Thursday, 16 February 2012

Field frame #13: The Bath Typewriter Service

Site: Bath Typewriter Service
Location: Cynthia Road, Bath
Date: 5 December 2011
SiB team: JR and SB
Image: Work station

Bath Typewriter Service sits in a narrow building tacked on the end of a terrace of sandstone houses. Bill Collett has inhabited this workspace for more than three decades, servicing and mending typewriters as well as fax, adding and dictation machines of all shapes and sizes. His main work station consists of three long desks, made by his father from three salvaged school blackboards. He used to work here with two colleagues, but their desks are no longer occupied. Bill works alone at the desk furthest from the door in a space resembling a homemade aircraft cockpit, where every implement, machine or tool is arranged within easy reach.

Machines once full of words and messages are now silent. The mechanical writing and recording machines of the past have been replaced with digital technologies, which are designed neither for servicing or repair. Much of Mr Collett’s workshop is now taken up with old but perfectly operating machines which, rather than maintaining, he is breaking up into their constituent elements for scrap value; repair in reverse. Shelves that once held working machines now struggle under the weight of assorted aluminium, steel and plastic. A lucky few, the most beautiful or rare, find a home with appreciative collectors. Many others sit on shelves, their fate undecided. It would be wrong not to honour them by at least taking their photograph.

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