Released in 1983, the Olivetti Praxis 20 was the simplest in Olivetti’s new line of portable electronic typewriters — a category of typewriter described in various computing magazines at the time as “plain vanilla” technology — this having nothing to do with the typewriter’s colour (vanilla pods also being dark brown) but a succinct way of describing an electronic typewriter with no special or extra features.

This typewriter also seems to have done without much in the way of an advertising campaign, although I did come across this Portuguese ad on YouTube …

“Sensibilidade em suas mãos.”

“Sensitivity in your hands.”

Advertising for the Praxis 30/35 (above and below), which in 1980 was touted as the world’s first portable electronic typewriter, is easier to find.

These Praxis 30/35 models were followed in 1981-1982 by the very similar-looking Praxis 40, 41 and 45D (below) …

While the Praxis 20 may not be a world first, it does have the distinction (unlike its predecessors) of being Made in Italy, and is possibly the first and last portable electronic typewriter made by Olivetti in their home country.

I’d like to think so anyway. It’s part of the reason why I bought it. Plus the fact I needed a machine that could use the large batch of Olivetti ribbon cassettes that came with the ill-fated JUKI 2200.

Finding such a machine isn’t difficult. Praxis 35 ribbons became the de facto standard for many Japanese portable typewriters, the JUKI 2200 being one example.

So naturally I had to go and pick a machine that takes a completely different ribbon cassette!!!

Just goes to show that these Praxis typewriters aren’t all the same. That is not a Praxis 35 ribbon.

This example was made for the Japanese rather than by them – hence the inclusion of a Yen currency symbol on the keyboard, hence the fact it’s a 100 volt machine. In order to use such an appliance in Australia, you need a 240 volt > 100 volt inverter:

Sadly I can’t get it to work. A faulty voltage inverter doesn’t appear to be the problem, because it powers on just fine, and some functions (tabulation, carriage return) work as expected.

However, after typing a few characters the typewriter locks up and emits a continuous beep. I suspect it was badly shaken-up during transit, which is a shame because the keyboard, when I pretend to use it, is wonderfully tactile and clicky, as per the video.

Unlike its Singaporean predecessors, the Praxis 20 doesn’t have a separate ABS case.

Instead it has an attractive “smoked glass” (plastic) lid and an in-built briefcase-style carrying handle which folds away on the front underside of the machine — two common design features that were new, almost space-age, technology back in ’83.

One of the Praxis 20’s contemporaries, the Brother AX-10, is of a similar size and has a similar carry handle. It also has a similarly simplistic look and feel …

The Brother AX-10 is much lighter, and while its keyboard isn’t as good as the keyboard of the Praxis 20, at least it works.

“Sensitivity in my hands”? More like “death on my hands”. Touchy subject.

Olivetti Praxis 30 (above)

Olivetti Praxis 35 (above)

Olivetti Praxis 41 (above)