egg-sucking dogs are after us now. :P

Mechanical Calculator: 1963 Underwood-Olivetti Summa Prima 20

Underwood-Olivetti Summa Prima 20 #413696 (1963)
Underwood-Olivetti Summa Prima 20 #413696 (1963)

Couldn’t resist this one when I saw it on the shelf at Deseret for $3 a few weeks ago, so I snatched it up. The thing was *filthy*, but seemed to be intact, although it was so gummed up that the lever wouldn’t pull. I’ve currently got it working now, but it still needs another detailed cleaning to get rid of the solidified grease that remains.

The shell's pretty scratched up and discoloured - I will probably opt for a repaint. Red, perhaps?
The shell’s pretty scratched up and discoloured – I will probably opt for a repaint. Red, perhaps?

It’s not immediately obvious how the thing works at first glance. The functions are cryptic and there’s no zero key (you use the “dot” keys to insert zeroes). Luckily, there’s an on-line instruction page here, which clears everything up.

IMAG1785Finding out when it was made took some work. Everything currently on the web just states “started 1960”. However, I recalled that MTE sold calculators as well as typewriters while they had the Olivetti franchise in the 60’s, so I suspected they might have had some Primas float through inventory, and I was right:

###################
Prima 20
###################

268xxx 1-1962
294xxx-286xxx 1-1962
328xxx 5-1962
346xxx 6-1962
380xxx 10-1962
535xxx-585xxx 6-1964
644xxx 3-1965
775xxx 3-1966
818xxx 5-1966

MTE’s purchase history for new Prima 20s stretched from 1962 to 1966, and the range suggests #413696 would fall somewhere in 1963. Easy enough (:

IMAG1780Ton S. Over at I Dream Lo-Tech has one too! (:

IMAG1784