By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
It had been a while since my latest purchase of strange technology pieces, the most recent being a telephone having both a rotary dial and a touch-tone pad. But the need and a very compelling price demanded this latest foray–a 1950’s (?) vintage Royal typewriter with a massive, twenty-inch-wide carriage.
There is no escapement from this 39 pound lexi-beast; cf. at 7 pounds a Remington Personal-Riter manual typewriter. It can in only one and a half lines compose the entirety of the Preamble to the United States Constitution, and still have room for two invocations of The Quick Brown Fox to complete the second line.
(Click each photo to enlarge)
While there is always a need in me to possess the strange and quirky–a constant Innerer Schweinehund that often refuses to be tamed–I did have an actual legitimate need…my extant typewriter is too small to load #10 envelopes. And, I have in the past six months adopted a neo-luddite attitude toward traditional communication, such as, ahem, typed postal letters, and eschewed the dominant paradigm of electronic frivolities of email and other vacuous intangibilities that seem to lack a soul but are all to convenient…and hence are irrelevant in value. So I decided to hunt and peck for a wider carriage. Returning to the topic, most older typewriters were marginally better, but I found one so ridiculously wide, I just couldn’t refuse.
The most apparent trait of the typewriter, I believe it is a Royal FPE, is that it has 220 columns. It can feed adjacently two standard 8 1/2″ by 11″ pages, one of which inserted sideways, with about a half-inch betwixt to spare.
Surprisingly, it is not difficult to type on. I thought given the large and heavy nature of the carriage, it would require more effort to type and utilize the return lever. You really do have to reach seemingly all the way out with your arm just to grab the return lever and crank it to the right. The first couple times I could not help but laugh, as it was almost over-the-top in a geek-a-licious sort of way. The typewriter does seem to be a bit slower in typing than my more portable variant. And it does show its age a bit, when after I cleared all the Tab Stops and I hit the Tab button from the first column. At first the carriage launched sideways but then it crawled to a near halt. Yet with almost dogged determination it iterated itself forward as if it almost struggled to gain momentum. I offered some kindred help by touching it to push it ahead. But it then snapped forward, as if refusing my pity and cantankerously lurching forward in protest. It was a struggle, but he did manage make it to the end–a muted bell almost condescendingly proclaiming a “winner!”. I guess he earned his wings for that one. In time he has improved, and no longer struggles with the slide run.
Everything about this typewriter commands strength, almost overbuilt compared to today’s rickety plastic world. It’s a tribute to mass and I tend to gravitate toward such qualities. Lately I’ve found myself becoming increasingly cynical in my disposition, but the last thing I want at the end of my days is to die a critic. I should instead accent the good. Being cynical is Acutely Grave, and detrimental to health–Bar none. It’s one reason I try to avoid politics, Prime ministers and politicians such as Macron do not affect my life directly so I should instead just content myself with a restful Period of Smooth Breathing and type for writing sake.
One attribute I found interesting is that the machine proves that One, is indeed, the loneliest number, for it lacks a  key on the board. One must use the miniscule [L] key as the One, but strangely at least from our modern perspective there is a key devoted to [1/2] | [1/4]. Funny how a key for fractions is more important than a differentiation between a dedicated  and an [L]. Damn 70’s stagflation! Good thing I suppose it is that this 1-less font went by the wayside before the advent of the Karaoke Machine and it’s rendering of the hit song, “1 is the Loneliest Number”. I do not find “L is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” to be very musical. I suppose the Japanese version would have fared worse, being possibly transliterated into “R is the….” Sorry, I digress.
It is also a machine in need of a purpose in some ways. I found myself today trying to find a width of paper or stationery that would complement such a wide carriage. It will easily fit a legal-sized envelope, but that is too commonplace. It demands a worthy medium. I have an 18th-Century English indenture that I bought years ago that is very large in size, and constructed of vellum. I thought it would be a good juxtaposition to recreate such a format using a 1950’s typewriter on an old-world vellum legal document. But it probably is too thick even for this colossus to devour. Think of all the time a scrivener could have saved over having to otherwise use a quill pen. But as we all know, it would have certainly generated even more legalese largess as it would be easier to produce copious amounts of words and extraneous text to accomplish the same task. I suppose we might have bought ourselves a few more years of global warming end-days from all the calves that would have been culled for vellum back then.
Anyway, this Triumphant machine is rather nice for me to type on. I might take it to a typewriter repair shop–they do still exist–and do a bit of a tune up. But for the price I paid, I’m not complaining. It is a bit more laborious to have to write using a typewriter of this fashion, as opposed to being freeform and much too easy to write nonsensical and whimsical screeds of little importance, such as this article.
But I suppose if we were to confer onto this machine a personality, it probably would regard itself as an Elitist who craves to eat lesser, Pica typewriters for lunch. That’s a sales Pitch we can all respect.
By Darren Smith