You may have seen the recent New York Post article Typewrite & Wrong: NYPD ‘Wastes’ $1M on Relics by Jeremy Olshan, or perhaps you saw it referenced on BoingBoing. As written, it’s a perfect marriage of web-ready themes: government waste and the failure of institutions to rapidly adopt digital technology. “The city is plunking down nearly $1 million…” Olshan writes, “for the purchase of thousands of new manual and electric typewriters over the next three years.”
I wrote Swintec to ask them about this article, and also to inquire about their product line, which includes clear cabinet typewriters, designed for use in correctional institutions. Ed Michael, Sales Manager for Swintec, responded with some interesting clarifications about modern typewriter technology and the deal with the NYPD:
Thanks for your interest in Swintec Typewriter Company after reading the article in the NY Post on Monday July 13, 2009 entitled “Typewrite & Wrong, NYPD ‘Wastes’ $1M on relics.”
First of all, let me clear up the misconceptions, mistakes and misgivings the New York Post printed in its article. Columnist Jeremy Olshan misstated the name of the contract, which is “Typewriters: Manual and Electronic,” not “Manual and Electric.” There is a big difference between electric typewriters and electronic typewriters.
The duration of the contract is 5 years, not 3 years. The longer duration spreads out the contract amount for 5 years, which makes the annual amount much less; besides the contract amount is only posted as an approximate value. The City is not bound in any way to purchase the value of the contract. In a depressed economy, the City does not have to spend the money in the contract at all; however, what expenditure it does have to spend is done at a contract rate rather than a retail rate, and that makes a big difference.
He (Jeremy Olshan) intimates that the NYPD is purchasing old manual and electric typewriters that are outdated relics from Swintec. Nothing is further from the truth. The portion of the contract that Swintec is responsible for is the Electronic Typewriter portion wherein we list 3-Swintec Electronic typewriters with Display, Memory and Spellproof and 2-Swintec Word Processors with 15″ Monitors, Disk Drives and Interfaced Electronic Typewriters. These are high tech electronic office machines, not old electric or manual typewriters.
In fact, the name of the contract is also misleading, as the Manual Typewriter portion of the contract bid was not bid on at all, so it was not awarded to anyone. There are no manual typewriters on the NYC contract for “Typewriters: Manual and Electronic.” He (Jeremy Olshan) also lists the suggested retail price of the typewriters as a point of reference. Of course, the contract price is much lower than the retail price, since it is a competitive bid type of contract. The contract is very cost effective for the city to utilize, and the contract provides for all necessary supplies such as ribbons, correction tapes, print wheels, and extended warranty at very affordable prices, so the statement that he placed in the article, “We have to sneak around the rest of the precinct in search of a ribbon to steal,” is absolutely ludicrous. The NYPD Quartermaster keeps inventory on all supplies that the police officers and detectives need. All they have to do is call their Quartermaster Sergeant to have the necessary supplies sent over.
We are proud to hold this contract and we feel we are doing a great service for the City of New York in providing these Swintec electronic typewriters and Word Processors to fulfill the requirements of their daily applications and needs. We not only have equipment at the police department, we also have our typewriters and word processors in numerous other agencies in NYC. The applications we support are many. The Word Processors allow the person using the machine to program in forms such as Purchase Orders into the typewriter portion and then complete the order on the monitor screen, then, place the form into the typewriter and press print, and the complete form is filled out automatically from top to bottom without any errors.
The typist can place a multiple-part form into the typewriter, and by using the display, can type the necessary information onto the display. While they are entering the info, the typewriter will Spellproof as they are typing and will alert the typist when a mistake is sensed. At that point, the display will offer the correct spellings of a list of words that could be the correct words and will replace the selected word automatically onto the display. When the typist wants to print onto the form, there is a key labeled “Print” on the keyboard and will print the display information onto the form, again, without mistakes. We offer several models to NY City on this contract and all come with a 1-year warranty with an optional 1-year extension.
Our 8500C/7000 60K SC word processor and 8500C/2600 60K SC word processors are full-fledged word processors. They are comprised of a Swintec model 7000C typewriter or a Swintec 2600C typewriter interfaced to an 8500C word processor/ floppy disk drive with a 15″ full-screen monitor. This entire package sits nicely on a desk return and makes a very useful device for a secretary or clerk dedicated to doing daily typing chores. The applications available on the 8500 are many: Forms-Fill-In, Mail Merge, memos, letters, envelopes, lists, special documents with page numbering, headers, footers, and more. The only application it does not do is go onto the internet. In some applications, that is important, especially when used inside prisons for inmate use in Law Libraries.
The 2640SC and 7040SC are typewriter models with Display/Memory. The 2640SC has a 40-character display with a memory capacity of 112,000 characters (approx. 56 pages) permitting the typist to prepare a document in memory and then save it to come back at a later time, then to open it up to add to it or complete it and then print it. Forms can be programmed into the memory of this typewriter remembering exactly where to move to and stop to allow the typist to enter the necessary data and then will move automatically to the next printing field and so on to the end of the form. The Swintec 7040SC has the same functions as the 2640SC except that it offers a larger carriage of 17″ for wider forms.
Seven years ago we developed several “Swintec Clear Cabinet Typewriters” for use in prisons by inmates. The purpose for the clear cabinet is to eliminate a hiding place for the contraband that is a huge problem in prisons. Weapons, drugs, notes, and anything that is not permitted inside a prison is considered contraband. It is the responsibility of the corrections officer to keep each inmate’s cell as contraband-free as possible. He must search every inmate’s possessions on a regular basis. It has been necessary in the past to disassemble the typewriters completely to be sure there is nothing hidden inside and then put them back together. If a typewriter is damaged in the process, the prison must pay for it to be repaired. Both the time and cost of repair are very costly. Our Clear Cabinet typewriters solved 2 problems; very little time is required to look over a clear typewriter to see if anything is hidden inside, and it is not going to be damaged because it does not have to be taken apart.
We make several models available for inmates. The 2410CC is a basic non-memory clear typewriter with no storage memory for prisons that do not permit typewriters with memory.
The 2416DM CC models come in 6 memory capacities: 4K, 7K, 16K, 32K, 64K, and 128K, where K stands for thousand. 4K is 4,000 and 128K is 128,000 characters of storage. The average business letter is approximately 2000 characters.
The inmates in their cells either own these clear typewriters or they are placed in the Law Library and shared by inmates during their library time for use to prepare their litigation or for general typing.
There are also larger models of clear typewriters more suited for heavy-duty use by multiple users with and without memory. These are the 2600CC and the 2640CC.
We developed numerous applications in the past for classroom use and for word processing. When a special application needs to be solved, we often have a solution for completing it on one of our elecronic typewriter or word processor models.
Swintec has been working with government accounts since 1985 and has been in existence since 1973 when we started with a line of electronic calculators. We were the first typewriter company to place an electronic typewriter on Federal Contract as a sole source vendor in 1985.
You can see the entire line of Swintec products on our web site, www.swintec.com.
If you have any questions, feel free to call or write at any time. We will be glad to speak with you.
Edward A. Michael
320 West Commercial Ave
Moonachie NJ 07074
(201) 935-0115 ext 313
(201) 935-6021 fax
1-800-225-0867 ext 313
If I read this correctly, The New York Post misrepresented:
- The technology being purchased
- The length of the contract
- The cost of the typewriters to be paid by the NYPD
- Whether the typewriters are maintained or serviced
- Whether the NYPD was obligated to/intended to buy $1M of merchandise
Well, at least it made for an exciting headline. It’s too bad though–whether and how institutions can modernize paperwork processing could be an interesting topic.