Royal typewriter missing keys?
September 18, 2006 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I received an older Royal portable typewriter this weekend, which is the Quiet De Luxe model. It's in great shape, but I'm puzzled about one thing. It is completely missing the "1" key and the "+ / =" key (so, the keys on the edge of the top row, other than "back space" and "tab.") All of the hammers are accounted for with keys, and I don't see anything that is obviously missing mechanically. Any idea why this keyboard just wouldn't have these keys?
posted by hominid211 to Writing & Language (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Older typewriters use the lowercase "L" as the 1 key.
posted by grateful at 11:30 AM on September 18, 2006

They probably used a typeface where the one is identical to lower-case ell. As for + and =, they weren't used so much on typewriters.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:32 AM on September 18, 2006

Congratulations, I used to have that typewriter. There is no one, there is only L and l.
posted by jessamyn at 11:39 AM on September 18, 2006

(my ooooold Royal also doesn't have the exclamation point, for that i have to type a period, backspace and type an apostrophe above it)
posted by iurodivii at 12:01 PM on September 18, 2006

Best answer: Firstly, congratulations! Manual typewriters are a personal vice of mine.

Yes, most portables manufactured before 1970 lack a "1" and an exclamation mark, though some manufactures (chiefly Remington, I believe) bucked the trend and even occasionally included an Interrobang.

Replacement ribbons can be found at most major office supply stores, usually alongside receipt printer ribbons. Re-inking the old silk ribbons included with some models is a messy task.

You mention that it's in great shape, but you may want to keep this link handy: Secrets Of Restoring Typewriters. I've done a lot of work on these old beasts and nothing makes me feel better than having an older machine sing like new. As an added bonus, interesting detritus and frass can sometimes be found inside the inner workings after a good cleaning.

I've owned and fixed a few Quiet De Luxes in my day, so if you have any further questions, feel free to drop me a line.
posted by ktrey at 12:28 PM on September 18, 2006 [2 favorites]

even occasionally included an Interrobang
Another MeFi name mystery accidentally solved.
posted by scrump at 12:31 PM on September 18, 2006

Response by poster: Man, I love this place. Thanks for the answers to my mystery!

And, ktrey, thanks for that link. That was going to be my next thing to find was info on restoration.
posted by hominid211 at 1:38 PM on September 18, 2006

Dammit, loquacious. That's one of my favorite writeups. You beat me to it.
posted by disillusioned at 1:46 PM on September 18, 2006

Can one construct the equals and plus signs the same way one can construct an exclamation out of full-stop and apostrophe?

Hyphen and shift-hyphen for equals? Hyphen and ... something else, for plus?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:47 PM on September 18, 2006

If your typrwriter is missing an exclamation point, you construct it by hitting a period, then backing up and hitting shift-8 which prints the upper part of the exclamation point (which never lined up perfectly, in my experience). Here

you can see that mystery character, above the 8. I don't think typewriters had plus or equal symbols.
posted by Rash at 4:39 PM on September 18, 2006

Hypen-over-a-Colon makes a pretty decent "+" sign on the Old Empire Aristocrat that I have near my computer desk. Most Smith-Corona's before the "+" can also do this with their claustrophobic font. Some models have an underscore that can be combined with a hyphen to provide a serviceable equal sign.

It's funny on this Empire though, because four whole keys were mapped for creating various fractions, but most mathematical constructions end up looking strange.

That's what adding machines (a completely different, tempting, animal entirely) were for.

Brother made some very versatile and hardy portables in the late seventies (re-branded Webster, I believe) that can provide mathematical notation. They also had a swap-able typebar for diacriticals and other interesting characters (like the "ß").
posted by ktrey at 6:09 PM on September 18, 2006

Rash - I believe the mystery character you're referring to is the apostrophe. Personally, I just try to refrain from the exclamation mark all together, after all, a piece of carefully hand-typed correspondence (on good, water-mark optional, typing paper1) should be exciting enough '.

1. Not just simply a sheet of A4 from your printer, it's just too thick and clogs the platens on some of the pickier models.
posted by ktrey at 6:19 PM on September 18, 2006

oh man, i learned how to type on this typewriter.
posted by sdn at 6:22 PM on September 18, 2006

You're absolutely correct, a real brain-fart on my part not to remember that. And wouldn't the hyphen-colon construct actually produce the old-fashioned operator for division, rather than addition?
posted by Rash at 6:26 PM on September 18, 2006

I suppose it really does depend on the typewriters typeface for results, and most of the mass-produced 1960s portable typewriters seemed to be equipped with the "/" for fractions/divison.

Generally, the smaller the typeface, the more successful the :- combination is. I don't recall ever seeing a portable typewriter with a pipe "|", and there were pesky serifs on most uppercase "I"s back then. A neatly scribed vertical line with an ink pen imposed over a hyphen seems to be par for the course. On the few portables that I have handy at the moment the apostrophe is simply set too high to produce a plus sign, and retreating the paper on the platen enough to make it work (sort of) would prove too much of a pain, potentially sacrificing the overall horizontal alignment of the text.

If you really want a plus sign on a portable, I think that some Hermes and Olivetti's might incorporate it (at the expense of a fraction or two).

Mathematical notation would definitely be the realm of adding machines or some of the larger desktop machines (Remington made some nice secretarial tanks that have 'em), where key-tops weren't weeded out for the sake of space.
posted by ktrey at 6:56 PM on September 18, 2006

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