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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sun, 11 Mar 2018 22:44:54 -0400
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Verhulst <[log in to unmask]>
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On 3/11/2018 10:35 PM, Clay Shannon wrote:
> So how is that any different from modern technology?

I'm not sure what you mean by that. I have many modern gadgets in my 
house that are quite reliable.  In any case, I engineer things for a 
living (I'm only a twain fan) and when I first saw the machine in 
Hartford, back when you could actually touch it, my first reaction was 
"way too many moving parts". Inevitably, reliability goes down when the 
number of moving parts go up.


> -- B. Clay Shannon
> [log in to unmask]
>> On Mar 11, 2018, at 7:17 PM, Kevin Mac Donnell <[log in to unmask]
> OM> wrote:
>> =20
>> The machine worked just fine, but only for a few hours at a time. See my=20=
>> review of Richard Hopkins' book on it for some good leads and references.=20=
>> Hopkins is an expert in 19th and early 20th century printing technologies=20=
>> and has the best understanding of the Paige compositor from an engineering=
> =20
>> standpoint. He is fully capable of getting the one surviving example back i=
> n=20
>> working order, and has a basement full of working antique printing=20
>> machinery.
>> =20
>> The Mergenthaler (linotype) approached type-setting in a manner that was=20=
>> counter-intuitive and did not attempt to precisely replicate the process=20=
>> previously performed by human hands, but it worked and was reliable for=20=
>> extended periods of time. The Paige compositor tried to replicate each ste=
> p=20
>> previously performed by humans, which appealed to Twain's intuitive sense=20=
>> and also aligned with his personal experiences as a type-setter, but it wa=
> s=20
>> a failure as a reliable technical or mechanical device. Using a modern=20
>> analogy, perhaps think of it this way: Would you rather sit in the driver'=
> s=20
>> seat of a self-driving car with automatic sensors at the front back and=20=
>> sides that automatically steers, accelerates and brakes--or, would you=20
>> prefer to sit in the passenger seat while a robot shaped like a human sits=
> =20
>> in the driver's seat operating the controls with mechanical arms and legs=20=
>> with all of its sensors in its robotic head that constantly swivels around=
> =20
>> "reading" the road, the rear-view mirror, the speedometer, etc.? Twain cho=
> se=20
>> the latter, and it wrecked.
>> =20
>> Kevin
>> @
>> Mac Donnell Rare Books
>> 9307 Glenlake Drive
>> Austin TX 78730
>> 512-345-4139
>> Member: ABAA, ILAB
>> *************************
>> You may browse our books at:
>> =20
>> =20
>> -----Original Message-----=20
>> From: Carl J. Chimi
>> Sent: Sunday, March 11, 2018 6:50 PM
>> To: [log in to unmask]
>> Subject: Paige Typesetter
>> =20
>> I'm just reading the section of the recent edition of the Autobiography in=
>> which Clemens discusses to some extent his perception of how the typesette=
> r
>> worked.  His description is valuable, not only because he had considerable=
>> experience as a compositor, but also to show how he could have been so tak=
> en
>> by the machine as to invest so heavily in it.
>> =20
>> I've read descriptions of the machine that range from roughly "hopelessly
>> incapable of the task" to "hopelessly complex given the task".  I've seen i=
> t
>> depicted in the 1940s biopic as a truly silly and ridiculous device.  I
>> believe I even saw some version of the actual machine in the basement of t=
> he
>> Hartford house the first time I visited back in late 1972.  Nothing like t=
> he
>> Rube Goldberg thing in the movie.  Not being an expert, but being
>> mechanically inclined, I remember the machine I saw as "plausible".
>> =20
>> All this has me wondering if anyone has ever written a study of the
>> technical aspects of the machine.  How it worked.  How it perhaps drew on
>> and related to other technology of that period.  That Clemens said such a
>> machine would have to "think" is fascinating, and makes me wonder how Paig=
> e
>> created something that did apparently work and did, apparently, give the
>> illusion of "thinking".
>> =20
>> I figure if anyone has written on this topic, this is the forum that would=
>> know about it.
>> =20
>> Thanks,
>> =20
>> Carl
>> Grandfather of Olivia=20