Friday, September 24th, 2010


image of IBM Selectric II

I can’t believe my good luck: I am now the ecstatically proud owner of an IBM Selectric II. And I paid just a little over three dollars for it! How does this even happen? Well, just like this:

I found it on the bottom shelf in the electronics section of a Goodwill store here in Monona. The price tag said $2.99. That had to be a mistake, right? It’s an IBM Selectric II! These typewriters are legendary! And they’re still on sale, reconditioned, for upwards of three hundred dollars. Surely the price tag was supposed to read $299.00? It would be a crushing disappointment, but I had to find out. If it didn’t, I would suffer a gnawing anxiety that would eventually eat up all my brains and spit them out my ears. Yuck.

Squatting in the aisle beside the typewriter, I got my arms around it and stood up, being careful to lift with my knees. The Selectric II is a modern typewriter but was built by the old school of industrial design, all-steel inside and out, so it weighs close to forty pounds. If you bend over and pick it up like it’s one of those plastic daisy wheel typewriters, you’ll throw your back out so far a labrador retriever would get winded fetching it back to you.

There weren’t any shopping carts available, so I had to lug the typewriter all the way from the back of the store to the front doors where the check-out counter was. I reached my target heart rate somewhere in the middle of the store and by the time I got to the check-out it was banging hard enough to rattle the windows. No one was waiting, thank goodness, so I could plunk it on the counter without having to wait in line with the beast cocked on one hip like an overweight toddler.

The check-out guy gave me a cheery hello, then took a look at the price tag on the Selectric and gave a little speech: “If you want to return this for any reason, you’ve got seven days,” he explained to me, “but the price tag has to be on it and you have to bring the receipt with you.” Then, the moment of truth: He scanned the price tag with a laser, hit TOTAL on his cash register, and announced the grand total: “That’ll be three fifteen.”

Glancing at the cash register display I saw $3.15. I handed him a fiver. He counted out the change and handed it back to me.

Wow. Just wow.

The down side is, it doesn’t run. Not at all. I plugged it in, switched it on and got nothing, not even a click. It’s supposed to hum when it’s working, but it was dead as a doornail. Not sure how to proceed from here. I may not be ballsy enough to crack the case and look for a burned-out fuse or broken connection, and who repairs typewriters professionally any more? But it only cost three bucks, so it’s still a bargain even if it’s only good as a boat anchor.

UPDATE: It DOES work after all! I plugged it into an electrical outlet at Goodwill that must’ve been dead! Later in the evening I tried it again by plugging it into an outlet here in the basement lair of Drivel HQ and it not only hummed, it also typed a quick brown fox and a now is the time as fast as I could hammer the keys! Now all I need is a ribbon, and if their web site is to be believed, I can get one at the Staples office supply store down the street. Bliss!

Man Buys IBM for Three Dollars. Film At Eleven. | 9:38 pm CDT
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