Towa of Babel
Posted on February 8, 2017
Japanese electronics manufacturer Towa Sankiden Corporation are known for their electronic cash registers and point-of-sale technology. But did you know they were also one of seven Japanese manufacturers listed in a 1985 anti-dumping proceeding lodged by the Committee of European Typewriter Manufacturers (CETMA) against imports of electronic typewriters originating in Japan?
As part of the proceedings, investigations into the (affected) profitability of Community-produced electronic typewriters were undertaken at:
- Olympia-Werke AG, Wilhelmshaven (Federal Republic of Germany),
- Triumph-Adler Aktiengesellschaft fuer Buero- und Informationstechnik, Nuenberg (Federal Republic of Germany),
- Office and Electronic Machines plc, London (United Kingdom),
- Olivetti Belgium SA, Brussels (Belgium),
- British Olivetti Ltd, London (United Kingdom),
- Olivetti France SA, Paris (France),
- Olympia Business Machines Co. Ltd, London (United Kingdom),
- Triumph-Adler SA, Paris (France)
Listed among the usual suspects, Towa Sankiden is perhaps the least well-known:
- Brother Industries,
- Silver Seiko Ltd,
- Canon Inc.,
- Sharp Corporation
- TEC Tokyo Electric Co. Ltd
- Tokyo Juki Industrial Co. Ltd
- Towa Sankiden Corporation
(If you’re thinking there’s a name missing from that list, you’re right. Nakajima All Co. Ltd avoided sanction. Which is not to say they weren’t dumping electronic typewriters, more that they were smarter in the way they went about it.)
The reason “Towa” is the least well-known Japanese electronic typewriter exporter seems to be that they seldom put their own name on the typewriters they produced. As proof of that, try to find a “Towa” branded electronic typewriter online. Here’s what I found:
A non-electric “Towa Type” Japanese typewriter:
An early electric type-bar typewriter (whose model name I can’t make out from the image):
A recent Gumtree listing of a Towa Excellence 55 …
The listing was unusual in that someone bought it within 48 hours of it being listed. Normally you can’t even give these things away!
Here’s the “operating instruction manual” …
Did I say Towa seldom put their name on their typewriters? It also seems they seldom put their name on their operating instructions. It’s been a few years since I bought this anonymous electronic typewriter operating instruction manual …
It has no branding or company designation whatsoever, only different language variations¹ of “electronic typewriter” on the front cover. Until I saw the Towa Excellence 55 images (above) I had no idea who the manufacturer might be.
I still don’t know which model(s) of typewriter this manual relates to.
These generic multi-lingual¹ “no name” booklets seem to be service technician-oriented as well as user-oriented, since they include detailed parallel interface specifications and code tables, etc.
An important detail provided by the Gumtree seller was the serial number, which means we’re one step closer to having every Japanese electronic typewriter manufacturer represented on the TWDB.
Information about the 1985 anti-dumping proceeding from: Japanese Manufacturing Investment in Europe: Its Impact on the UK Economy By Roger Strange, Routledge, 11 Sep. 2002
¹ The literal belief that the world’s linguistic variety originated with the tower of Babel is pseudoscientific and is contrary to known facts about the origin and history of languages.