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The Selectric Typewriter Museum On Rathergate

The site everyone on the left loves to cite (including by reference Rather himself), Jim Forbes' Selectric Typewriter Museum, has this to say about the CBS memos:

For those who want my opinion...the documents appear to be done in Word, and then copied repeatedly to make them "fuzzy". They use features that were not available on office typewriters the 1970s, specifically the combination of proportional spacing with superscript font. The IBM Executive has proportional spacing, but used fixed type bars. The Selectric has changeable type elements, but fixed spacing (some models could be selected at 10 or 12 pitch, but that's all). The Selectric Composer was not an office typewriter, but apparently did use proportional spacing. These were very expensive machines, used by printing offices, not administrative offices.
Then Forbes essentially proves with a picture that Dan Rather came on TV tonight and did his best, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.." imitation.

Since all the traffic has forced Jim to pretty much shut down his site until after the election I've mirrored the rest of his page below the jump - it's devestating...

Another update: I did an experiment, so you all can see for yourselves what different typewritten and computer printed words look like.
The first line was written using Microsoft Word 2000, on a PC, printed on a Laserjet 4. The font is New Times Roman, size is 12 point. The second line was typed using my mid 1960s IBM Executive typewriter, which has proportional spacing, but it is in bad shape, some of the letters are not striking, as the mechanism is sticky and the rubber wheel which powers the keystrokes is worn. The last line was typed using an IBM Selectric III typewriter with the Prestige Elite type ball, set to 12 characters per inch (elite spacing).

At least my low opinion of TV news remains intact.
Update: Looks like you can cross the IBM Selectric Composer off the list of IBM products that could have produced the memos. This should hardly come as a suprise, but it's still interesting as hell...


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Selectric Typewriter Museum On Rathergate:

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Comments (28)

Somethin Ain't Righ... (Below threshold)

Somethin Ain't Right

The four documents that are now alleged to be forgeries are really odd. They do seem fake, yet CBS is standing by them, and the evidence of them being fake is not absolute (yet).

The accusations are now that the DNC created the documents in an attempt to create bad press against Bush. But a large amount of documents on Bush's National Guard story have already been produced, and some just last week, that do plenty of damage to Bush. There would not have been any real need to create these four, which hardly are that damming against Bush anyway.

The Democrats did jump on the documents, and use them as additional proof that Bush did not complete his National Guard duty. But that is exactly what one would expect, especially considering the damage the Swift Boat ads did.

Another odd thing was that after the White House got them, not only did they not dispute them, but they provided copies to the press. Why would they do that?

Of course if it comes out that the documents are fake, it looks really bad for Kerry, and really good for Bush. If the issue comes up in the debates, Bush can just say he did his duty, and Kerry won't be able to mention any of the documents, because they will all have been tainted in the publics mind.

If someone were to try to create false documents that were meant to look 30 years old, wouldn't they at least do them on a typewriter, as opposed to a computer using the default font? It seems that it was too obvious, especially considering how closely they would be scrutinized, as they were the only documents not produced by the Pentagon.

Of course the answer to where they came from lies with Dan Rather, who will not reveal his sources. He must had reason to think they were real - and he does have someone who claims that those kind of documents could have existed. But has he been fooled - and now stuck in the position of admitting that he has been, and giving this huge gift to the Republicans?

Maybe I have seen too many of these movies, but the way I look at it, the evidence points more to a sophisticated ploy by the Republicans than a foolishly bumbled plan by the Democrats.

"McClellan suggested the memos surfaced as part of ``an orchestrated effort by Democrats and the Kerry campaign to tear down the president.''"

The New York Times > AP > National > CBS Defends Report on Bush Guard Memos

I watched Rather tonight, a... (Below threshold)

I watched Rather tonight, and I wasn't convinced. Not in the slightest. Killian's family says he didn't have files and that he couldn't type. The rare times he took notes, he wrote them on scraps of paper.

Military people didn't type their own notes to themselves back then. At best, you'd hand it to a secretarial pool, and it would come back with her initials on it after his.

Pull up MS Word and start typing a full sentence. Default font, default margins, default everything. Times Roman 12, all the sentences breaking after the exact same word...

It's a fake, CBS. We're not buying it.

RG,I'm convinced. ... (Below threshold)
Mrs. Davis:


I'm convinced. Those Republicans are so diabolicly clever that they have made fools of the Democrats and CBS. Seems clear to me I'd rather have someone that clever running the War on Terrorrather than someone who's hidden form the press for what, 40 days and 40 nights?

What I wonder about is after Karl Rove took the copy from the laser printer, to whom did he give it so that Dan Rather would be so convinced of its authenticity that he would risk his professional reputation. That's some mutual friend somewhere in the chain of posession.

And after the election, I hear Rove will be taking the position of Plot Wizard for Tom Clancey making millions.

RG do you sleep with this aluminum thingy on, too?

Here's a new reason to know... (Below threshold)

Here's a new reason to know that the documents
were created on a word processor. Read about
text centering:

OUCH- Considering a bunch o... (Below threshold)

OUCH- Considering a bunch of liberal sites linked that I bet they are dying.

Of course the answer to ... (Below threshold)

Of course the answer to where they came from lies with Dan Rather, who will not reveal his sources. He must had reason to think they were real - and he does have someone who claims that those kind of documents could have existed. But has he been fooled - and now stuck in the position of admitting that he has been, and giving this huge gift to the Republicans?

Oh, I see, the Republicans made the Democrats and Rather do what they did. Well, then it shows you that we can't afford to have Liberal doofuses in charge of the nation. The argument that Libs are too stupid to rule works for me. Also, people are acting as if Rather really is an unbiased journalist. That pigeon flew the coup a long time ago. I believe Rather is pals with many Dems especially in Texas (he's connected to another star witness against Bush -- Ben Barnes) and even "performed" for them at Democrat Party fundraisers. The reason there are no calls for his head by his colleagues is that they're probably guilty of pretty much the same thing.

I think this just about sum... (Below threshold)
Jack Kramer:

I think this just about sums up tonight:


the two posts at Shape of D... (Below threshold)

the two posts at Shape of Days are in a word, conclusive. this entire episode is really producing some investigative journalism of the highest quality around the web, and i gotta give today's award to Jeff Harrell, hands down. big time kudos.

I've also posted some typog... (Below threshold)

I've also posted some typographic considerations, not the least of which is that Times New Roman was changed from the 1980s onward. It's not even the same face as it would have been on the old IBMs.


I voted in the CNN poll tha... (Below threshold)

I voted in the CNN poll that Jim Forbes pointed to, and I'm astounded there are actually 4,000+ votes for Rather and CBS to not disclose where they got the memos.

Apparently the forger is better at stuffing online polls than in forging typewritten memos.

FYI, you don't have to have... (Below threshold)

FYI, you don't have to have built in superscript font to get superscript font characters. Ask any secretary who typed in a math or science department in the 70's. There were individual characters on plastic handles for special characters. You held them in place, struck any key, the typewriter's key hit the special character, and typed it on the page. You could get exponents, pi, integral signs, greek letters, and anything else you needed. The fact that a character wasn't available as a standard feature on a typewriter model doesn't mean that it couldn't be typed on that model.

4,000 in a CNN poll? They m... (Below threshold)

4,000 in a CNN poll? They must have only counted votes from Libs and Dems.

Rather's denial reminds me ... (Below threshold)

Rather's denial reminds me of the C&W classic "Deny, Deny, Deny"

"Who are you going to believe, me or your lying eyes?"

I noticed that the media is... (Below threshold)

I noticed that the media is concentrating their Rathergate stories on the documents. Just as disturbing is the fact no one in the media is investigating Dan Rather's ties to the Texas Democrats such as Ben Barnes. Why haven't they gone back to look at the fundraiser at which he gave a speech to raise money for Dem candidates? The fact that Rather's daughter Robin is deeply involved in the Dem Party?

The Blogosphere is a marvel... (Below threshold)

The Blogosphere is a marvelous thing, and its hearty foot-soldiers are quick, clever and technically far advanced, but in this whole phony memo matter I fear the Blogosphere's been snookered. Why, you ask? Because you're all trying like the dickens to prove a negative: that the memos weren't written in 1973. Can't be done. It's like proving, conclusively, that Dan Rather has never had sex with a llama. I say again: Can't. Be. Done.

Focus, instead, on the fact that Rather and Co. are making a new rule: "when we say something, it's the truth unless somebody can prove it's not." If the MSM gets away with this ploy, kiss the truth goodbye.

<a href="http://www.pcmag.c... (Below threshold)
Barry Simon:
What are the odds that an I... (Below threshold)
garry weber:

What are the odds that an IBM Composer was being used for routine correspondence in an ANG office when the price was:

"$3,600 to $4,400 in unadjusted 1973 dollars here. If you use one of the widely available deflation or purchasing-power calculators, you end up with an equivalent in 2004 dollars of between about $16,000 and about $22,000."


I had an IBM Selectric III ... (Below threshold)
Rusty Hodge:

I had an IBM Selectric III in 1979 that had porportional spacing, special code keys for making superscript TH things, and had a TIMES ROMAN element for it. It cost about $1500 in 1979.

Also found some more interesting info about older IBM typewriters here.

Rusty says he had a Selectr... (Below threshold)

Rusty says he had a Selectric in 1979 and paid about $1500. That's about $4042.92 now and if you adjust to 1972 @ $1500 it's $6500. How many $6000 typewriters do you suppose the Texas Air National Guard had? Was it just this one? How lucky.

Mathman posted above: There... (Below threshold)

Mathman posted above: There were individual characters on plastic handles for special characters. You held them in place, struck any key, the typewriter's key hit the special character, and typed it on the page. You could get exponents, pi, integral signs, greek letters, and anything else you needed. The fact that a character wasn't available as a standard feature on a typewriter model doesn't mean that it couldn't be typed on that model.

Yes, I can see this Officer whipping out the special character plastic handle thingy to type himself a note... I guess it could be true. I often take my handwritten grovery lists to a professional Typesetter before I go shopping.

That the Republicans plante... (Below threshold)

That the Republicans planted this one to smear the Kerry campaign train wreck is an interesting musing, but highly doubtful. I say the Clintons did it for the same result. Hillary can now run in '08 and Kerry joins the Dukakis and Mondale "who?" club.

Erik, Selectrics were EVERY... (Below threshold)
Rusty Hodge:

Erik, Selectrics were EVERYWHERE in business in the 60s and 70s. Just like computers today. How much do you think businesses (and the military) spend on computes, software and the associated networks now? Easily $6000 a pop. My grandmother who did bookkeeping for a mom and pop pest control company had a Selectric in the late 60s. Typing classrooms in community colleges were filled with Selectrics.

Ok, lets see now, we are to... (Below threshold)

Ok, lets see now, we are to believe:
1) An IBM model existed that did porportional spacing, and it did the "psudo kernaling" (where some letters actually tuck inunder adjacent letters) like MSWord.
2) You could get little plastic thingies that allowed superscript and the user happened to place it in EXACTLY the same location as MSWord places the superscript.
3) The officer who signed the letter signed his name a little differently from all his other documents, but the same on these documents.
4) The officer was being pressured by another officer who retired 18 months earlier.
5) Other minor things, like wording of memo being strange, and who sends a CYA memo to only themself?

If you still think these memos could POSSIBLY be real, you must believe that the law of random probably should allow the atoms in my body to suddenly pass through those of my chair, and I will fall on the floor at any moment.

However, I wouldn't be surprised if a Clinton supporter had something to do with this, because it is such a poor job, it was almost like it was intended to be found. And CBS would not have run with anything from a republican without being more cynical and careful. Coming from a democrat, CBS would run with it because they WANTED it to be true. It had to have come from a democrat, and the only ones that would do something like that is one who is expecting reward in the future, otherwise they would be dead politically, if they were outed by CBS.

In case anybody missed the ... (Below threshold)

In case anybody missed the Dallas Morning News yesterday: "She [Marian Carr Knox] identified those machines as a mechanical Olympia typewriter and the IBM Selectric that replaced it in the early 1970s."

"She spoke fondly of the Olympia, which she said had a key with the "th" superscript character that has been the focus of much debate in the CBS memos."

I have written today (Sept.... (Below threshold)

I have written today (Sept. 16) to the address which used the zip 77034 and the PO 34567(!) today (111th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, Houston, TX. I'll post the response, but suspect my letter will come back as the address is so old.

Wait just a minute... didn'... (Below threshold)

Wait just a minute... didn't everyone else see the "RE-ENACTMENT" script over on the screen when the memos were shown?

No need to look too long or too hard for the Rather/DNC connection... just look at the CBS News website... looks like a DNC mailer. All the headline blurbs are "Kerry Rising Fast!" and negative statements regarding Bush.

CBS is dead, has been for some time. This is merely a death rattle.

The Bush Air Guard forgerie... (Below threshold)

The Bush Air Guard forgeries are obviously a diabolical plot by Dan Rather, who has realized how badly he defamed Bush the elder, and is now making it up to Bush the junior.

Rather himself typed the memos, and knew they would be outed. Then he stonewalled for two weeks.

Rather is an authentic American Hero. He has sacked his professional reputation to help reelect the President.

And he is also communicating with little green men, but that is another story.

Where is the media now that... (Below threshold)
Bev Messner:

Where is the media now that the documents were proved REAL? Of course that will never make it to the mass media. When the Republicans make a mistake (ooops, no weapons of mass distruction) our kids die. Turn off the tv propaganda machine and tune into news from the rest of the world. Children in Europe are so far ahead of our kids,but it's not their fault. They have been heavily marketed to by the big corp. machine. Just FOLLOW THE MONEY TRAIL. Who is getting rich off of this "war"? In the last four years our country has gone from a several billion dollar SURPLUS to a several trillion dollar DEFICIT!!!We will have Bush to thank for the next depression.






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