Re: Build-your-own IBM Selectric typewriter with Dvorak keyboard!
2012-02-12 19:19:00 GMT
I've been trying to find a DVORAK typewriter everywhere, and after a lot of research I've ended up here.
I tried contacting Peter so I could purchase his tutorial package but I haven't heard back. Does anyone know if he's still active? Does he have a different email address I could use to contact him? Does anyone know where else I could get a tutorial such as this?
--- In altkeyboards <at> yahoogroups.com, "pbrun01" <pbrun01 <at> ...> wrote:
> Dear List Members,
> Back in early 2003, when I was starting the process of learning how
> to touch-type (on the qwerty keyboard) with my first computer, I
> stumbled upon some online information about the Dvorak keyboard. I
> was intrigued, and after some careful consideration I decided to go a
> different direction from the crowd and type with the Dvorak keyboard.
> I don't regret the decision at all.
> At some point back in 2004 it occurred to me that despite my learning
> how to type, I would probably never have the satisfaction of typing
> on a real typewriter, because there is no such thing as a typewriter
> with the Dvorak keyboard, right? Wrong! I soon learned that various
> companies manufactured typewriters over the years with the dvorak
> keyboard. Long story short, I managed to find a few of these rare
> machines. I invite you to have a look at my collection of Dvorak
> typewriters in the photos section of this group.
> For me, there is something about typewriters that is appealing. Maybe
> it's because they're an anachronistic throwback to another time.
> Maybe it's because they're mechanical and hence interesting. Or maybe
> it's just the image of a typewriter that's romantic. That's why I
> like all of my typewriters. But of all my machines, it's the IBM
> Selectric that I am most fond of. For those of you not familiar with
> the Selectric, it is a highly complex electric typewriter that
> utilizes a spherical type element with the characters on it instead
> of the individual type-bars of conventional machines.
> Introduced by IBM in 1961, the Selectric was nothing short of
> revolutionary. The new machines were so far superior to what was on
> the market, it really marked the beginning of the end for
> conventional type-bar typewriters. They were--and are--fascinating
> machines. By the time production ceased in 1985, it was becoming too
> expensive for IBM to manufacture such complicated mechanical
> typewriters especially when the Wheelwriter series cost much less to
> build. Nevertheless, tens of thousands of Selectrics remain in use
> today, and they have a commanded a loyal following.
> Now, here's the really interesting thing about the Selectric
> typewriter: the way the machine is designed, it is relatively easy
> (if you know what you're doing, that is) to convert it from the
> qwerty keyboard to the Dvorak keyboard. A former IBM engineer in
> Oregon turned me on to this fact back when I was scouring the nation
> for a typewriter with the dvorak keyboard. This same guy offered to
> convert a refurbished Selectric II to the Dvorak keyboard for $500.
> That was way too much money, so I politely declined. But the seed of
> interest had been planted. A couple years later, I decided to take on
> the challenge of converting a Selectric myself. In short order I
> assembled the necessary tools and technical manuals to do the job.
> My guinea pig machine for the initial effort was a dirty, beat-up
> Selectric II that I found at the local Salvation Army store for $3.
> Without too much difficulty, I went ahead and performed the
> conversion, and the operation was a success. It was a very
> interesting learning experience. I still have that ugly Selectric II,
> but it doesn't get much use; I have since converted two much nicer
> Selectric III's to use at the office and at home. Here's a shot of
> one of them:
> If anyone on this list would be interested in converting their own
> IBM Selectric to Dvorak, I have prepared a tutorial package
> explaining how to do it. The package consists of a tools list (tools
> not included, sorry) and detailed step-by-step instructions (22 pages
> complete with color photos), a CD-Rom of slides covering operational
> theory and disassembly of the keyboard area of the machine, and an
> accompanying audio cassette tape for the CD-Rom.
> This is surely the only place on the internet (and probably the
> planet) where this type of information is available. In order to
> cover development costs, I am asking $50 for the package (postage
> included) for members within the United States, and $60 the package
> (postage included) for members outside the United States. Contents of
> the tutorial package are copyright protected.
> The conversion itself is pretty straightforward. There are obviously
> many small details I can't go into here, but basically the conversion
> 1) Removal of the typewriter from its case;
> 2) Removal of the plastic keytops;
> 3) Partial disassembly of the keyboard;
> 4) Removal and re-arrangement of the character interposers;
> 5) Re-assembly of the keyboard;
> 6) Re-installation of the plastic keytops;
> 7) Putting the typewriter back into its case.
> Although any Selectric can be converted, I would recommend the
> Selectric III for one important reason: the plastic keytops can be
> removed and re-arranged into the dvorak configuration and they will
> still sit at the correct angle. The same CANNOT be said for the level
> I and level II machines. Those machines have deeply dished keytops
> that are angled uniquely according to what row they are in. If you re-
> arrange them, they end up looking and feeling weird. Oh sure, you
> could leave them in their original position and re-label them using
> aftermarket keytop labels, but I don't think it would look very good.
> And besides, it would defeat the whole point of the exercise, which
> is to build a stealth Selectric that looks as though it came right
> from the factory with the Dvorak keyboard.
> Since I'm on the subject of the machines themselves, let me go into a
> little bit of detail about the only two design concessions involved
> in the Dvorak conversion. Every stock Selectric has special "repeat
> lug" on the bottom of the hyphen/underscore keylever which allows
> automatic repeat action when that key is depressed 2X farther than
> normal. Because the keylevers are not moved during the conversion,
> this repeat lug will end up being on the ¼ ½ keylever. Unfortunately
> it is not possible to re-locate this repeat lug to the new
> hyphen/underscore keylever in the home row. The lug has to stay where
> it is, with the result that the ¼ ½ key in the top row will end up
> having the repeating function. In my mind, this is certainly not a
> big deal. The ¼ ½ key is seldom if ever used, and if you don't press
> it down farther than normal, it won't repeat anyway. If this would
> really bother you, then the repeat function would have to be
> disabled. This is done by temporarily taking that keylever out of the
> machine and removing the repeat lug by grinding the rivet off with a
> Dremel tool. But in order to remove the keylever from the machine,
> you need a spare keylever fulcrum wire. So, my advice would be to
> simply leave the repeat lug where it is.
> The other design concession concerns the "dual velocity" feature of
> the machine. All Selectrics (apart from early models) were designed
> so that the type element would strike the paper with less force when
> the "low velocity characters" were typed. (The low velocity
> characters consist of the period, comma, quote marks, colon/semi-
> colon, and hyphen/underscore.) The idea was to prevent the paper from
> being cut since the low velocity characters have less surface area
> than the other characters. This is accomplished by means of a fairly
> simple linkage between a low velocity vane at the front of the
> keyboard (which is only rotated when the low velocity characters are
> typed) and the print cam follower at the type-head.
> When a low velocity character is typed, the interposer for that
> character is pushed forward and contacts and rotates the low velocity
> vane, which by means of a connecting linkage releases the low
> velocity latch, which allows the low velocity cam follower to contact
> (and follow) the low velocity cam on the end of the filter shaft for
> the duration of that print cycle. The other end of the low velocity
> cam follower pulls on the end of the low velocity control cable, the
> other end of which is connected to the roller of the print cam
> follower. The roller of the print cam follower is thus pulled to the
> left and made to ride on the low velocity lobe of the print cam.
> Follow all that? Good. Here's what it boils down to, though. The dual
> velocity system was a good idea, and it works. But realistically, it
> was very common for machines in the field to be operating with broken
> or seized low velocity cables, with the result that all characters
> would be printing at full velocity. Most of the time the operators
> were not even aware that anything was wrong. For anyone doing this
> conversion, the best way to address this issue is to simply cut the
> low velocity control cable where it connects to the low velocity cam
> follower. This will disable the system, and all characters will print
> at full velocity. It won't make one iota of difference unless you
> type on really thin paper (like onion skin). Just keep the impression
> control stick on 1 or 2, and you'll be fine. If you really, really
> wanted to have the low velocity characters print at low velocity
> after the conversion, you'd have to fabricate a new, longer low
> velocity vane with a different lug pattern. I did this twice for the
> two Selectric III's that I converted, and trust me, it's a gigantic
> pain in the butt. It's not really worth the effort.
> If you're still reading this, you're probably wondering, "would I be
> able to perform this conversion?" Well, I would say that if you're
> the type of person who knows nothing about tools and is not
> mechanically inclined at all, then you probably don't want to attempt
> this. But, if you're the type of person who likes to tinker with
> things, and is by nature mechanically inclined, then you should be
> Be forewarned, though, you have to be patient to do this conversion,
> you need to be able to follow steps carefully, and you need to have
> the ability and organization to deal with a fair number of small,
> delicate parts without losing or damaging them. The conversion
> doesn't involve major disassembly of the machine; all of the work is
> confined to the keyboard area, and only a couple of adjustments have
> to be broken during the process. (And they are easily put back into
> If this conversion is something you would like to do, contact me off-
> list, and I'll get you set up with the conversion package. Trust me,
> if you like typewriters, the conversion is certainly worth the
> trouble. The end result is a fabulous machine that will make a very
> handsome addition to your desk. Talk about a great conversation
> starter, too.
> Once you start using a typewriter, you realize how handy it is to
> type up little things like rolodex cards, hanging file tabs, notes to
> your editor, love letters to your sweetheart, etc. It really IS the
> ultimate accessory for the dedicated Dvorak typist!
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