Electr(on)ic

Smith Corona’s Last Stand

You have to admire Smith Corona for their tenacity. Not only did they persist in their long-running (double-decade) court battle with Brother Industries, in which each accused the other of electronic typewriter dumping, they refused to see the writing on the wall even when that writing was being written on a wall of PC computer screens, including many of their own (produced in partnership with Taiwanese manufacturer Acer).

“Computers are a logical extension of our line, not a replacement for other products within our line. We strongly believe in the continuing need for the typewriter and will maintain our lead position in the market place.” Smith-Corona CEO Lee Thompson (April 1991).”

While they were successful in transitioning from mechanical and electric typewriters to electronic typewriters and word processors, that was where the Smith Corona success story ended. In 1986, SCM was acquired by the London-based conglomerate, Hanson PLC, and a born-again (non-hyphenated) Smith Corona began manufacturing typewriters in Singapore …

This 1989 XD 4600 electronic typewriter is just one in a 400-strong range of portable electronic typewriters and word processors (many of them the same machine with a different shell and/or model number designation).

A quality keyboard …

…  but something tells me these H Series printwheels weren’t made to last very long …

… plenty of life left in this one though …

 

There are 8 H Series printwheel typeface variants:

Pica:

  • Regency 10/Courier 10
  • Tempo 10
  • Orator 10

Elite:

  • Regency 12/Courier 12
  • Presidential 12/Prestige 12

Pica or Elite:

  • Script 10/12
  • Courier Italic 10/12
  • Letter Gothic 10/12

A Brother-like cable stow on the back of the machine, but no room for the plug …?

Typewriter mode …

 

Memory mode (must remember to give it a try) …

By 1989 Smith Corona were the world leaders in the manufacture and sale of Personal Word Processors (PWPs) …

PWP 2000

PWP 1400

~

Unfortunately, 1989 also saw the beginning of a strong and steady decline in Smith Corona. Hanson PLC spun off 53 percent of Smith Corona stock in a public offering, and Smith Corona laid off ten percent of its work force. Six years later, incurring huge losses, they declared bankruptcy.

Nothing wrong with the quality of their electronic typewriters, everything wrong with their timing.

Categories: Electr(on)ic, Typewriter

Tagged as:

6 replies »

  1. “We’re writing the future.” How ironic!

    I should mention that Smith-Corona were already making some typewriters in Singapore earlier, circa 1970: their small electric portables based on the Skyriter.

  2. Absolutely astounding, the process of devolving the typewriter from a functional work of art into something so prosaic as a doorstop with buttons. I’ve had three such doortstops over the past 20 years, and gave all away. I’ve found the delay of an electronic typewriter to be inhibiting to the writing process. Even standard electrics, (of which I currently own three) are not as inspiring to me as a good, old-fashioned manual typewriter. Great article! 😊

    • Thanks Crystal. I agree, but electronic typewriters are ideal for lazy (still trying to learn to type properly) typists with increasingly-arthritic fingers like me, especially so, I think, the better-quality office machines which have less of a delay than many cheap and nasty electronic portables. There’s always the fear that they’re going to die on you, but that’s just part of their disposable nature bless ’em. 😉

  3. I like my SC electrics. I’ve always wondered if my time as a drummer and as a midi instrument user, that the ms delays are something I just get used to quickly. I tend to type faster on wedges for some reason. Hand over the fire though, I’d keep my manuals. Cool insights, thanks! ~Tom~

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s