You know, there’s just something that really jazzes me about these little Brother mini-typewriters from the early 1980’s – maybe it’s the inventiveness that Brother showed in trying out so many really unique ways of re-engineering the mechanics of the way a typewriter works – that kind of inventiveness in the typewriter industry really only happened in the very beginning. Here’s another one of those tried-and-failed experiments, the 1984 Brother BP-30 Type-O-Graph.
Found yesterday at Goodwill for $6.99, I said yes to it mainly because we don’t already have one represented in the TWDB, and besides it came with its user manual and the same wall wart power cord that works with all the 1980’s-era Brother mini-wedges. I was frankly dubious of the pen-tips, not manufactured since the 80’s, and made of pure unobtanium now. I didn’t think I’d be able to get it to type, but I was curious exactly how it did work. I knew that the BP-30 was some sort of mini-pen plotter, but exactly what it did, I had no idea.
Once I had it home, I took stock of what I had to work with: the plotter head, a rotating cylinder very much like a revolver, held 4 pen tips in its chambers. They were all dry, as were the two spare tips in a plastic tube clamped to the case lid. Well, at least I had *something* to work with. I examined them and found that with a little light wrenchwork, I could disassemble them. That meant I could try replacing the crusty old ballpoint tops with something… let’s say “repurposed” for the task.
Inside the tip, once you pull the ball-point out, there’s a plastic plug which you can also pull out (or not – depends on what you’re going to try), and inside is a wad of cotton full of dried ink. Fish the cotton out and toss it.
In my first attempt, I pulled out the plastic plug (and immediately lost it – 1 of 6 down) and I cut down a brass Mark Cross pen refill (use a brass-shaft one, not plastic – you want to be able to pinch the cut-off end shut to keep the ink in) and stuck it in the empty pen casing. The pen tip is skinnier than the original one, so it fits kind of sloppy – and that shows in the result, but IT WORKS!
Bonus: the felt-tip is much closer to the diameter of the original pen-tip, so it should write straighter, as even though it’s more pliable than the metal ball-tip, it’s at least less sloppy in the guide mechanism:
…it was running out of ink, because there was just so much ink in the bare felt-tip that I’d just inserted into a dry cartridge. I stuck the tip in an ink source to suck up some ink into the interior of the cartridge, but to get it right I’ll need to disassemble it again and actually put new cotton inside to soak up ink. Just having the tip in there doesn’t hold much ink…
Then I put my improvised Cross ball-tip in again and attempted to draw a graph. well, I need at least 3 tips installed to do that (the graphing function seems to insist on using more than 1 color to draw a graph, and keeps cycling the cylinder trying to load a new pen)
Heh, well I guess I’m prolly going to grow to love this thing, what with the crazy quirkiness of it’s text, the sheer goofiness of using a pen plotter as a typewriter, and the fun challenge of finding ways to revive the pen tips. :D
and now, the promised user manual: