Thursday 30 March 2023

Typing on an Olympia Monica electric deluxe

Some electro-mechanical action.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Assessing the Traveller

The latest typewriter in the collection, an Olympia Traveller de Luxe S, is an interesting little machine. It is also covered in drops of a hard white substance. At first i thought it was paint but then i realised, as much of it is on the rollers and guard by the type point that this may be years of build up of tipp-ex! The typewriter looks like it has worked hard, even seemed like it had fag ash under the keys (i got rid of that, whatever it was, with a vacuum cleaner!) The typewriter works well despite the obvious signs of a hard working life, just like my beloved Olympia Olympiette. All the Traveller seems to need is a new ribbon... and a good clean.

Friday 24 March 2023

Traveller 23

The latest typewriter has arrived in the collection, an Olympia Traveller de Luxe S. It seems to work pretty well though is fairly grubby, like my beloved Olympiette it looks like this Olympia has also been a hard working machine. Which is good. This is number 23 in the collection. We'll take a closer look at how well it works over the weekend.

Tuesday 21 March 2023

More ribbons

Two more typewriters in the collection will be receiving new ribbons. The first being the Royal 200, which is the most recent addition to the collection (though another typewriter is on the way!) It is time to move onto lesson two in my touch typing book and i want to use a different typewriter for each lesson, i am thinking of using the Royal 200 though as the old ribbon was completely worn out that needed changing first!

Thursday 16 March 2023


The Musicwriter was an interesting specialised typewriter used for creating sheet music. It was invented by Cecil Effinger, a noted composer and inventor, in the early 1950s and thousands were built by various manufacturers including Olympia between 1956 and 1990.

The idea of the Musicwriter is simple, the typebars have various elements of musical notation on them instead of letters. However, to write sheet music the Musicwriter required a very fine tunable way to place the paper in the correct place. A pointer was located above the ribbon to help the operator make their adjustments. A vernier was also available for fine tuning the horizontal position of the carriage. Pressing a key on the Musicwriter did not advance the carriage as on a normal typewriter (all keys were "dead keys"). However, even with these aids the Musicwriter required quite a lot of practice to get the music notation correct!

Early Musicwriter keyboard layout [1]

Example of Musicwriter output

[1] "A music writing machine that works", The Office (1957-08 Vol. 46 No. 2) p. 43

Tuesday 14 March 2023

Manuals (1)

Cover scans from typewriter manuals, an occasional series. Taken from original PDFs from public domain sources. Lets start with the IBM Selectric.

Thursday 9 March 2023

Railway signs

Well there are various reasons you can still use typewriters, such as menu cards of course. Another reason i am experimenting with is, signage for my model railway. I use my Silver-Reed SEVENTY to create this station sign, which was mounted on card then laminated. It is a bit big though so i need to redo it using a typewriter with a smaller typeface.

Monday 6 March 2023

Why i like typewriters (1) : The physicality

A question some people ask me, especially my spouse, is why do i like typewriters? Well there are a number of reasons that i do and i shall list them in this new series.

The first reason is the fact that typewriters are very physical machines, unlike computers which are largely esoteric (well being a computing graduate and having had a 27 year plus career in IT i do know what happens inside the box but it isn't very visible!) 

However, with a typewriter everything is straight forward and understandable. You press a key, the lever and typekey it is connected to then impacts a piece of paper via the ribbon and prints a character. Who knows what goes on inside Microsoft Word? Literally no one.

Thursday 2 March 2023

The fourth type of typewriter

A few weeks ago i wrote about the two (or three) types of typewriter that have ever existed including electro-mechanical as shown below. However, i was wrong (as happens occasionally) there was a fourth type of typewriter: the pneumatic typewriter

Ever since the creation of the first manual typewriters boffins and engineers were looking into ways to make things easier for the poor typist. Electric was introduced as a way to help, using electricity to propel the keys or typebars at the page instead of the typist's muscle. A few inventors also looks at pneumatic power including compressed air. These were quiet in operation though often a problem was in getting the typebar to return fast enough. 

Despite various attempts in the early twentieth century to overcome this issue, pneumatic typewriters never really caught on. Muscle and electricity remained the two ways to operate a typewriter until the present day.