published Monday, July 7th, 2014

Moment: Nostalgic service

Bob Miller didn't realize he would be one of the last of a breed when he became a service technician for a business-machine company.

"When I first got in this business back in 1983, if you owned an office-machine dealership, you had at least one if not two techs, factory certified, to service your typewriters," he said.

Among other things, Miller still repairs typewriters.

"The typewriter, when I got in this business, was a very predominant machine that you found in every office that you walked into. Anywhere you went, you found typewriters," he reminisced.

Computers and word processors took the place of the common typewriter; slowly at first, but almost completely now.

"Most children today look at it and say 'What is that thing?'" Miller said.

As sales representative and senior technician at Bayne's Business Machines in Cleveland, Tenn., Miller's job is mostly sales these days. But, when the call arises, he repairs typewriters, calculators, time clocks, fax machines and even the occasional mechanical adding machine -- things that younger technicians have no experience with.

Miller's typewriter repair clients come from around the region. His business customers are mostly attorneys and small county offices. Some individuals prefer to use a typewriter to write letters, fill out forms, address envelopes, make labels or put recipes on index cards. Why?

"Because of the sheer simplicity of using it," said Miller. "Walk over, turn it on, pop the sheet in and go to work."

After more than 30 years, Miller still enjoys working on typewriters. Then again, he has been taking things apart and putting them back together again since he was a child.

"Well, as a child, I didn't always get them put back together," he laughed.

In his spare time, Miller and a friend restored an old jukebox. Miller also restored a 1957 Chevy.

"I'm a person that loves to make old things work again. It's just something about the mechanical aspect of the machine, that it sometimes is rather difficult just to scrap something when you think that you have a possibility of bringing that machine back to life again and someone actually getting a benefit out of it," he said. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it. But if it is broken, bring it to me and I'll be happy to restore it. Subject to parts availability."

Moment is a weekly column by the Times Free Press photo staff that explores the seldom-told stories of our region. To hear this story in their own words, go to www.timesfreepress.com.

Bob Miller, a sales representative and service technician for Bayne's Business Machines in Cleveland, Tenn., repairs an old IBM Selectric typewriter. He believes he is the last typewriter repair person in the region.
Bob Miller, a sales representative and service technician for Bayne's Business Machines in Cleveland, Tenn., repairs an old IBM Selectric typewriter. He believes he is the last typewriter repair person in the region.
Photo by John Rawlston.
about John Rawlston...

John Rawlston is a staff photographer with the Chattanooga Times Free Press, where he has worked since the merger of Chattanooga’s two daily newspapers in 1999. He worked as a staff photographer for the Chattanooga News-Free Press (later the Chattanooga Free Press) starting in 1976. Prior to that, he worked for a year as a sportswriter for the Cleveland Daily Banner in Cleveland, Tenn. John graduated from Soddy Daisy High School in 1971. He graduated ...

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