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Frykman Technologies still takes care of low-tech typewriters
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff

Print wheels, like the one held here by Frykman Technologies' co-owner Vaughn Frykman, are used in certain typewriters.


Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

Frykman Technologies technician Fernando Velez learned how to repair typewriters four years ago. Many of the machines he fixes are older than he is, his boss joked.


Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

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Published: 7/25/2008 12:11 AM

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For people of a certain age, the rat-a-tat of a typewriter in action is an unmistakable sound.

But as personal computers superseded typewriters as indispensable pieces of office equipment, those machine-gun-like bursts of typebar hitting paper became less and less familiar. Today you'd be hard-pressed to find an IBM, Smith Corona, Royal or Underwood typewriter - once among the most popular brands - in use.

But they're out there. Just ask Vaughn Frykman, co-owner of Frykman Technologies in Buffalo Grove.

Frykman and his brother, Duane, own one of Lake County's last-remaining typewriter sales and repair shops. Most of their business - set in a quiet office park at 1360 E. Busch Parkway - focuses on copiers, fax machines and printers, but they still handle typewriters.

"I can't say we do a lot anymore, but we just sold some ribbons," Vaughn Frykman says. "As long as we can get the parts or the products, we take care of the customer."

Formerly of Wheeling, the business was founded by the brothers' late father, Larry, in 1975. Larry spent 40 years as a salesman for Remington Rand, a now-defunct typewriter and computer company, before striking out on his own, his sons recall.

They inherited the business when he died in 1982 and relocated the shop to Buffalo Grove in 1998. Painted portraits of their dad and late mother, Connie, hang prominently in the lobby.

Today, Frykman Technologies typically sells about one typewriter a month and repairs two or three a month. Most belong to longtime patrons, Vaughn Frykman explains.

"We have customers ... who've been with us for 20 or 30 years," he says. "I've got a company in Des Plaines where the two ladies won't give up their typewriters for nothing."

Some people prefer typewriters because they're used to working with the old-style machines and don't want to switch to computers, Vaughn Frykman said. Others keep them because they can be better at some jobs - such as filling out forms or labels - than computers.

"Not that you don't have computers that print out labels, but it's just quicker," he says.

All of their typewriter business deals with electric and electronic, computerized models. When asked about the once-popular manual machines that didn't require electricity to run, Vaughn Frykman says he hasn't seen them in years.

Back in the workshop, a few typewriters in need of repair sit on shelves. Elsewhere, metal cabinets are filled with tiny parts, ribbons and print wheels.

High on a shelf, a box from a 1964 Remington typewriter sits stuffed with Christmas decorations.

Employee Fernando Velez, 27, works on the typewriters, many of which were made before he was born. He learned the trade four years ago when he took the job at Frykman.

He finds working on the relatively newer electronic models, which are loaded with computer circuit boards and wiring, easier than the older models and their hundreds of individual parts.

"If someone knows how to fix these," Velez said while showing off the intricate guts of a practically ancient, 1970s-era IMB Selectric II, "I bow to them."

The brothers have considered dropping their typewriter services but have stuck with the low-tech machines.

"We've been in this business a long time. It's gone through every change you can think of," Vaughn Frykman says. "But if someone is willing to pay you for something, why not still do it?"