The heyday of the office electronic typewriter lasted roughly a decade, from the early ’80s to the early ’90s. Triumph-Adler had their SE Series, Canon had their AP series, and Olivetti had their ET series (to name but a few).
In most cases these series were a mix of:
Olivetti’s three-tiered ET Series was no exception in this regard, however their larger electronic “ET” typewriters were, I venture to suggest, exceptional.
The ET 2450, one of Olivetti’s ET 2000 Series of office electronic typewriters, designed by Mario Bellini.
The ET 2450 doesn’t just idle silently, it also has a very quiet typing action. It’s so quiet you have to wonder what Olivetti’s secret is (the sound-proofing quality of the plastic lid has a lot to do with it, but I’m sure that’s not the whole story).
Secretaries and typists, male or female, must have swooned over this machine as their fingers fell in love with a keyboard that requires only the slightest touch. As my fingers get more and more arthritic with age, I too have an appreciation for how easy it is to type on.
And did I mention it’s quick? With a printing speed of 20 characters per second it’s impossible to type too quickly for the machine (never a danger with my typing skills).
↑ This is why they’re called “wedges”!
If you’ve ever wondered, like I have, how much better electronic daisywheel typewriters might have got, had not computers and laser printers got in the way, wonder no more. Quite probably, when it comes to electronic daisywheel typewriters, the Olivetti ET 2450 is as good as it gets.²
True, by the early 1980s Olivetti were farming out the production of their mechanical typewriters (and eventually their portable electronic typewriters) to the Japanese like everyone else, but when it came to office electronic typewriters, we could still count on them to set the benchmark for good design, engineering excellence and operational reliability.
ET 2250/2250MD = 15-inch platen, ET 2450/2450MD = 17-inch platen
Olivetti daisywheels are double-moulded (with a yellowed border like T-A wheels) …
Or at least some of them are …
An interesting feature of this series of machines is the capability they have for optical recognition; not in the sense that output can be digitally scanned, but in the sense that an adapter (fitted to the daisywheel) allows the typewriter to automatically detect the pitch of the wheel and then automatically adjust the machine’s pitch-related settings.
This is the back of the “12 Esteem” wheel that came with the machine. You don’t need an adaptor for it:
The daisywheel on the right (below) is fitted with an adapter …
It’s clever the way the ribbon cassette and the correction tape cassette piggy-back each other. Much better than those fiddly orange correction tape spools you often see …
Another nice touch, is the lever on the right lower-edge of the machine which allows you to adjust the tilt of the keyboard:
And you don’t just get one keyboard, you get two (hence the characters printed on the front of the keytops as well as on the top:
I just can’t imagine why a secretary wouldn’t want to use one.
The Xerox 6002 gets acquainted with the ET 2450
The ET series typewriters, with or without LCD and with different levels of text editing capabilities, were popular in offices. Models in that line were: ET 121, ET 201, ET 221, ET 225, ET 231, ET 351, ET 109, ET 110, ET 111, ET 112, ET 115, ET 116, ET 2000, ET 2100, ET 2200, ET 2250, ET 2300, ET 2400, ET 2450, and ET 2500.
These ET electronic typewriters evolved to become ETV series video typewriters based on the CP/M operating system (ETV 240, ETV 250, ETV 300, ETV 350) and later based on the MS-DOS operating system (ETV 260, ETV 500, ETV 2700, ETV 2900, ETV 4000s word processing systems having floppy drives or even a hard disk).
Some (ETV 300, 350, 500, 2900) were external boxes which could be connected through optional serial interface to many of the ET series office typewriters; others were fully integrated having an external monitor which could be installed on a holder over the desk.
(² In the movie, Jack Nicholson’s character writes his books on a computer. Typewriter movie opportunity missed!)
“I don’t mind thick ankles. There’s the promise of greater harmony at the top of the leg.”
‘Where’s the baby?’‘The baby? It’s me.’
Corrado Tedeschi in “The Man Who Loved Women” (L’UOMO CHE AMAVA LE DONNE) a stage play based on and inspired by the film.
The new ribbon cassette for the Canon AP150 arrived …
The cassette I replaced was made in Korea. The replacement cassette was made in Malaysia.
It works a treat, except I also discovered the printwheel installed in the typewriter was completely worn out. There’s a reason these things are called consumables. Fortunately, this consumer has a few spares …
The left-hand wheel (above) is worn out, whereas the one on the right is as fresh as a daisy (pun intended) and prints perfectly despite looking like a cheap, generic (no-name) wheel.
I do wonder about the durability (or lack thereof) of these Canon printwheels.
I’m slowly scanning the AP150 manual. There are 78 pages so I’m not in any rush. The following pages cover the installation of the consumables (I couldn’t be bothered installing a correction tape).
Incidentally, this is post 300. And they said Steve K and his electronic typewriters wouldn’t last …
Born Børge Willy Redsted Pedersen in 1917 in Fredensborg, Denmark, Sven Hassel joined the merchant navy at the age of 14. He did his compulsory year’s military service in the Danish forces in 1936 and then, facing unemployment, joined the German army.
He served throughout the Second World War on all fronts except North Africa. When the war ended in 1945 he was transferred between Russian, American and French prisoner-of-war camps, and upon returning to Denmark, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for treason.
Hassel began writing LEGION OF THE DAMNED during his time as a prisoner of war. His 14 Second World War books, which draw on his own encounters and experiences as a soldier, have sold over 53 million copies worldwide and have been published in more than 50 countries.
He would write his drafts in the afternoons, and the following day he would dictate these to his wife. Once this was done they would go through the drafts together. After school, his son would then likewise go through the drafts and add his comments. Hassel’s wife was his editor at the time, so to speak. They were a team. Chapters and excerpts would also be read out aloud to friends and family for feedback. When this first round of edits was completed, he would go back and rewrite the book with his handwritten comments. It was all done on the old and trustworthy typewriter.
This process would be repeated numerous times until he was satisfied and ready to turn in his manuscript. It took 2-3 years to write each book back then.
There are several references to typewriters in Hassel’s novels:
‘A case of the D.T.s, I shouldn’t wonder. He’s a war correspondent. They’re always the worst kind. Anyway’ — he laughed, darkly — ‘he won’t be doing any more corresponding yet awhile. He smashed up his typewriter after he’d gone through his first two bottles of whisky. Said it couldn’t spell. I ask you! Said his typewriter couldn’t spell … and they cost money, you know, typewriters do. I tried to put it back together, but he’s a big bugger, he made a thorough job of it, I’ll say that for him.’
‘What can we offer him?’ asks Muller, looking at Wolf and Porta.
‘Ten tins of pork.’ suggest Porta, largely.
‘No, no,’ says Hofmann, ‘the yids don’t eat pig meat!’
‘I’ve got some ugly-looking Russian typewriters,’ says Porta. ‘Think he’d like to write on Russian machines? They’re sure to be all the rage after the war!’
‘He’s got all he wants of typewriters at H.Q.,’ Hofmann rejects the idea, irritably. ‘German ones. Think again.’
Sven Hassel passed away peacefully in Barcelona in 2012, where he had resided since 1964.
Extracts from: The official Sven Hassel website.
Canon, the tenth largest public company in Japan, producer of cameras, faxes, laser printers and photo-copiers, have erased electronic typewriters from their company history.
No mention of the company’s Costa Mesa, Orange County, California plant, which opened in 1974 and produced typewriter ribbon cassettes, office copier products such as toners and drums.
No mention of the 1981 launch of the AP400/500 electronic typewriter.¹
No mention of the company’s 1988 plan to transfer production of their AP series electronic typewriters from Japan to Costa Mesa: A $24.8-million investment that would allow them to move their manufacturing capability closer to their biggest market –the United States.
I’m not sure of the reason for this oversight, because if this AP150 (probably manufactured in Japan) is anything to go by, AP series electronic typewriters are nothing to be ashamed of.
My first impressions:
Unsightly discoloration or “tan patina”.
The Canon AP150 faced stiff competition from the Xerox 6002, a cleaner, quieter machine.
Yes, I like the AP150. Although I’d like it a lot more if it weren’t discoloured.
I could also live without the LCD screen.
When it comes to wedges, I always think basic is best. Text processing: one small step towards being a computer; one giant leap away from being a typewriter.
Everything seems to work fine, but no type sample because I need a new ribbon cassette.
At least I have an instruction guide: First call of business, how to use the typewriter like a typewriter. This is easily accomplished by selecting “C” for “Character-by-Character” mode (the right-most selector button to the right of the LCD screen) …
¹ (3/17/2017) I was wrong when I said electronic typewriters failed to get a mention in Canon’s company history.
The AP400 and AP500 get a mention in a Canon Factbook at www.slideshare.net (scroll down to 1982):