Every machine in Steve Soboroff's typewriter collection tells a different story, and one of them comes from a planet called Krypton.
The keys of Julie Andrews' IBM Selectric match her electric blue eyes; the Unabomber's is missing some parts, which he used to make bombs; and Jerry Siegel's black Royal, his daughter says, holds his spirit, which gave itself to Superman, articles in Stars & Stripes and many other projects.
These and 25 other famous typewriters — profiled in 2012 on "Off-Ramp" — are now on display at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills. Laura Siegel Larson and her son Michael Larson were at the opening celebration, and I caught up with them at a Royal Portable Quiet Deluxe that was, Laura says, Siegel's "pride and joy. He loved this portable typewriter, and he took it all over with him." (Siegel wrote Superman, while Joe Shuster illustrated it.)
Typewriters, Laura says, are fundamentally different from word processors. "It's just you and this machine that becomes a friend of yours. And it's your collaborator, cohort, as you're doing things. Computers, because they're electronic, have a life of their own, so you can't kind of blend your personality with them as easily as on a typewriter."
Laura, now an advocate for creators' rights after years fighting for her father's intellectual property rights with Superman, says she let the Royal become part of the Soboroff collection because Soboroff uses the machines for auctions that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for journalism scholarships, and because it was time.
"I had to process the passing of my dad and mom, and this is something that will inspire people. I believe that the vibration of the person that has typed on a typewriter, sort of never leaves it, and there's something special about each one. And so I wanted people to make contact with my dad and their own creativity."
Make sure to listen to the audio (click the button on the left) for the full interview, which includes Laura's son Michael, a writer who feels a similar kinship with his laptop.
The Soboroff Collection is at the Paley Center for Media, 465 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills CA, through Jan. 4.