2013/12/26

Bits and Ends of Typewriter in China






As I said in one of my previous posts, Hero typewriter(Flyiing Fish PSQ as it was formerly named)  has German blood. It is basically a Tippa Adler copycat. China kicked off its own typewriter industry by emulating a TA's 1950 model, so widely popular in the world yet cheap at that time. The Germans helped China, by offering equipment and technology, in the country's economic take-off in late 1970s and early 1980s. China returned Germany's favor by offering a big slice of her market, even today (and infringing upon German IP rights)

Allow me to digress a bit. Another German "Made it in China!" story is Volkswagen. In early 1980s, VW reluctantly took up only 10% share in a joint venture business with its local partner,Shanghai automobile company, a percentage so low that VW in 2003 regretted. The company was very reluctant to invest back then mainly out of suspicion toward communism.

VW offered technology, equipment and managerial expertise, in the production of Santana sedan cars, an already outdated but hugely successful model in the S. American market. The VW's Shanghai branch, with the city's signature business acumen, hard work, and not without preferential policies from the government, responded the German suspicion by taking up a whopping 60% of market share in China, and remained so till mid 1990s. Imagine throughout the entire 1990s, 99% of sedan cars ran on Shanghai roads are VW.  During the same period, Nissan/Toyota combined took up 10% of the market.

German and German technology are highly esteemed here in China. Wherever you go, you will hear Chinese sing high praise for Germans' rigidity,precision craftsmanship and dedication to work. Growing up in such culture, I'm sure one another German fan. Ich libe Deutsche technologie!

On the other hand, the U.S. impressed Chinese, me included, with her innovative capabilities, as evidenced by endlessly emerging new functions in U.S. made typewriters.

Fortunately, I've visited/paid my homage to both countries and figured out that my love for both are not without a good reason. I was once so touched by a whole bus of total strangers,all US folks, hooraying and clapping hands for me as I finally boarded the bus that I chased for 10 min in Las Vegas. The bus driver also kindly slowed down for me. (The reason I ran in the first place is because buses in most U.S. cities are at 30 min intervals, in Shanghai it is 10 min at most. :-P) What a warm people!

Richard Polt once asked for my opinion about the Made-in-China typewriters, I have to say that they're not desirable. Perhaps the early batches are fine. According to very limited typewriter-related archives, China exported 40% of the typewriters it once produced. But as orders from overseas market shrank, investors were so anxious to take back their money and turned to the domestic market since mid-1990s,that's when quality suffer. Good quality machines are with a mission: earn money from foreigners' pocket! That's why China could afford 1.3 trillion dollars of US T-bond as of Dec. 20, 2013.

As for typewriter related innovation, China doesn't have much to offer, as it once positioned itself in the labor-intensive,low-end spectrum of the manufacturing sector. And when the country started its typewriter industry, the whole industry was already rapidly dying out. That's why former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao once remarked, China has missed out an entire typewriter era, we couldn't afford to lose the opportunities in the computer era. The IBM laptops are manufactured in China since 2006.

Meanwhile, I'd like to ask for a favor, what do you guys think of my English? 1) does it sound natural to native-speakers? 2) Does it sound more British or American?

The following are some typewriter-related bits and ends. 

Hereby, I wish all my friends Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 


The original invoice of Beijing Typewriter Shop for Flying Fish Model PSQ, which indicates that the machine cost RMB 195 on Nov. 17th, 1985.  It looks a lot pink-er actually. These unified invoices are issued by business and industrial administrators.  Today, they must be printed instead of handwritten. 

the original TEST CERTIFICATE 

I have a question: what kind of PICA font is this?

A small booklet detailing all the addresses of typewriter shops/repair shops in major Chinese cities. 

The warranty slip that goes with the invoice

10 comments:

  1. I love the paperwork, thanks for showing it to us. I didn't know about the VW presence in Shanghai.

    As for your English, I think it's usually excellent. It strikes me as generally American. There are occasional small lapses in idioms or grammar. For example, "Growing up in such culture, I'm sure one another German fan" would sound better as "Growing up in such a culture, I sure am another fan of Germany."

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    1. Thank you Richard for helping me improving English

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  2. Thanks for sharing this.
    Your English is pretty good, I agree with Richard's comments on grammar.

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    1. Thank you Ton for your encouragement.

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  3. Your written English is very good, and sounds fairly natural, there are only a few areas where it stumbles (the sort of English oddities that any non-native speaker has trouble with), but very good overall. (:

    I also didn't know about the VW presence in China. There is actually very little that American schoolkids were taught about post-Cultural Revolution China, at least when I was growing up in the 70's/80's.

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    1. Thank you Ted, language is difficult, cannot be achieved overnight.

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  4. I also think your English is very good with only minor errors in grammar - and bear in mind our written English isn't perfect either! I liked the anecdote about running for the bus. :)

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  5. thank you elephant, very encouraging!

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  6. Your English is probably 95% or more very natural. The places where it is "incorrect" are places where you are mostly grammatically right, like the things Richard pointed out, which just sound wrong to us as native speakers. But even those "errors" do not detract from my ability to read your writing. They are just tiny reminders that you are not from an English speaking country :)

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    1. Thanks Mark, That you said is very sweet and encouraging!

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