Saturday, November 15, 2014

Rotring Pens

Some Rotring Fountain pens have cult status. nowadays Many fountain pen lovers bemoan the fact that Rotring was bought in 1998 by Sanford (or Newell/Rubbermaid) which also bought Parker, Waterman and Papermate. Rubbermaid continued to sell old Rotring fountain pens until the stock was depleted. It also produced some new and cheaper fountain pens (like the Freeway, the New Orleans Series, the Impact, the Rive, the Rivette, the Altro, the Core, the Initial, the Lissabon and a few others). Some of the newer pens were made of plastic, though quite a few were also made of aluminum. Quality suffered, but some of the Sanford Rotrings are not bad. You can easily recognize the Sanford incarnations by the fact that they usually carry names (often of cities) rather than numbers. An exception seems to be the Rotring Esprit, a successor of the Rotring 400) which was sold since 1992 (but redesigned in 2004 as a telescoping pen). The old Esprit line did not have a telescoping fountain pen (but only ballpoints and pencils). I consider the Esprit one of the finest pens Rotring ever made.

Some of the Sanford pens took their cue from the old Rotring, like the Newton (which many people now call a "600" which it is not), and the Altro which is a plastic version of the Rotring 900 (and which some clown on the German eBay site tries to sell for big bucks (or Euros) as the real thing). Others may still have been designed by Rotring, and then sold by Sanford, but since catalogues are not easily available and information is sparse, this is difficult to determine. Eventually, Sanford gave up making fountain pens altogether (and for a while did not even produce any of the famous drafting pencils (300, 500, 600, 800).

I would say that if you want a genuine Rotring pen, don't buy anything made after 1998. If you want something that is just "more or less" genuine, you might go as far as 2004. Why 2004? In 2003, Guido Klamt, who oversaw sales for thirteen years at Rotring (and Sanford), finally quit. That is the terminus ad quem, as for as I am concerned.

The terminus post quem for Rotring fountain pens is probably 1982, as there really are no fountain pens from Rotring before that date. One of the reasons for this is that Pelikan owned a 50% share of Rotring since 1970, and that they probably did not want competition for their own lines of fountain pens. As they went into bankruptcy in 1982, they had to sell all their shares of Rotring. So, 1982 was the date at which Rotring became independent.

One of the first pens was probably the Rotring Renaissance which actually is essentially the same pen as the Reform 125. The innards are identical in the Reform 125 and the Renaissance (and even the outside is very similar). The Renaissance is actually a cheap Schulf├╝ller, but it goes for a lot of money on eBay in America, just like the Gehas and Reforms.

In any case, Rotring's history of fountain pens was relatively short, that is, strictly speaking from 1982 to 1988 and at most from 1982 to 2004, or roughly twenty years.[1]

1. Since this story is largely conjectural and has many holes, I would welcome any enlightenment about the details or the general outlines

Thursday, November 13, 2014

HyperCard Renewed

Dave Winer is talking about bringing back hypercard or rather he thinks it would be easy to resurrect it using "HTML and JavaScript. All you'd really have to do is:
  1. Create a UI design toolkit that allows you to draw a user interface with divs that can have background-images that are bitmaps; and that's already a feature of HTML.
  2. Create an object class accessible through scripts that mirrors the object structure of HyperCard. You just have to get out the manual and clone what they had."
"In other words, it's just a slight variant on the web." Winer thinks it is "definitely worth doing if there are people who would develop in this environment who find HTML-plus-JavaScript not easy enough to understand."

See also this response. One of the main criticisms is that "one problem with implementing HyperCard in the browser is that it was never designed to work in a client-server environment." I don't know either.

Monday, November 3, 2014

More on Lists

An interesting book on lists has just been published. It was reviewed in the Independent under the title "Why do we like making lists?" This might well be a complex question because it is far from clear that everyone does in fact like making lists. In any case, it reminded me of Nietzsche's "Why am I so intelligent?"

What I liked most in the article were the following paragraphs:
A few years back, the Italian author Umberto Eco curated an exhibition at the Louvre entitled "Infinity of Lists". "We have a limit," he wrote, "a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death." He saw lists as a way in which we shrug off the finite nature of life and embrace the infinite, while also making it somehow comprehensible.

I don't share Eco's view; my own to-do lists – those ones that begin with "1. Make List" – very frequently end with something along the lines of "14. Rest of Life; 15. End". Less a celebration of the infinite, more a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgement of the finite. But that is no less reassuring for an atheist like me, living in a world characterised by chaos. Blessed be the listmakers.
I criticized Eco's pretentiousness in a post of November 2009, called Umberto Eco on Lists. I do like the suggestion that you should start every to-do list with "1. Make List," and end it "X. End," at least implicitly.

And, no, I have not read the book itself yet.