Software for the finest computer – The Mind


Posted by Tim Bryce on December 12, 2012


– They don’t make office equipment like this anymore.

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When we started our company back in 1971, we needed some basic office equipment, such as filing cabinets, typewriters, etc. Unlike today, there were no personal computers or smart phones. Access to computers were by dumb terminals and printers were quite large to accommodate massive printouts. For all practical purposes small businesses had little use for computers at the time, primarily due to the excessive costs associated with them. Our most prized equipment were two IBM “Selectric” typewriters and a Remington Rand adding machine, Model 41013-10. The typewriters were replaced many times over the years, and of course, we implemented computer equipment in the office back in 1980. However, it was our adding machine which became the workhorse of our office which we’ve used for over 40 years now.

The machine is rather large and heavy, much more imposing than the typical calculators you can buy in any office supply store these days. Nevertheless, it can still perform calculations at warp speed with an authoritative printer sound for each calculation. While other equipment came and went, our Remington Rand stayed the course and was used extensively. Frankly, the calculators of today pale in comparison in terms of durability and speed. We have had the unit serviced a few times over the years, but in reality it required little maintenance. As we became more and more dependent on the computer to manage our finances though, use of the adding machine diminished greatly. We still use it for occasional calculations, but not as frequently as the old days.

Recently we began to notice the print was fading on the paper tape. We couldn’t remember the last time we changed the ribbon, maybe it was 20 years ago. So, it was finally time to take a look and see what the problem was. We removed the machine’s plastic cover thereby revealing its inner workings, a voluminous labyrinth of small metal bars, springs, and gears. It was very intimidating and I would never presume myself to be proficient enough to work on the machine should the necessity arise. Today I am accustomed to simply snapping high-priced printer cartridges into computer printers. If I cannot fix the printer, I would probably be inclined to throw the whole unit away and buy a new one, but you cannot do this with something as imposing as our adding machine.

It had been a long time since we looked at the undercarriage of the Remington Rand which, in a way, reminded me of looking under the hood of a 1957 Chevy. Of course, we had no booklet or any other documentation describing how to maintain it. On the chance of finding an old booklet on the Internet, I began to run some searches based on the model number. Although I couldn’t find any documentation, I discovered the adding machine was much older than I had originally imagined, 1955 to be exact. This means the machine was already 16 years old when we bought it second-hand in 1971. It also meant it was 56 years old and a museum piece. I could only find references to it in the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History. Naturally, we found this all rather amusing, that is, until we tried to replace the ribbon.

It had been many years since we had to replace an old-style cotton ribbon such as this, one without a casing, just a ribbon on a small metal spool. Threading the ribbon was actually the hard part as we hadn’t performed such a task in a long time and had forgotten the exact route for the ribbon to follow. We persevered though, getting messy ink all over our fingers in the process. Fortunately, and to our pleasant surprise, we discovered we had one last ribbon in our inventory of office supplies. Fearing the ink may have dried up, we were pleased to find the ribbon sealed and packed in a plastic bag and paper box and was as fresh as when we had purchased it some 20 years ago.

It took two of us about 30 minutes to replace the ribbon, and I admit a fair bit of swearing, but we finally figured it out and installed it properly. The machine once again runs like a champ, much to our personal pleasure.

What I found interesting from this experience is that we have all been conditioned to discard office equipment when it wears out, as opposed to maintaining it for a few more years. It also says a lot about how we built things years ago. Here we have a machine that is pushing 60 years of age, yet is rugged, durable, and above all else, works as well as the day it was built. Unfortunately, I cannot make the same claim for computer equipment or smart phones which are three years old or younger. Our Remington Rand 41013-10 adding machine reminds me of the old Timex commercial, whereby, “It takes a lickin’ but keeps on tickin’.”

One final note, when we finished the job, we thought about reordering a new ribbon for the next time. I’m not sure we could ever find the correct ribbon but beyond that, if the new ribbon we installed lasts as long as the one we just replaced, I do not think it will really matter in the year 2032.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is a writer and the Managing Director of M&JB Investment Company (M&JB) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at

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Copyright © 2012 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

THE PASSING OF THE CROONERS – How the rich music of Sinatra, Como, Crosby, Martin, et al is slipping away from us.

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  1. Kevin Schachter said



  2. Tim Bryce said

    A J.U. of Clearwater, Florida wrote…

    “When I worked for NCR, from 1966 until 1971 I sold adding machines like the one that you pictured here. They came out with the first Nixi Tube calculators, (seven segment) and we sold the hell out of them for $ 2,500.00 each.

    The world has came a long way and now we have a real nut job in Washington that could take us back to knives and swords riding horses.

    Your article was great.”


  3. Kevin Schachter said

    At least the knives and swords won’t need to be rebooted after a crash.


  4. Tim Bryce said

    A B.B. of Tampa, Florida wrote…

    “Sure wish most items, as you mention, like printers, computers etc., would last nearly as long. Today they’re built as throw-a ways, built to run for only a few years, therein adding to the mounds of trash at the dumps. I was surprised to learn recently that Leveno computers, a Chinese company, is the only computer manufacturer in the world that builds all the parts that go into the computer’s assembly. Apparently management feels this is the only way they can control the quality of their product.”


  5. Tim Bryce said

    A U.V. of Largo, Florida wrote…

    “Yeah! They sure don’t build things to last any more. We received a Frigidaire refrigerator as a wedding present from my in-laws in Sept. 1961 (the 1962 model). Eventually it went into the basement of our house in Brooklyn, because it was no longer frost-free, and had to be defrosted by hand, but was also on it’s last legs. We sold the house in 2000, with the “frig” in the basement and always wondered if it was still working. When we moved to Florida, we took our stand-up freezer bought in 1968 with us. When we sold the house in 2010 that was also still working. Ah! craftsmanship. Another relic of the past .”


  6. Tim Bryce said

    A J.S. of Skidway Lake, Michigan wrote…

    “I remember using one like this when I got my first office job in 1971. There was a specific pattern of finger placement for optimal speed and I had lightning fingers. I’ve used other similar ones as well as an IBM Selectric typewriter. When my employer replaced the old machines, employees were allowed to bid on them and I won the Selectric. My 6-year-old son loved it. He’d hold the space bar down to mimic the sound of a machine gun.

    I learned the hard way to replace those ribbons by following the path of the one that is already in place before removing it. The 30 minute job is reduced to 5 minutes with a lot less swearing and mess. “


  7. Tim Bryce said

    A B.W. of Macon, Georgia wrote…

    “When I returned from Viet Nam in 1968, I was not quite ready to go back on the road for the company I worked for. My lady had been working at the Jacksonville airport as a parking lot attendant. They had a cash register malfunction and a repairman was dispatched to fix it. That happened on my lady’s shift. She watched as he worked on it and remarked that it looked like something her husband will like to do. The repair man gave her the name of the man that owned his company and told her to have me call him when I got home. I did call about a week after I returned and went to work for Mason’s AB Cash Register in Jax the next day. We worked on most calculating machines and cash registers. I loved the job and did well at it but the pay was not what I needed for my family and I moved back into the aircraft field.

    You are correct about the longevity of these old machines. And what marvelous machines they were. The one you refer to had over 4000 moving components not including the stationary parts that make up the frame and rod bearings. The only time they were a nightmare to work on, was when someone spilled a soft drink on them or something sticky that ran down the keys. I remember fondly working on them. That experience gave me insight in to building many mechanical things for model airplanes and to fix things mechanical for other folks which I still do today
    Thanks for the memory refresher”








  11. M&W said

    I bought a Sperry-Remington model #134321-10, no doubt a later successor to yours. It has a cash box mounted underneath of it (no cash in it, though).

    I can’t figure out how to remove the cover of it, to replace the dried-out ribbon ? I’m a mechanically-inclined guy, but I don’t see how the plastic cover comes off of it, to reveal the insides. The internet has been no help, which I am actually surprised about. I thought EVERYTHING was on the internet ? lol

    Any help would be appreciated. Thanks!


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