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Typewriters at the Wende Museum

by | May 14, 2021 | Optima | 6 comments

Yesterday my family and I visited the Wende Museum of the Cold War in Culver City, California. My son, who’s about to graduate from college, had an internship here—virtually. He worked cataloguing items online, but this was his first chance to visit the place in person.

The museum focuses on artifacts of daily life and propaganda from behind the Iron Curtain, especially East Germany. As we know, that state produced an abundance of typewriters—the best in the Communist bloc.

The museum includes a large collection of Soviet books …

… and eye-catching Communist technology.

The current exhibit shows a Mercedes typewriter as it supposedly would have been used from day to day (although I doubt that these expensive items were actually used in family homes).

Another section of the exhibit shows a 1950s Optima Super and a 1970s Robotron Cella as they might have appeared at a flea market after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Robotron was the name for a socialist conglomerate that eventually absorbed the traditional East German typewriter factories. It made computers, electronics, and business machines.

Typewriters in the Communist bloc were not just expressions of the power of socialized production; they were also threats to state power, because they could be used to produce samizdat, unauthorized publications. (See the film “The Lives of Others” for a dramatization of this situation.) Despite Communist states’ efforts to document and supervise every typewriter within their borders, some machines were mobilized by dissidents. The museum includes these examples of Polish samizdat from the period of the Solidarity movement.

This unusual museum is well worth a visit if you’re in the LA area.

6 Comments

  1. John Cooper

    Looks fascinating! You're right, a typewriter wouldn't have been a likely item in your typical Soviet apartment, but I can imagine one in the home of a mid-level government official.

    LOVE the telephones and the radio!

    Reply
  2. Bill M

    An interesting place I'd like to visit on my next trip to CA. The old telephone and radio is neat. Once in a while old Russian radios appear for sale at hamfests. Interesting, but I doubt they are repairable in the USA as parts for old American radios are starting to become scarce.

    Reply
  3. Bill M

    I'm warning all Blogger users that Mozilla Firefox is blocking Blogger as a deceptive website. I've notified Mozilla the sites are not deceptive. I have not checked WP blogs yet. I'm on Chrome and things are fine.

    Reply
  4. Rob Bowker

    I'm surprised there's a Cold War museum, especially in that neck of the woods. I wonder what prompted it to be founded? I'll check the link. I must investigate the history of the red five-pointed star. I adopted it for my business logo some time ago for reasons of recognition, visual brevity and bloody mindedness. And so many brewers use it in packaging, almost as a talisman. Bill's possibly TOO up to date? I'm on an old version of Firefox (48.0.2) on Mac OS 10.8.5 – I know, I should keep up with the times :-) However, I'm getting through to Blogger sites OK.

    Reply
  5. Bill M

    For the few bloggers I was able to comment about Blogger; blogger's no longer being blocked.

    Reply
  6. Richard P

    From Blaine J: "I found the post fascinating. Brought back some fond memories of being back in college, and later at the University, watching the world change. The Cold War come to an end. There seemed so much promise in the world back then.

    For some reason, I now want to go drag out Le Carre’s *Karla Trilogy* and get lost for the evening."

    Reply

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