About a month ago Ms Jane and I popped by her mother’s house after we both finished work. Joy (her mother’s name) had called and said that her partner, Andrew, had something that he wanted to give me that would need a bit of explaining.
Andrew had previously worked for a little company called ‘IBM’. You may have heard of it. He was a call-out serviceman.
It was during this period of Andrew’s working life that he and Joy first met and forged a friendship that has lasted several decades. In the most recent couple of years they have grown quite close to each other, and now have a strong relationship.
We arrived a Joy’s place at about the time that most civil people would have been doing the dishes after dinner. My work clothes smelled of hospital, and I’m sure my face looked like it had been sprayed with Domestos. I was tired.
Joy was just settling in for the evening in her slippers and comfortable clothes, but Andrew had only recently gotten home from work himself and was quite bright and chirpy. Actually, he seemed quite excited.
We talked a little about the kind of day we’d all had, and then Andrew disappeard out the back door of the house, and downstairs to a cupboard under the house. He returned with a dusty old box that had originally carried canned fruit sometime in the 80’s, but now hosted a collection of much more interest.
When Andrew began working at IBM, their biggest product was the Selectric II/III typewriters. They also were in the process of rolling out their wheelwriters, and variable type wheelwriters. While I sat there, both Andrew and Joy fondly spoke about these variable type machines, and the typewriters of their era. Andrew himself had a few interesting stories to tell of his days of servicing these machines.
Inside of the box were parts and tools from when IBM’s typewriters were king. There were ribbons (likely dried out now) tools, cleaning swabs, parts and even a parts guide. And to my amazement, these weren’t just parts stripped from a broken down machine. These were new and unused parts.
Not ‘just’ any parts. But this collection of components covered some quite crucial pieces – including complete shaft assemblies for several different types of machines, and more importantly – a complete IBM ‘Through-kit’; a kit that contained commonly replaced parts, that you would just automatically use to refurbish a machine.
Because these parts are unworn, they present the possibility of being able to take far more accurate measurements that could produce better end products. It will take a lot of hard work though.