P-O-E-M-S (Poetry On Electronic MachineS)
Brother AX-10, LORI typeface.
Luckily, I’ve never been struck by a train. I have, however, often been struck by the similarity between the train spotter and the typewriter collector. After-all, both have an interest in the movement of carriages, hopefully smooth, plus a fondness for meticulously jotting down numbers.
The train spotter in me “spotted” (online) this advertising sign on a platform at Uedo City train station, Nagano prefecture, Japan¹ …
The manufacture and sale of western-style typewriters
Tokyo. Nagano, America, Europe
Before it extended its tentacles towards Europe and America, Nakajima All (like many of its competitors) began life as a sewing and knitting machine manufacturer:
The printing machinery company Nakajima Seisakausho was established by Nobuyoshi Nakajima in 1923 and was located at Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo. The company merged with the sewing machine company All Lead Mishin Seisakusho in 1933.
Nakajima All Mishin Seizosho began the production of portable typewriters in May, 1965. The first electric typewriter, the M7500, was produced in May, 1971. This was followed by further electric models (M7800, M8800) in 1976 and 1978 respectively.
In 1976 the company renamed itself as Nakajima All Precision Co., Ltd.
1982 marked the production of Nakajima’s first AE 300 series of electronic typewriters.
The production of daisy wheel printers followed in 1983, although this was short-lived. Nakajima and many other manufacturers switched instead to the production of dot matrix printers and other computer peripherals.
In 1988 the company was renamed Nakajima All Manufacturing Co., Ltd. Electronic typewriter production began in the U.S.A. a year later, reaching production levels of 40,000 units a month in March 1989.
You can still buy many of Nakajima’s later AE series models:
This compact “ALL” AX-240 (Made in Japan) electronic typewriter was advertised as “Free to good home – needs new ribbon.”
Unfortunately it needs more than a ribbon. The hammer’s lost its punch and fails to make contact with the ribbon. Apart from that everything seems to work as expected.
I’m not sure what the cause is – a problem with the solenoid that drives the hammer?
It’s a shame because the keyboard has a very nice feel to it.
A dial on the underside of the lid confirms that this is a ’90s machine:
Cable and plug stow away easily in a generous compartment at the back of the machine:
It’s an attractive machine (by wedge standards) although I was slightly disappointed to discover that some AX-240s have an attractive “smoked glass” keyboard cover:
Having said that, a sturdy one piece cover better protects the whole machine:
That stylish-but-fragile-looking platen knob (reminiscent of a Selectric’s) certainly needs protection …
The AX-240 is smaller and lighter than earlier AE series machines, and takes a different ribbon:
I’ve come to realise that the consumables used by an electronic typewriter aren’t necessarily an indicator of the origins of that typewriter.
Olivetti and Brother ribbon cartridges, for example, are used all over the place on non-Olivetti, and non-Brother typewriters.
Johnny-come-lately wedge manufacturers simply engineered their machines to fit whatever consumables they could get their hands on.
It’s interesting to note the typewriter models listed as compatible with this AX-240 ribbon:
Olivetti? Olympia? Adler-Royal? Nakajima OEMs every last one of ’em.² Oh how the mighty are fallen!
Company information from: http://www.nakajima-all.co.jp/engv.files/sub/kigyou_syareki.htm
¹ Typewriter production was transferred from Tokyo to Oaza-Kamigomyo, Sakaki-machi, Hanishina-gun, Nagano Prefecture in August 1968. Nakajima established the Ueda Research Institute in Ueda City, Nagano Prefecture in 1988.
² Confusingly, OEMs are not the original manufacturers of the product; they are manufacturers who resell another company’s product under their own name and branding.
Fargo Season Three is the best thing I’ve watched on free-to-air TV in a long time.
The cast couldn’t be better. Ewan McGregor who plays brothers Emmit & Ray Stussy, and David Thewlis who plays the mysterious villian V.M. Vargas, are particularly impressive, as is Carrie Coon who plays police-chief Gloria Burgle …
Episode 3: The Law of Non Contradiction was especially good. The plot moves into flashback to reveal Gloria’s stepfather Ennis Stussy’s past life as science-fiction writer Thaddeus Mobley (Thomas Randall Mann).
In L.A. to attend a book awards ceremony where he picks up the 1975 Singularity Award Best Science Fiction Novel for “The Planet Wyh”, Mobley meets producer Howard Zimmerman, who uses the lure of sex and drugs to con the young writer into handing over his book advance, supposedly to finance a movie.
Mobley and Zimmerman
Where there’s a ’70s sci-fi writer, there’s a typewriter.
In this instance, not a Baby Selectric as favoured by Isaac Azimov and Ray Bradbury — nor a left-over Selectric prop from Fargo Season 2 that we see for a split second in the foyer at the venue of the book awards —but a Smith Corona Marchant (SCM) typewriter which we glimpse briefly in Mobley’s hotel room …
Author in hotel room typing in his underwear is something of a cinematic cliche (Barton Fink, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) but a welcome one.
“From small dreams, huge civilizations arise …”
A tell-tale glimpse of the ribbon cover …
… tells me this is probably a Smith Corona Galaxy like this one …
Parts of the backstory are illustrated by an animated sequence which follows the intergalactic travels of a small robot who’s only words are “I can help” as he watches the visited worlds around him disintegrate into chaos …
“I can help …”
A typewriter check on series creator Noah Hawley came up trumps: Not that you’d expect a successful screenwriter to use a typewriter when he can use fully-featured screenwriting software such as Final Draft; however he does use a typewriter as a source of inspiration and keeps a framed photo of his mother as a girl, sitting at her mother’s typewriter, in his office in Austin, Texas …
Great writing thus far!
Matsushita Denki (the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company) is the name behind the Panasonic brand.
Once the world’s largest consumer electronics company and still one of the world’s largest, Matsushita changed its name to Panasonic Corporation in 2008.
Company founder Konosuke Matsushita
“Matsushita’s story is different and unique. In 1952, Matsushita arranged to acquire the technical capabilities of the Dutch company Philips in return for 35 percent of the Japanese company’s equity. It then concentrated on enhancing its functional capabilities in product development, production, and marketing. These learned capabilities permitted it to enter related electronic commercial, industrial, and even information technology markets. As a result, by 1962 only 28 percent of its sales revenues of $64 billion came from consumer electronics.”
When it came to the Japanese market, Matsushita dwarfed its rivals thanks to its chain of National-branded electrical and electronic retail stores, stores which stocked no other brand.
When it came to export markets Matsushita rivalled Japan’s big five computer companies (Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Toshiba and Mitsubishi Electric) and was up alongside Japan’s big players in the electronic typewriter business, Brother, Nakajima, Sharp and Canon, producing an extensive range of electronic typewriters in all three (personal, compact, and professional) product categories:
Series KX-W Word Processors:
Series KX-E office machines described as “full size” and complete with their own D2 typewheels:
KXE-2000, 2020, 3000, 3008, 3100, 3200, 400, 4000, 4020, 4500, 500, 500B, 500E, 501, 501E, 506, 506E, 508, 508E, 601, 603, 7000, 7000M, 700M, 701, 708, 7500
KX-E3100 (Jetwriter III) above
KX-E compatible D2 typewheel (above and below)
Interestingly, Series RK-T compact machines had cup wheels instead of daisy wheels (the cup wheel pictured below is one I purchased on American eBay. No typewriter to go with it.)
RK-T40 sighting (USA)
Most extensive of all – perhaps reflecting Matsushita’s home electronics rather than office equipment focus – is the Panasonic KX-R series of personal electronic typewriters:
Minor styling variations apart, KX-R series typewriters have the same uniform look and feel, with a dark grey housing and a black keyboard, made from the same high-quality plastics. Possibly PBT (Polybutylene terephthalate) key-caps and POM (Polyoxymethylene) outer shells. I wish I knew. Any plastics experts out there?
KX-R compatible D1 typewheel (above and below)
A KX-R530 and a KX-R250, two portable wedges I recently picked up for $20 each:
KX-R250 (above), KX-R530 (below)
Drawbacks to both these machines :
To my mind the KX-R250 has the following advantages:
So the KX-250 is the one to keep, at least until I find an RK-T series machine for my redundant cup wheel (maybe). 😉
More comparison pics:
Double-knob KX-250 (above) Single-knob KX-R530 (below)
Tactile KX-R250 (above) Less tactile KX-R530 (below)
KX-R250 (detachable cord, above), RX-530 (stowaway cord, below)