Pretty impressive specs for a journalist’s word processor: operates in the glacial cold or torrid heat, on turbulent flights or during tumultuous sailings. Has a continuous power supply and needs no battery or electrical outlet. Offers instantaneous printouts in two colors, without peripherals. While using it, you’ll never get a pesky email, text or Slack message from an editor. You can spill your coffee on it, knock it off the desk or stop a bullet with it, and it will keep working.
It’s a portable typewriter, far smaller and lighter than its desktop cousin. This type of typewriter served correspondents from the 1920s to the 1970s, when they were edged out by desktop computers and, later, laptops.
This Royal Portable belonged to Lester Bernstein (1920-2014), who began his career at The New York Times in 1940 writing the terse headlines that were displayed on the newspaper’s “zipper” — an electric bulletin board overlooking Times Square — and the slightly longer summaries that were broadcast over the radio station WMCA.
Even then, editors at The Times didn’t just rely on the morning paper to update the public on breaking news. On Sunday, Dec. 7, 1941, Mr. Bernstein wrote the initial bulletins for WMCA announcing Japan’s attack on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor that day. “It made him the first Times staffer to provide the public with news that was already changing the world, the city and his life,” Mr. Bernstein’s daughter Nina wrote in 2012.
Mr. Bernstein was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942. After World War II, he returned to The Times and in 1948, he moved to Time magazine, where he served as a correspondent in Rome and London. He retired in 1982 as the editor of Newsweek. His last article for The Times — about Time Inc. — was published in 1989.
Nina Bernstein was a reporter at The Times from 1995 until her retirement in 2016. She left her father’s Royal as a parting gift.
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