Praxis Makes it Personal
Posted on November 11, 2019
The specification for the 1983 Olivetti Praxis 20, makes for unimpressive reading: it has a print speed on the low side (8 cps), and a noise emission reading on the high side (69 dBA). The 1986 Olivetti Personal 50 is identical in design, construction, size, weight (6.3 kg) and technical specification.
A stick-on serial number label, inside the machine, and the absence of a manufacturer plate, supports my contention that these are re-imagined (surplus) Praxis 20s …
Olivetti may have turned electronic “wedge” design on its head, but these typewriters are SLOW and NOISY.
The typing experience is not helped by a pedestrian and rasping carrier return which reminds me a lot of the Juki 2200 …
In a January 2017 post, I suggested there was collaboration and cooperation between Olivetti and the Juki Industrial Co:
- There is some resemblance between the Praxis 20/Personal 50 and the Juki 2100/2200,
- the Juki 2100 and Juki 2200 use the newer Olivetti Praxis ribbon,
- the Juki 2100 was sold in Japan as the Olivetti “Daisy Black”.
(It was not unusual for American and European typewriter manufacturers to ally themselves with the Japanese. Olivetti and IBM, for example, entered into various complementary technology sharing agreements with Japanese companies (Canon, Hitachi, Toshiba, etc.) throughout the 1980s and 1990s.)
Oddly, the ribbon used in the Praxis 20/ETP 50, before its use was discontinued, is the same ribbon used in various late model Robotron personal ETs, which makes me wonder if Olivetti sold or leased some of their plant and equipment after switching production of their personal ETs to Singapore?
Olivetti knew they had to improve on the performance of their early personal and compact ETs and they did. Released in October 1987, the ultra-stylish triple pitch Olivetti Personal 55 is faster (12 cps), sleeker and lighter (4.5 kg) …
That said, as I remember it, the ETP 55 was not much quieter than the ETP 50, and its keyboard had a cheaper and less tactile “membrane” feel. Mario Bellini’s space-age design was not enough, on its own, to make me want to keep it around.
Investigation of the key switches on a non-functioning Praxis 20 (the same key-tops and switches as those on the Personal 50) reveal a rubber dome and a vertical metal reed …
Dome switches are a hybrid of a mechanical-switch over a flat-panel membrane.
The key-tops on the Praxis 20 are made of double-shot plastic. Unlike the pad-printed key-tops on later, more cheaply constructed personal ETs (Smith Corona and Samsung I’m thinking especially of you), the lettering won’t wear off over time.
So if the ET Personal 50 has anything going for it, its a decent keyboard.
It’s just a shame Olivetti couldn’t make their early personals and compacts a little faster and quieter. For a better personal electronic typewriter, see: