Electr(on)ic

Crazy Golf

A miniature version of golf, “crazy golf” as it is sometimes referred to, is not a pursuit that should be taken seriously …

crazy-golf

… it’s fun though, as is the Brother Super 7300 “portable” golf ball typewriter, a once serious business machine, now a novelty purchase …

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I mention “miniature golf” only because I was impressionable enough to buy into the advertising …

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“IBM made it possible. Brother make it portable.”

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The Brother Super 7300 is certainly much lighter than a “Baby” Selectric 721, but it’s difficult to argue it’s smaller …

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Lately, I seem to be enjoying a run of Japanese machines (based purely on local availability rather than a conscious decision to collect them):

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As you can see, Brother are stretching the limits of what might be considered “portable”. Yes, it’s much lighter than the Selectric pictured alongside it, but I don’t feel confident the plastic handle on the 7300’s snap-on lid could cope with a prolonged journey!

7300-cover-imperial

Still, it is a “compact electric” according to Wilfred Beeching’s definition, and “portable” in as much as you can lug it between offices quite easily.

(BTW If you want to know what “heavy” is, buy a Sharp ZX-500 like the one owned by William Golding.)

The other quibble I have with the Brother advertisement above, as clever as it is, is the fact that Olivetti “made it portable” years before Brother did. The Olivetti Lexikon 82 was first produced in 1974 according to Wikipedia (1975 according to Olivetti Storia di’un impresa), which makes it 3 (or 2) years earlier than the Super 7300 (1977).

Also, by the look it, Olivetti made their golf ball typewriters more portable than Brother were able to make theirs …

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The hum (I can also hear something quietly ticking over) and the typing feel of the Super 7300 is similar to that of an IBM Selectric.

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The Brother (black) element ball is also of a similar shape and size to its IBM counterpart, but is not similar enough to be interchangeable. The slide on the top of the ball is an improvement on the lift-up tab on the IBM ball …

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This typewriter came to me with Courier 10 pitch and Script 10/12 pitch element balls. Just as well I have a spare, because they seem to be completely unavailable online.

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No instruction guide, but then there’s not a lot to these typewriters (he said having not yet tried to change the correction tape or ribbon cartridge).

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I don’t know why, but I get a sense of (sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut) overkill from this typewriter. Call me a philistine, but to me a daisy wheel and a moveable ribbon carrier makes a lot more sense.

The Super 7300 is a big solid typewriter, yet there’s something very fragile and clumsy about the action of that hemmed-in plastic ball. I just get the feeling it’s not going to last (“it” being either the motor, or the plastic ball, or the ribbon cassette, or the handle on the lid, etc.).

7300-ball0

As Mr Martin points out on his Typewriter Museum website (see link below), the big difference between this machine and the IBM Selectric is the fact that the Super 7300 has a moveable carriage and a fixed ribbon carrier/typing ball.

It’s weird, the traditional carriage moves right-to-left and there’s a traditional Shift and Shift Lock key. but there is no carriage shift (or basket shift in the absence of a basket). It’s the element ball that “shifts” invisibly into uppercase.

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When you hit the return key, the bulky carriage zooms back to the right — and then slows at the very last second, almost as if some kind of parachute or air-cushion braking mechanism has been engaged within.

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Despite my “electrical insecurity”, I do like the look and feel of this machine, and I think it sits well in my collection as an example of a particular (peculiar) category of typewriter.

Its close relation, the Brother Super 7800 (JP-14-N) is physically bigger, squarer, and more sophisticated …

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Brother Super 7800 (above) with repeat spacer and a tab set and clear switch which the 7300 lacks.

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Brother Super 7900 (also JP-14) without repeat spacer, above and below.

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brother-super-7900-top

There must have been a good reason why Brother chose not to replicate the moveable ribbon carrier/typing ball that was a feature of the IBM Selectrics. Probably, they stuck with the moveable carriage simply to make use of the carriages and components of their existing (JP-4, 8, 10, 12) electric type bar typewriters.

Brother also produced Electronic 8300 and 9300 daisywheel typewriters with moveable carriages just like the ones on these JP-11 and JP-14 golf ball machines.

1982 marked the advent of Brother’s more slimline CE series (JP-11x) and AX series (JP-12x) electronic typewriters. In the years prior to this, it seems Brother were happily mixing and matching old and new components to provide their customers with a wide selection of electric (type-bargolf ball, daisy wheel) typewriter options.

They certainly kept things interesting.

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Sources:

The Brother page of The Typewriter Database (TWDB)

The Brother page of: Mr Martin’s Typewriter Museum

Brother Super 7800

Categories: Electr(on)ic, Typewriter

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5 replies »

  1. Strange machine in a way – retains the drawbacks of the conventional carriage and shift and combines with the complexities of the golf-ball mechanism.

    Can’t have been the lowest cost/best machine that way.
    (May well have been the only way to get around some IBM patents.)

  2. It’s quite interesting the solutions that Brother engineers came up with to compete in a market that was rapidly changing. It’s funny, I was just sketching out ideas for the oft-pondered “Phoenix Typewriter Project”, and I tend to keep coming back to a golfball design driven by electronic stepper motors with a fixed carriage (basically the same concept that the IBM 95 uses). In my musings, I can’t see where a moving carriage ever makes more sense than a fixed one, just because of the weight of the carriage vs the weight of the ball carrier. Still, the Japanese didn’t really mind trying things that didn’t make obvious sense to get the job done, and they came up with some pretty ingenious and interesting mechanisms. (:

  3. Very interesting. Their ad gives credit to IBM, and I presume they were working with IBM patents under license. I’ve heard that all the Selectric clones are inferior to the IBM originals, maybe because IBM didn’t give away all of its secrets. But these Brothers, of course, are not really clones of the Selectric, given their moving carriage.

  4. Availability is a great way to shape your collection. Purposefully striding out in a new, single minded direction can become costly. And I had no idea Brother made a golfball.

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