P-O-E-M-S (Poetry On Electronic MachineS)
Brother AX-10, LORI typeface.
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.
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)
Odd to think that “Three Stars” is the meaning of the name of the company that gave us the “Galaxy” smartphone. In a way it sums up the impact of Korean manufacturers on the universe of the electronic typewriter.
Samsung SQ-3200 with French keyboard (above)
Samsung SQ-3000 (above and below)
Samsung did have some impact though. They, their affiliate Packard Bell, and Sharp (Korea) were worthy of mention in …
"Portable Electric Typewriters From Singapore"
… the determination of the 1991 United States International Trade Commission in Investigation No. 731-TA-515 (preliminary) Under the tariff act of 1930 (an investigation into electronic typewriter dumping and its effect on the domestic U.S. market):
“The world market for PETs¹ PATs² and PEWPs³ is dominated by many of the same firms that compete in the U.S., primarily Smith Corona, Brother International Corporation, and Olivetti, as well as other firms such as Canon Business Machines and the Korean operations of SHARP, SAMSUNG and PACKARD BELL who sell considerable quantities for export around the world.”.
Samsung’s SQ series of portable electronic typewriters comprised the following models …
… models which appeared in a number guises. The SQ-3000, for example, was also sold as the “Silver Reed” EX 133 MD …
… many of these were “Made in China” after Samsung moved their electronics manufacturing to China in the early 1990s …
Samsung SQ-1000 …
Silver Reed EX 133 … not a patch on earlier ’80s Silver Reed EX series machines such as the EX-42/44 …
It seems no expense was entertained in the manufacture of the SQ series, as evidenced by their easily-discoloured ABS4 plastic shells …
… and their cheaply printed (rather than laser etched, double shot, or dye sublimated) ABS keycaps — the legends of which run the risk of being rubbed out due to over-vigorous cleaning …
Removal of the QWERT as well as the dirt!
If you own a wedge, especially a ’90s wedge, you can expect plastic. But a plastic ribbon cassette mounting bracket? That’s taking plastic too far …
Incidentally, the SQ-3000 takes a Brother ribbon cassette which, along with Olivetti’s Praxis 35 ribbon, seems to have been used on many Japanese wedges …
The type wheel (unlike those of Brother, Sharp and Panasonic) comes without a plastic sleeve, and (in this instance) without the luxury of resin-tipped spokes …
The typing action on the SQ-3000 is noisy and the keycaps have a loose, cheap-computer-keyboard feel to them, especially the Return key which refuses to respond unless you hit exactly the right spot.
When it came to other Samsung models I doubt things got much better.
The only non-SQ example I could find online is this ET-45S (Type Ace 2 or Type CE 2?) typewriter, which appears to be a thermal device …
Despite the thumbs-up logo, Samsung typewriters get a big thumbs-down from me.
Three star company, one star typewriters.
¹ PETs: Personal Electric Typewriters
² PATs: Personal Automatic Typewriters (with text memory)
³ PEWPs: Personal Word Processors
4 ABS is short for “Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene”. ABS (and other polystyrene blends) will gradually turn yellow over time when subjected to ultraviolet light, a component of sunlight. Most keyboards have keycaps made of ABS.
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)
The heavyweight Olivetti Lexikon 90 was introduced in 1976 and had a short-lived production run which ended two years later in 1978 (Source: TWDB).
It’s too large and, let’s face it, ugly, for most collectors. However, the “interchangeable spherical printhead” (AKA golf ball, AKA small hand grenade) is a thing of beauty.
I had expected to find a larger version of the spherical printhead used on the Lexikon 82/83 DL, but it turns out this printhead has a completely different orientation …
I’m not interested in collecting the typewriter, which I don’t have room for. I do have room, however, for the instruction guide which I picked up recently (in Italian, French and English) …
The following Lexikon 90 images were taken from: