Beyond an average repairman, Tytell was an artisan of the typewriter. He built a hieroglyphics typewriter for a curator, musical note machines for musicians and recreated Alger Hiss' typewriter, flaws and all, thus killing the legal argument that each machine had a unique fingerprint.
From the New York Times:
When he retired in 2000, Mr. Tytell had practiced his recently vanishing craft for 70 years. For most of that time, he rented, repaired, rebuilt, reconfigured and restored typewriters in a second-floor shop at 116 Fulton Street in Lower Manhattan, where a sign advertised “Psychoanalysis for Your Typewriter.”
There, at the Tytell Typewriter Company, he often worked seven days a week wearing a white lab coat and a bow tie, catering to customers like the writers Dorothy Parker and Richard Condon, the newsmen David Brinkley and Harrison Salisbury, and the political opponents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Adlai E. Stevenson. Letters addressed only to “Mr. Typewriter, New York” arrived there, too.
From a 1997 Atlantic Monthly article by Ian Frazier:
At about that time he added a new service to his business -- converting American-made typewriters to foreign alphabets for the stationery department at Macy's department store. He did these jobs on short notice and fast. Macy's would tell a customer that they could provide a typewriter in the customer's language before he left town; then Martin would remove the type from an American typewriter, solder on new type for the alphabet desired, and put new lettering on the keyboard. Usually he converted to Spanish or French, not difficult jobs, but he did Russian, Greek, and German, too. He found that by adding an idle gear he bought for forty-five cents on Canal Street, he could make a typewriter go from right to left. That enabled him to do Arabic and other right-left languages such as Hebrew and Farsi.
I hope the Smithsonian is calling the Tytell family right now.
I asked Amy Parness, the co-founder of Sparkle Labs, maker of fantastic educational electronics kits, to write a Medium post about gender and the business of being a maker business person. Her terrific essay calls out the problems with “pink girly engineering kits.” From Medium:
Zero UI is the new term for “invisible interfaces”—what happens in the future when all the clicking and tapping and typing is history: “If you look at the history of computing, starting with the jacquard loom in 1801, humans have always had to interact with machines in a really abstract, complex way.” [Fast Company]
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