It’s confusing how Brother released two iterations of their CE series and AX series electronic typewriters, especially when their production timespans overlapped.

The typewriters of the “first” CE and AX iterations (based on JP number) have an old-fashioned mid-’80s vibe and the same two-tone design aesthetic …

Brother CE-30 (JP-11x) and Brother AX-10 (JP-12x)

Brother AX-10 (JP-12x) and Olivetti Praxis 20 (circa 1983)

… whereas the typewriters of the “second” CE and AX iterations have a more modern look.

Although it may seem obvious that Brother CE series machines are “compact electronic” typewriters, hence the CE model number prefix, I’d always thought of my CE-30 as a portable machine; that is, until I bought an AX-10 to compare it with…

Compared to compact office electronic typewriters like the Canon AP150 or the Xerox 6002, the CE-30 is relatively small and light. Up against the AX-10 it’s big and heavy.

So the CE acronym makes sense in that respect (“compacts” being bigger than “portables”), but what exactly is AX if it’s not a tool for chopping wood or a 9 point word in Scrabble?

An AX acronym that comes up in a Google search (in the context of dog-breeding) is Agility EXcellent, which seems appropriate given that the AX-10 is very lightweight and able to be moved quickly and easily. But can it be operated quickly and easily or is it a dog to type on?

Not at all. For a start, even though the AX-10 is much lighter than the CE-30, its keyboard has a nice solid feel to it. In fact it’s the same keyboard minus a few functional bells and whistles.

And the good news is that the AX-10 doesn’t suffer from what I think are the two main shortcomings of the CE-30, namely:

  • the noise of the hammer can be quite jarring,
  • stowing the cable/plug inside a narrow compartment that sits behind the platen is a MAJOR PAIN.

Cable storage for the AX-10 is a breeze.

There’s more space, more leeway. Furthermore, because the compartment is at the back of the machine rather than under the ribbon cover, failure to stow away the cable won’t (should you still have a problem, which you won’t) impede the closure of the ribbon cover.

Even better, the typing action on the AX-10 is quieter. The hammer mechanism of the CE-30 is more substantial …

… whereas the hammer on the AX-10 is a simpler, cheaper design, but more importantly, has a gentler impact …

The print wheels on these two 1985 machines are the same (Prestige 10/12), but the ribbon on the AX-10 is smaller, as you would expect. Brother print wheels come in a tabbed plastic sleeve. Inserting, removing and replacing the ribbon cartridge and the print wheels on both these machines couldn’t be simpler.

I have a good stash of these smaller Brother ribbons, which is one reason I bought the AX-10. All things considered, it’s one of my better electronic purchases ($30).

I think I’ll keep it around and say goodbye to Big Brother. 🙂

Update 21/04/2017:

Brother CE- 650

Brother CE- 550

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There goes my CE = Compact Electronic theory!

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See Also: The Golf War: Olivetti versus Brother