Sunday 29 January 2023

Unexpected Monica

Up until now all of the typewriters in the collection have come from eBay, therefore everything has been planned and expected. Typewriter #21 is different, the Olympus Monica electric deluxe was a chance sighting in a local market. It is an electro-mechanical typewriter so the typebars are like a manual but are propelled by electric not the typist's muscle. It works fine though is lacking a ribbon and also part of the mechanism to hold the ribbon. The former is easy to rectify though the latter may require some improvisation.

Thursday 26 January 2023

Typing on a PT800

Another typing video, on one of my pair of Boots.

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Stencil mode

Many typewriters offer you the choice of ink colour (usually black and red). The ribbon is half each colour and a setting on the typewriter lets you select which one to use, the ribbon will be raised the correct height so the desired colour will be put between the type head and the paper. However, typewriters will often also have a third "colour" option, which looks white or clear. This doesn't raise the ribbon at all.

So, what is this for? Invisible typing? An ink saving measure? In fact this is stencil mode, to facilitate an early mass copying method. In stencil mode the type heads make holes in a special sheet of paper for use with a mimeograph or ditto. Once the master copy has been typed then dozens or hundreds of copies can be created. This is how schools, for example, were able to run off hundreds of copies of letters in the days before photocopiers and laser printers.

Selector on a Litton Imperial 201, top option is stencil mode

Sunday 22 January 2023

Showcase (5) : Erika 105

From the 1970s is the Erika 105, a smooth typing machine yet relatively chunky for a portable typewriter, though the exterior is a little plasticky. The Erika was made by the wonderfully named Robotron of the German Democratic Republic. The Erika has a number of interesting features including a four position ribbon selector. Usually, typewriters just have two or three (if they support two colour ribbons and stencil typing). The fourth position was apparently for if you had a single colour ribbon so you could get more use out of it?

The Erika works pretty well with a distinctive if not over loud typing sound. I'd prefer a little more volume of course.

Tuesday 17 January 2023


All of my typewriters use the QWERTY layout (as indeed do all of my computers). However, when and why was the QWERTY layout first set out? One urban myth is that it was designed to stop typists from going too fast and jamming their typewriters. This isn't strictly true though the layout was developed to help the Remington No. 1, the first commercially successful typewriter developed by Sholes and Glidden, to work properly.

Early prototypes of Sholes and Glidden's typewriter used piano like keys in four rows. These were set in alphabetical order. Due to the way the typebars were connected to a metal ring in this earliest of typewriters pressing adjacent keys (or letters) could cause jamming as the ring relied on gravity to return to the rest position. To solve this, letter analysis and trial and error was used to come up with a layout that would reduce the problem. Letters that frequently appear together in the English language like S and T were placed so they were connected to opposite sides of the ring.

However, the final layout developed by this analysis was not quite QWERTY. It was QWE,TY! R and , were swapped by the time the typewriter went on sale in 1874. Some say this is so salesmen could type TYPEWRITER just using the top row!

Thursday 12 January 2023

Mysterious keys (4) : The Euro!

The euro, the currency of most of the European Union, went live in 1999. In 2002 physical money appeared and began replacing the likes of the French franc and German mark. You would therefore imagine that the euro postdates the typewriter age by quite some margin. And you would imagine wrong.

My KOFA 300 typewriter has the euro symbol on it! Typewriters continue to be made in China to the present day and the KOFA came from such a factory some time in the early twenty first century. It was listed on eBay as "vintage" natch.

Tuesday 10 January 2023

Top Ghia

Typewriter number 20 has arrived and it is rather special. It is a Smith-Corona GT Ghia. Yes that is right the same Ghia who styled Ford motorcars, they apparently also styled typewriters too! It seems to work pretty well and looks fantastic!

Wednesday 4 January 2023

Electric two

The first typewriter of the year has arrived to join the collection, a Hermes media-tronic 14. This is the second electric in the collection. It does turn on but the print head doesn't move, well yet anyway. This is typewriter number 19 in the collection.

Monday 2 January 2023

The Christmas day menu card

What can you use a typewriter for these days? Well how about the menu card for Christmas dinner? I produced this on my Silver-Reed SEVENTY a few days ago. Unfortunately we were not able to make it as far as the cheese board.