Fionn's Hotline Cafe

Handheld electronics

Mustek DV 4000 Mustek DV 4000 Mustek DV 4000 Digital Camcorder

This small multi-function digital camcorder was mine in 2004. I couldn't afford anything capable of DV quality but was pleased that it had a 4MP still photo camera and a sound recording feature. The recording quality suffers from low-light sensitivity and poor frame rates. For some reason the highest video resolution (640 x 480) only records at 10fps, whereas you can record 240p video at 30fps.

I made a heap of blurry little films with friends and even added special effects to produce short action movies & fanfilms. Converting the ASF video files into something compatible for mainstream software often degraded the picture quality even further. The camera takes okay-ish photos in full daylight, but forget about any indoor photography.

See an outdoor photo sample
See an indoor photo sample

The typewriter collection

Fionn Says: "Burnt out with digital technology? Can't afford a printer? Don't trust the internet? All of these problems are solved with mechanical typewriters! I keep these charming machines available for use in the cafe. For a nominal fee, we provide a type-and-fax service as a viable alternative to e-mail. Unlike e-mail, typewritten documents cannot be hacked or corrupted."

Typewriter Royal Typewriter Royal Typewriter Royal Type Sample Royal Royalite

The Royalite range of portable mechanical typewriters were produced by the Royal Typewriter Company between 1955 and 1964. Judging by the serial number and the lack of two-colour ribbon I think this one was manufactured in Holland around 1960.

It is still regularly used and works perfectly. It is easy to operate and changing the ribbon takes no time at all. The keys are particularly satisfying to type with - with a familiar 'clack' you'd imagine hearing in a vintage writers' room.

Prices for Royalites vary considerably these days. From what I can tell, they aren't super rare. Some sellers try to fetch as much as £250-300 for a model in good condition. This Royalite had recently been restored and I parted with £45 for it at a flea market in Brighton.

Royal still operates today as a private American company, making various bits of kit including cash registers, shredders and postal scales. An antique Royal typewriter played an important role in the 1987 Stephen King novel Misery.

Typewriter Olympia Splendid Typewriter Olympia Splendid Typewriter Olympia Splendid Type Sample Olympia Splendid 99

Olympia were thought of as the 'Mercedes-Benz' of typewriters, celebrated for their comfortable and reliable models. The light but carriage-shift Splendid was produced at the height of Olympia's popularity and they come in the 33, 66 and 99 variants. The 66 has two colour ribbon, touch control and pop-up paper rest. The 99 features a more 'luxury' trim and is rather rare.

I absolutely love this machine. It's a pleasure to type with and produces great quality lettering. Everything about it represents sensible and snappy German engineering. The gun metal finish adds to the impression that this typewritter ought to be used for typing out troop dispatch orders or something else deadly serious. Fast typers may need a grip pad, as the Splendid can wander.

I see these models sold with a huge range of prices. I got mine for £55 in great condition. It even came with the original instruction manual. I've seen some catch as much as £350 on Etsy (wow!)

Olympia went out of business in the early '90s but their typewriters remain very popular with collectors and professional authors.

Typewriter Silverette Typewriter Silverette Typewriter Silverette Seiko Silver-Reed Silverette 2

These Japanese designed portables were in production during the early '80s. Seiko had been selling typewriters in the UK since 1976. Silverettes are comparitively common, and you're bound to catch them at flea markets and in the background sets of period police dramas. They come in a variety of bold colours.

My Silverette was an unlucky purchase. I impulse ordered it (I really liked the electric blue colour) from eBay and it did arrive in decent condition. However, the space bar didn't work at all. After inspecting the inner-workings I found that some of the required hooks were completely missing. I cut my losses here but decided not to return the typewirter; it sits high up on a shelf to be admired only for its aesthetic qualities. I enjoy the retro angular design.

About a week later I found a working identical model (albeit in dark green) for sale in better condition at the local antique shop. I didn't buy it.