“What would you say to a project?”
This is the question my wife asked while she was trying to track down a birthday present for me. Would I be interested in a project? I was intrigued. I have a mixed history with completing projects I’ve bought for myself. Not to worry, however, as she said that the project was worth having even if I didn’t do it.
That was my hint. Well…that and the fact that if I did complete the project I could sell it for a significant profit. I’ll admit, those clues had me completely stumped. I briefly thought it might be a kit for launching a camera into the upper atmosphere, something that I have talked about in the past, but not something that could be turned around for a profit.
So my birthday came along, and two boxes sat on the table. One small and wrapped, the other looking like a small vintage suitcase. The wrapped box was a USPS box from an Etsy store, a storefront that sells conversion kits for turning classic typewriters into USB keyboards. You’ve seen those, right? They often get lumped in with steampunk, but that’s not quite right. The aesthetic is something a little different.
The other box contained an Underwood Portable. This Underwood Portable:
It looks a little like a hockey player that’s taken one too many pucks to the teeth. But it’s in remarkably good shape for a piece of tech that’s just under 90 years old. Two of the keys, H and M, aren’t rebounding, and those will need to be fixed before I can even consider breaking into the kit. So it’s really two projects in one: Restoring an old Underwood, and then turning that restored Underwood into a keyboard.
A few interesting features. First:
You’ll notice something is missing here. The 1 key was not an original feature of the QWERTY keyboard. To insert the number 1, the typist would use a lower case l. To insert an exclamation point, the typist would use the single apostrophe (located on the 8 key instead of an asterisk), back space, then type a period. That is, by the way, why the one and exclamation point are on the same key on a modern QWERTY, because they were added to the keyboard at the same time.
Speaking of hitting that back space key, I love that it’s labeled “Back Spacer”. Along those same lines, the tab key is the Tabular Key on this keyboard.
So, if a future novel or story of mine has no characters who ever get excited about things, a lot of jobs that are left ¾ finished, and avoid the letters H and M, you’ll know I’ve got the keyboard up and running.