Tucker typists keep keys in motion

Many find inspiration in vintage technology.

Credit: Jeffrey Albertson

Credit: Jeffrey Albertson

A trio of typewriter experts have leveraged over a century of experience to keep the machines tapping away in spite of technological advancement.

MC&T Electronics, Inc. is one of few shops in the metro Atlanta area that can rescue a typewriter from a landfill and return it to a desk. The Black-owned business opened in 1988, servicing typewriters and office equipment.

Business continues to thrive, even as the pandemic has shuttered small businesses.

MC&T was founded by Morris Council, Jr. and is named after Morris, his wife Cynthia and daughter Tiffany. His career with typewriters and office machine repairs began in 1980, after taking a class at South Georgia Technical College in Americus. After graduation, Council worked for several companies until starting his own.

“I thought I would have been out of business a long time ago,” Council said “We know how passionate the customer is about typewriters, so that’s why we try to keep it going.”

Council’s career path led to a key intersection with Mary Ranson, his former manager — now the roles have changed.

Credit: Jeffrey Albertson

Credit: Jeffrey Albertson

Ranson was a security guard at the Office of Personnel Management Service Center in Macon before getting involved with typewriters. A technician at the facility said she could make more money servicing equipment. That advice led her to enroll at Athens Technical College.

Ranson later became a service manager at M&M Business Products, where she met Council.

“I do a lot of work on typewriters with sentimental value belonging to someone in the family or they want to give it or pass it down to somebody else,” Ranson said.

With decades of experience, Ranson has become the resident expert — a chief surgeon of sorts — with the keen ability to fabricate parts when needed. Her methodology for repairing machines is similar to a mathematician tacking a logic puzzle. That same strategy is deployed on maintenance techniques, which can take hours, depending on the year and manufacturer.

Performing maintenance has led to a laugh or two.

Ranson was working on an IBM Selectric at the residence of a worried owner. The owner was concerned a bag of crystals in the drawer were causing a malfunction.

“My understanding is crystals put out a good energy and if anything, they would be helping,” she said, keeping a straight face. “When I left, I never laughed so hard in my life.”

Whereas Ranson may be the head of surgery, Cheryl Scott is the typewriter nurse — in charge of admissions and dismissals.

Scott’s typewriter career began in 1974 with Smith Corona, which was located at 544 14th St., near modern West Midtown. She started as a helper and later became a manager because of her ability to remember part numbers.

Here she sold parts to typewriter service technicians and business owners throughout the southeast United States.

Her tenure with Smith Corona ended in 1985.

Her prior boss called with a job offer from Jim Riegert from Progressive Methods, a typewriter shop which opened in 1958. Scott’s first day at work was the day after the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. It was here she acquired the nickname of “the ribbon lady.”

Scott and Riegert met before while she was selling parts at Smith Corona.

Scott’s work with typewriters has led to meeting several celebrities including Morgan Freeman and Dan Ackroyd while “Driving Miss Daisy” was being filmed in Decatur. At a part-time job at Buckhead Business Machines, she met Sam Waterston who came in with two Brother typewriters. At Progressive Methods, she met another typewriter collector and enthusiast — Tom Hanks.

“For us today, I would really like to see the younger generation of moms and dads communicating with people instead of getting into your own world in a screen,” Scott said. “I will applaud any parent who says my kid wants a typewriter.”

During the pandemic, demand for typewriters continued. The repeat customers at MC&T jumped in to keep the doors open, buying supplies and ribbons.

Once relegated to dusty antique stores or forgotten attics, typewriters have seen a resurgence over the last decade. The onset of the pandemic and the digital fallout, have only accelerated that demand. The repeat customers at MC&T jumped in to keep the doors open, buying supplies and ribbons.

One repeat customer is Chris Maier, who has 25 typewriters in his collection. He said the typewriter is a marvel of 20th century engineering and manufacturing, being complicated yet simple.

As a writer, Maier uses his machines to break writer’s block.

“(They are) good for writing because they slow you down and make you think about your sentence structure and how you word things,” Maier said. “I do it better the first time if I’m using a typewriter.”