Mothra Down, Gandalf Steps Up & The Big Blue Book Is Here!

For quite some months, I have had a standing desk dedicated to Mothra, my 1972 IBM Selectric Composer. Sadly, when I last tried to type on ‘er a couple days ago, the machine stopped cold in half-cycle. I could still hear the motor spinning free, though, and that’s a real bad sign.

Mothra, 1972 IBM Selectric Composer

with a “Kachuh-wheee!” She dies in half-cycle…

Hmm, that seems looser than it oughta be, and it should be spinning…

Ugh, great. These belts (IBM Part #1172904, 65 tooth belt, 1/2″ wide) are made of pure unobtainium. ):


So anyway – it was fun while it lasted, but unless I can find a good NOS belt (or somehow manufacture one), Mothra is down for the count. The downsides are obvious, including sudden loss of use of all my Composer typefaces:

*sigh* I miss you already, 10pt Univers Condensed…

The upside is there’s now a Selectric-sized table spot available. Time to haul out Gandalf the Grey. This comic book panel expresses how I feel about that:

Gandalf the Grey, 1970 Selectric 721

The Blue Bomber, 1963 Selectric 721 with the new Selectric 1,II, II Typewriter Repair Shop Manual 1. Yeah, I like Big Blue and I cannot lie…

Also, oh yeah, we have a new book out, shown here with The Blue Bomber. It’s called The IBM Selectric 1, II, III Typewriter Repair Shop Manual 1, and is no longer available. Looks like I’ll have need of it myself soon.. :D

Updated: September 6, 2017 — 7:47 pm


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  1. “Unobtainium” think I’ll steal that! Hope you find a belt for your poor old Mothra. :)

  2. Lots of stepper motors use toothed belts. Seems like *someone* should have a replacement.

    1. that’s what I’m hoping anyway…

  3. Ted, Would it help to post the dimensions of the belt? Diameter or even length as broken? It might help someone to turn up a replacement.
    Do you think a narrower belt would work? In the photo that looks wider that a standard Selectric belt. Thx.

    1. it’s 12 1/8″ long (broken length) 65 teeth, 1/2″ wide. It’s a bit longer, wider and has more teeth than a standard Selectric belt.

      1. Hi Munk,
        We’ve chased a few of these belts through work and the tooth pitch is going to be the fun part with this one. The closest one I can find in our catalogs is a 130XL but at 65 teeth it measures 13″ long. The XL series is the closest off the shelf with a tooth pitch of .20″. From your measurements I’d say the tooth pitch on yours is 3/16″ which at 65 teeth would measure 12 3/16″. This is where we would normally tell the customer to go to the original manufacturer, not gonna help in this instance.
        The thing to watch if you CAN find a NOS belt would be given the age of it and the conditions it was stored in you’d be just as likely to find teeth breaking off due to the material going brittle.
        Best of luck to you.

  4. Hey how can I get one of those Selectric Shop Manuals??? How can it be not available if it’s print on demand?

    Please don’t tell me IBM came after you for preserving their legacy…

    1. Because IBM came after me and DMCA’d it. Blame the lawyers. :P

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