Typewriters: portables versus desktops

It is not everyday you hear someone try to argue the benefits of working on a desktop typewriter, the clunky, heavy, space demanding writing utensils that collect dust in the local antique shops, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
I have been writing on typewriters for a few years now and while I own both portables and desktops I have to say I prefer the desktops. These are a difficult thing to collect and an even harder thing to sell. The space taken is more than the series of carrying cases that neatly fit onto a shelf. One has to be careful when stacking desktop models because the return levers can break when thirty pounds is dropped onto them. The sheer weight of the machines is enough to turn anybody off considering that once you put the thing down you don’t ever want to move it again.
Now that we have all the complaints out of the way lets talk about the benefits of desktops shall we. I have come across most of the highly sought after typewriters in our subculture and typed on them all. While we look at the cross between visual appeal and function I will be concentrating on function. The best machine I ever typed on, and still own, is a 1947 Royal KMG. It was a machine well maintained for a typing class in a rural classroom. Under the paper shelf the dates of maintenance were written in crayon and the platen is still soft. After hours of work being done on this machine I have never had a problem with it. The keys never stick and I can type 70-80 words a minute without a problem.
The next machine on the list of desktops I enjoy would be the older sister, the later 1930s Royal KMM. The noticeable difference between these models is the round keys on the KMM instead of the tombstone keys and the KMM is black instead of grey. Other than those differences the machines work almost identical and when working on the KMM I also had no issues with the machine. The typeface is larger and therefore each line fits fewer works but I guess it all depends on what you are looking for in your manuscript.
My fondness has carried on in the Royal family. The HH and the FP came my way in the last year and while they are built internally much like their predecessors the outside bodies are much different. The HH has green plastic keys that you will usually find missing from machines out in the wild. While the bodies are durable the keys were not made as well. The FP on the other hand was more stylish and had color options for the paint. Gray is the usual color you will find these in and with the other changes made in design you will find square keys much like a computer keyboard. The action of a FP is similar to the KMG in the sense that it runs smooth and has no issues while typing.
These machines were built to be work horses. They took a pounding for decades and still keep going with little or no maintenance needed. To only issues I have ever come across is the use of correction ribbon and eraser bits jamming the comb and other parts. Like a car this is due more to operator error than a problem with the machine. I have come across machines that had bent rods and other issues that were easily fixed and had the machine working like new when the seller had a sign on it saying, For Parts Only. Nothing is made these days that works as well or is as loyal as a Royal. My last laptop computer lasted ten years before the hard drive burned out. My 1947 KMG will never stop working unless I run out of ribbon because it is no longer produced. I should probably stock up.
Some of my complaints about portable typewriters feed into my love of desktops. When I’m writing on my Hermes 3000 I hate how the machine turns and slides as I move the return lever over. Sure, it’s light weight and looks cool when you are at the local bar but I hate it when I have to readjust the machine to keep writing. With a desktop this isn’t an issue, it stays in place and doesn’t move. You and the machine are stuck in place only concentrating on the work.
The desktop makes your writing area into what it is. It won’t be moved. That place has one purpose and one purpose only. There is no other use for a typewriter. When you place a desktop on a table or a desk that space only has one purpose after that.
The desktop is a machine of power, it demands respect and attention. It is the muscle car of the typewriter world. It may not be small, light weight and fast like some Japanese rice burner. The almighty desktop, the heavy boat anchor that sits in the back of the antique shop, is the one machine that if treated properly will be your best friend for life. Some say that a dog is man’s best friend. I am allergic to dogs and while I am a writer I have found that the best substitute is a nice heavy desktop typewriter.


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