Olivetti et al
Posted on January 27, 2017
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:
- Large (often very heavy) “standard” electronic typewriters.
- Less-fully-featured but still professional “compact” electronic typewriters.
- “Personal” or “portable” electronic typewriters at the lower end of the functionality/price spectrum.
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!)