Posted on February 6, 2010
A few months ago, Kevin spied an Underwood typewriter in the alley next to the trash cans. He brought it in from the rain and restored it to its former glory – or as close to that as possible given its age and experience.
The Underwood now graces the front desk, introducing younger visitors to a machine that takes physical effort to use, doesn’t delete, and has only one font and one font size!
Last Wednesday morning, I was inspired to undertake a rescue mission of my own. Hauling out the garbage before racing off to work, I lifted the dumpster lid and discovered this lovely machine resting heavily on a bed of black plastic trash bags. A muddy jacket, a cut knuckle, and a few minor expletives later, I had myself – or Mindport, rather – this R.C. Allen mechanical adding machine.
What will we do with it? We’ll probably try to make it work again and then put it out for visitors to try. We’ve been talking a lot lately about some of the benefits of traditional mechanical technology over modern microelectronics-based technology (think mechanical typewriter versus laptop). While it’s true that modern electronic technology does a lot that the older versions don’t, its impressiveness is overshadowed by the fact that its inner working are invisible, so that it’s almost impossible to either discern how it works or to repair it when it breaks. For the most part, it’s throwaway technology, and if you find even a twenty-year old computer in a dumpster, you might as well leave it there. . . unless you’re public-spirited enough to salvage it for a trip to a recycling facility.
Keep an eye out for this machine on your future visits to Mindport, and never underestimate the value of what your local dumpster holds.
For information on mechanical adding machines click here.
For the R.C. Allen Company history click here.
For a comprehensive site on “dumpster diving” click here.