|By the year 1930, the vast majority of machines in the portable class which were enjoying important places in the market were four-bank, single-shift keyboard machines which naturally by simple virtue of this design shared operative qualities with the standard typewriters in use all over the world. This fact makes the appearance in that year of the small three-bank BAR-LET portable all the more surprising.
As is well known, the mechanical essentials of the machine were not entirely new; essentially the same machine had been produced originally in 1922, in Germany, as the Mitex, and in 1923 this machine reappeared as the Tell. While the mechanism of the Bar-Let was not new, the body style was, being squarer, taller and more upright, giving it an appearance of being more massive than it really needed to be or was. The Bar-Let was a product of the Bar-Lock (1925) Company, Nottingham, England, producers of the Bar-Lock Standard Typewriter for some years by this time.
|Our example is a middle-1930's Bar-Let Model 2, serial number 37613. The Model 1 had a shorter appearance since it had a lower top deck with protruding tower-like ribbon spool enclosures; the spools are hidden fully in the Model 2 below a top cover secured by two thumb screws. The machine was produced only through about 1939 (a totally different four-bank Bar-Lock Portable having in the interim been introduced, and having failed) and in that time something in the mid-50,000 range of units of the Bar-Let of both models was built. No portables were produced by this company following the Second World War.|
|Getting to the particulars, the Bar-Let Model 2 is a three-bank double-shift machine employing carriage shift; a shift lock lever is located on the front of the machine above the shift keys, which are located on the left side only. The carriage shift is not vertical in action, but rather a rocking action with hinging at the rear of the unitized carriage assembly (more about which in a moment.) The machine has a back-space key, but the margin release is operated by a small lever centered above the paper table which operatively rocks the margin set rack to allow clearing the stops for motion outside the settings. Paper release is operated by tabs on either end of the paper table; the paper table is unitized with the carriage paper tray, and feed rollers, and is held in operating position by strong spring pressure. Two degrees of line-space are available, and the line-spacing is accomplished by a small squeeze-type lever. Platen knob is located on the right side only. Perhaps the most notable external feature of the machine is the fact that the rows of keys are actually not straight, but semi-circular; this is clearly visible in the pictures provided.|
|As mentioned earlier, the carriage is mounted in such a manner that the shifting action is radial to the mounting itself, which is a horizontal rod to the rear of the carriage. This mounting is actually designed to allow the entire carriage to be hinged up and back, allowing access to the carriage mechanisms themselves and those under it. In order to raise the carriage, one of the two shift keys is pressed slightly and then the carriage is raised bodily to the position seen here. The shift keys must be pressed in order to operate a novel lockout mechanism that is in place to hold the carriage down at all times unless it is being shifted; the lockout releases upon depression of either shift key, but of course shift operation only raises the carriage to the required height to line up the print point with the desired character on the type face.
The mainspring (center, on carriage) drives directly by gearing, no drawband being employed at all. All operative functions between body and carriage disengage and re-engage simply, positively and automatically.
|The key lever / type bar mechanism is of interest in the Bar-Let. This machine actually employs full-length key levers that run all the way to the rear of the machine, under the type-basket and each of these has its own key-lever return spring mounted to the rear of the machine; these can be seen at the top of the photo. Action is taken off the key levers by a toggle mechanism that pulls a wire connected to the type bar. However, each type bar itself also has a return spring, mounted to it on one end and to the type-bar rest support on the other; these springs do not, however, come into action (that is to say they do not exert resistance or spring tension) until the type-bar is approximately half-way to the print point. The type-bar in the photo at right is moved to the print point just far enough to tension the spring seen attached to it.
This design produced what proved to be one of the very stiffest, hardest typing actions of any small typewriter tested here. Absolute force must be used in order to get the machine to both make an impression and space the carriage; an escapement bail operated by the key levers is employed. While it is refreshing to find such a small machine with a strong, sturdy feel, the touch of the machine is so strong that one immediately wishes it were not.
|Although it is true that there is nothing in the feel, or the construction of the Bar-Let to make one wonder if it could stand the punishment required to operate it, it is also true that it was not the most competitive machine and that it was introduced right at the beginning of the Great Depression. Perhaps it should be surprising that it lasted at all, but it also may be true that given the cost in England of other machines imported the Bar-Let might have been attractive in price. Whatever the case, although it only sold just over 50,000 units it did last almost a decade through two models and one cannot assess the machine with a mark of failure; perhaps a mark of "limited success" is more appropriate.|