The Few. The Proud. The Typewriter Repairmen

By Liv Phillips '15

Ace Typewriter located on Lombard St. in North Portland is one of the few remaining typewriter shops left in the world. Recently CatlinSpeak talked to the owner, Matt McCormick, about the shop, and most importantly, typewriters.

An Oliver #9 surrounded by typewriter ribbon tins at Ace Typewriter (Photo: Liv Phillips '15)

An Oliver #9 surrounded by typewriter ribbon tins at Ace Typewriter (Photo: Liv Phillips ’15)

For those who are not familiar of what a typewriter is, it is essentially a mechanical word processor. A piece of paper is inserted into the machine and then, keys are pressed that hit an inky ribbon and emboss the paper with the letter.

Hundreds of millions of typewriters were made from the 1890’s until the 1990’s. Thousands of typewriter shops existed, dotting every town, city and village. They soon vanished with the invention of the computer.

Ace Typewriter was opened in 1960 by Dennis McCormick, Matt’s father. Dennis McCormick learned how to repair typewriters on a Navy ship during World War Two. He wanted to be a gunner aboard the ship, but seeing that there was no typewriter repairman on board, and that Dennis had taken a typing class, the Navy enlisted him as the repairman for the typewriters on the ship.

A US Navy World War II typewriter. Dennis McCormick could have repaired a similar machine (Photo: Liv Phillips '15)

A US Navy World War II typewriter. Dennis McCormick could have repaired a similar machine (Photo: Liv Phillips ’15)

Matt McCormick began working at Ace typewriter in 1983 full time, though he grew up repairing typewriters. He is a guru in the typewriter world. McCormick repairs approximately 600 typewriters a year and has customers all over the world. The History Detectives have even stopped by.

McCormick's desk of organized chaos (Photo: Liv Phillips '15)

McCormick’s desk of organized chaos (Photo: Liv Phillips ’15)

McCormick’s favorite typewriter is an LC Smith Number 8. LC Smiths have ball bearings in the type segment, which makes typing on them like a dream. Due to the ball bearing in the joint of  the typing segment allowing the typing segment to be lifted with little effort.

His dream typewriter is a 1931 Smith Corona Sterling with an ivory space bar. The ivory space bar was a feature that could be added to the typewriter and they are very uncommon.

A Smith Corona Sterling (Photo: Liv Phillips '15)

A Smith Corona Sterling (Photo: Liv Phillips ’15)

McCormick has a love-hate relationship with the IBM Selectric machines. He loves to work on them, though on his own time.

For the best typing experience, McCormick recommends the LC Smith Super Speed.

A majority of McCormick’s business now comes from manual typewriters. He misses the days of working on IBM selectrics as they had a higher profit margin.

McCormick’s biggest rue about the current typewriter business is that “typewriters shouldn’t be a dressing on a shelf.” Matt wants people to use the machines not just put them on display.

CatlinSpeak was lucky enough to see one of McCormick’s rarest machines, a sterling silver Smith Corona. The outside panels are solid sterling silver. Only 200 were made as a factory promotion in 1931. A majority of them were melted down and sold for their silver. Only 5 are known to exist.

A machine made out of solid sterling silver (Photo: Liv Phillips '15)

A machine made out of solid sterling silver (Photo: Liv Phillips ’15)

Ace Typewriter is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you are in need of a typewriter ribbon, a typewriter, or a typewriter repair, McCormick is ready to help. He has a current backlog of a month, though time does vary depending on what shape a machine is in.