Joined: 23 Sep 2022
|Posted: Fri Jan 20, 2023 10:19 am Post subject: The (my) year of the Curta
|There hasn't been too much traffic here lately, so I thought I'd share some anecdotes about my first year as a Curta owner as a reminiscence to 2022.
It all started a very long time ago. When I went to school, one of my friends there brought a small shiny metallical cylinder to a math class and showed it to the class. At that time, I already had an old Schubert DRV calculator at home that my aunt saved from being scrapped at the office, so mechanical calculators were not new to me, but this one fascinated me because of its elegance and size, and the distinctive sound it made when operated. It was, of course, a Curta I.
Unfortunately there was no Internet at that time, no eBay and no other ways except garage sales to get hold of one of them, and for a pupil of my age and interests (which were, among computers and computers, computers) paying a couple of hundred Deutsche Mark for an old calculator was out of the question, so, I hate to say it, sooner or later the beautiful Curta landed in some slightly dusty corner of my memory's attic, where it rested for a couple of years (don't ask).
And there it stayed until April 2022, when murff posted one of the wonderful photos he has so many of in a computer forum. Being slightly better off than in the last millennium (the computers that occupied my interest in the 80s turned out to be a good investment of time and work) I decided to give it a try and started watching eBay for Curtas. Which isn't too hard, as there are lots of them around - just not necessarily for reasonable prices. Quite the opposite, in fact.
Anyway, one Sunday night in April I got notified of an auction of an as-new Curta II with all documents, box and of course can, which was about to expire soon, albeit at the upper end of my self imposed price limit. I bid an amount in the interval between the currend bid and that limit, and to my own surprise I won the auction at the minimum possible price ... my first Curta! When it arrived (from Switzerland, as it turned out, increasing the price substantially by a heavy customs fee) it turned out to be absolutely perfect - no traces of use whatsoever, everything went smoothly, and there was the beautiful Curta sound again - I was hooked immediately.
There was, however, a drawback. A big one. How could I play with a Curta that obviously had never been used before? The idea of adding wear marks to a Curta that had remained in pristine condition for almost 60 years was horrible, I couldn't do that! So I carefully took it out of its canister looked at it and very occasionally performed some calculations, but most of the time I had it sitting on my desk in its original packaging and enjoyed its company.
Apart from that, I wanted to "complete" my "collection" by adding a Curta I to it. While the II is a beautiful machine, I actually prefer the black finish and for me the Type I is the "real McCoy", being the small and elegant pocket computer I had seen many years ago and fallen in love with. So I continued my search, and extended it to another online trading platform. Then, three months went by ...
At last I found my Type I, for a very reasonable price - but with a broken clearing ring. It looked very decent apart from that, so I offered the seller an amount that took into account that the Curta would need to travel to Romano for repair, and on one sunny evening I went off to the Saarland, a two-hour drive, to collect it as the owner wouldn't send it, and I wanted to look for hidden defects before actually buying it anyway. To my positive surprise it was in very good, albeit slightly used, shape apart from the clearing ring and an urgent need for cleaning and lubricating, so I bought it and contacted Romano for repair.
Until I sent it off (immediately before heading off to a hackers conference, so the pain of being separated from my "new" Curta wasn't too bad) I played with it as much as my time and the broken clearing ring permitted. Of course, Romano did an outstanding job of fixing the little Curta, and did some further magic apart from cleaning and lubricating it as well, so now it's a really nice specimen that is beautiful to look at but not too beautiful to play with. Now I should be happy, shouldn't I?
I should definitely. And I should have cancelled my saved searches in the online trading platforms. Alas, succeeding at the first, I failed at the second task.
In September, I stumbled across an auction for a Curta II that wasn't an official model, a black one with black and red sliders and all signs of a very late Curta II, for a ridiculous price. Ridiculously high, unfortunately. On the other hand, esthecically I prefer the black Curtas over the gray ones, and it seemed to be in an almost mint condition, including the canister, so I could not resist and bought it anyway. It turned out that there are a number of these around, and there is an interesting thread about this variant of late Curta II here in the forum: https://curta.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=472
Since there is no indication that these Curtas were ever officially sold I named it after a Doctor Who episode, "The impossible Girl", in which the girl in question is named "Clara" - so now I had two Curtas and one Clara (the lettering on the machine and the canister is unfortunately incorrect )
OK. Three should be enough.
On the other hand - my Curta I is a later model with a plastic crank and, since the repair, a plastic clearing ring, and I just started to show early signs of addiction (probably some people might contradict me on the word "early" after having bought three of them, but I prefer to see it that way). And there still were the "search warrants" spilling out results ...
One fine day in October I found a reasonably priced earlier Type I, and after exchanging some messages with the owner I decided to buy it immediately. It obviously had been serviced not too long ago and works really smoothly, is in good condition and so there is Curta number four. Speaking of numbers ... its serial number is 37338. Not too interestng, isn't it?
It wasn't. Until a week later, when I found number 37339 in an online auction.
This one was a bit difficult to negotiate, and I almost hadn't bought it. The seller wasn't too communicative, and a first attempt at buying it using a secure payment function of the online platform was declined because they didn't trust the mechanism, having heard of scammers who, after receiving the goods, decline the reception and recaimed their money, which makes it really hard next to impossible for the seller to get their money. So no, they wouldn't do it.
On the other hand I didn't want to do a bank transfer or other ways of insecure payment, since there are really a lot of fraudsters around at that particular online platform. Normally you can spot them quite easily by suggesting to collect the item in question personally, so that was what I did, and they agreed. So, couple of days later, I used a business trip I had to make anyway for a quick detour to Krefeld and met the sellers, who actually were a very nice couple who wanted to clear out some stuff they inherited from their parents, among them the irresistibly numbered 37339. It will likely travel to Romano in the next few weeks, although I don't feel too good separating 37338 and 37339 again, even it it is for a short time. Imagine something going wrong and the machine getting lost! Maybe it's time for a trip to Ravenna. I'm still undecided.
The sellers and I went on for a cup of coffee afterwards and it they were really nice acquaintance. And (there's always a catch) they had another Curta for sale. This time, a gray Curta II, which immediately made me shrug it off, even though they substantially lowered the price they asked for. I already have a Curta II after all, and gray ... no, I'm starting to get picky. So I drove home with one of the two, leaving the second one in Krefeld.
Being slightly off my usual rational rails when it comes to Curtas, I already had second thoughts about that after a couple of kilometres on the Autobahn.
Back at home, I looked at the auction platform again and found the second Curta II, the one I left behind, being offered. And - it was really a mistake not to take a second look when they showed it to me - it turned out to be a very early gray specimen, with the old schema of red and black sliders and serial number 510525, which makes it one of the earliest known gray Curta II, 510520 being the last all black ones (apart from the "Claras").
This time, they agreed to send it to me, and I way comfortable with a bank transfer as well. So now there is Curta number six, and given the fact that there is not much for me to desire (except maybe an early black Type II in good condition. And a really early Type I, or two from different phases .... but definitely not more than two, except paybe one with a canister that turns left for opening ... and ... ah, dammit!), and given the current prices for even mediocre Curtas, the year ended without further incidents.
Have a nice year 2023!
Last edited by Pete42 on Fri Jan 20, 2023 1:58 pm; edited 1 time in total