I stumbled across this while searching for something else …
It makes for interesting reading (I downloaded a copy onto my Kindle for just a few dollars).
From approximately 1976 to 1984, the Soviet union used electro-mechanical and electronic implants to gather information from Selectric typewriters located in the U.S. embassy in Moscow, and the U.S. consulate in Leningrad. Project GUNMAN was a National Security Agency (NSA) plan to remove and replace all of their potentially compromised typewriters (so any bugs could be analysed and reverse engineered) without the Soviets knowing they’d been rumbled.
The first bug was discovered on the 24th of July, 1984 …
On a Monday evening, 23 July, a technician noticed an extra coil on the power switch of an IBM Selectric typewriter. He decided to x-ray the whole machine from top to bottom. The x-rays of the keyboard proved to be very interesting:
When I saw those x-rays, my response was ‘holy f***\ They really were bugging our equipment.
[…] The next morning, [engineers] argued about whether we had an anomaly or a bugged typewriter. Some typewriters had memory now which could account for additional circuits. What led us to conclude that this typewriter was probably bugged was the location of so many circuits in a metal bar that went along the length of the machine.”
Of the 44 typewriters shipped back to the NSA from the U.S. embassy, 6 were bugged. Later, 7 additional typewriters in the Moscow embassy and 3 typewriters in the Leningrad consulate, were found to have implants.
In total, 16 bugs were found in twelve IBM Selectric II typewriters and four IBM Selectric III typewriters. All had modified bails (interpose latches or arms) that controlled the pitch and rotation of the ball.
The Soviets continually upgraded and improved their implants. It was discovered that there were five varieties or generations of bugs. Three types of units operated using DC power and contained either eight, nine, or ten batteries. The other two types operated from AC power and had beacons to indicate whether the typewriter was turned on or off. Some of the units also had a modified on and off switch with a transformer, while others had a special coaxial screw with a spring and a lug. The modified switch sent power to the implant. Since the battery-powered machines had their own internal source of power, the modified switch was not necessary. The special coaxial screw with a spring and a lug connected the implant to the typewriter linkage, and this linkage was used as an antenna to transmit the information as it was being typed.
Six ferromagnetic magnetizable bails were replaced with six nonferromagnetic nonmagnetizable bails with a very strong magnet in the tip. All the typewriters contained a modified comb support bar. Housing the bug inside a metal bar, and using low power and short burst transmissions at the 30, 60, or 90 MHZ range via radio frequency, made it very difficult for the bugs to be detected.
The Soviets also used “snuggling”techniques to hide bug transmissions in the noise of the transmission of television stations.
All of the implants were quite sophisticated. Each implant had a magnetometer that converted the mechanical energy of the keystrokes into local magnetic disturbances. The electronics package in the implant responded to these disturbances, categorized the underlying data, and transmitted the results to a nearby listening post. Data were transmitted via radio frequency. The implant was enabled by remote control (the Soviets could simply turn off the implants when they knew teams of inspectors were around). The integrated circuits were very sophisticated for that time period, and contained one bit core memory, an advancement that NSA engineers had never seen.
When the story broke in June 1985, press reports attempted to describe how the bugs worked, but were inaccurate in saying that the bugs were based on sound or timing. In reality, the movement of the bails determined which character had been typed because each character had a unique binary movement corresponding to the bails. The magnetic energy picked up by the sensors in the bar was converted into a digital signal.
While there was some ambiguity in determining which characters had been typed, the laws of probability enabled the Soviets (and subsequently NSA) to figure out what had been typed.
The implants were most likely installed by the Soviet Intelligence Service when the typewriters were under the control of Soviet customs officials before they reached their destination at the embassy or the consulate.
(Incidentally, the Soviets exercised extreme caution when it came to their own typewriters, using mechanical typewriters for all classified documentation.)
The GUNMAN security breach led to improvements in procedures for shipping plain text processing equipment. In 1988, the State Department built a facility to inspect and package (using ant-tamper technologies) all such equipment that was shipped overseas. The facility is still in operation today.
Extracts (and paraphrasing) from: Learning from the Enemy: The GUNMAN Project by Sharon A Maneki, National Security Agency, Progressive Management Publications, 2012.
Of course, I knew Juki 2100 and 2200 portable electronic typewriters took an Olivetti Praxis compatible ribbon (and a TA Triumph-Adler print wheel, and quacked like a duck, see my Juki New Year blog post of January 1st, 2017), but who knew the Juki 2100 (or is it the 2200?) portable electronic typewriter was also sold as the Olivetti DAISY BLACK?
This imaginatively-named typewriter appears to have been unique to Japan (this is a sighting on the Japanese Yahoo auction site).
While Olivetti collaborated with several major Japanese electronics and computer companies throughout the 1980s to produce photocopiers (Sharp, Canon) and office automation systems (Toshiba, Hitachi), I cannot find any evidence they entered into any kind of joint venture with Juki Industries.
On its own, the existence of an Olivetti ribbon, hardly seems like proof of anything. Many electronic typewriter manufacturers used third-party consumables.
But an “Olivetti” branded typewriter and operating guide (rather than the “no name” generic booklet you normally get with an OEM machine)?
Hmm… Maybe Olivetti was more than just a supplier of ribbons? Is it likely Juki came to an agreement with the Olivetti Corp. of Japan to produce a Praxis clone, in the same way they came to an agreement (presumably) with IBM, to put Selectric ribbons in their daisy wheel printers, and unadulterated IBM Selectric golf balls in their Sierra 3300/3400/3500 golf ball typewriters?
Apart from taking the same ribbon, the Juki 2100 and 2200 do share a number of features in common (for example, they share the same see-through top cover, and the same KBI and KBII selector switch to the left of the keyboard) and were manufactured around the same time (circa 1983).
Below, a Daisy Black is listed as an “Olivetti” alongside a Nakajima AX-150 … which shows how much care and attention went into this Japanese online listing.
A second Nakajima thumbnail image is also shown (above) for the Olivetti ET 101, which should look like this…
Not that an association between Nakajima and Olivetti is completely erroneous – if you ever wondered why this Olivetti CX-880 takes a Nakajima AE-series compatible ribbon ….
The answer is simple …
… it’s a Nakajima clone.
This Brother AX-550 portable electronic typewriter punches well above its weight (said weight being 4.5 kg and noticeably lighter than my Brother AX-10 or Brother AX-30. No doubt, cheaper construction materials and components account for the difference.
So what kind of punch does this cheap-looking AX-β (BETA) version of an AX typewriter pack?
Truth be told (rather than a half truth), the specification for this typewriter should probably state “a top speed of 12 cps” rather than “12 cps” as stated in the User’s Guide. In other words, this typewriter’s average speed feels more like 10 cps.
A reasonably tactile keyboard and a smooth carrier return compare well with older JP-12x portable electronic typewriters, however the motor that rotates the type wheel wheezes like a mildly asthmatic dog.
Nonetheless, the AX-550 does what it was designed to do and is still in good working order almost thirty years after it was made.
This function-rich portable typewriter (the User Guide weighs-in at 111 pages) sits at the top of the Brother AX-β series – however there are at least four distinct (JP-12x, JP-18, AX BETA, GX/SX) AX-prefixed variants.
Some later AX- portable wedges have the scalloped GX/SX body shape, for example an AX-325 (added on the TWDB). Another UK-made AX-210 seems like a JP-18 yet different again (also added on the TWDB).
The only ones with this β (BETA) body shape I’ve come across so far are the AX-110, 130, 140, 350, 450 and 550. (Various non “AX” word processors, WP-1600D, WP-3400, etc have a similar BETA-like body shape.)
This one was sold – as distributor stickers on both the paper table and the front cover of the User’s Guide attest – as a “business” machine.
It supports Pica, Elite and Micron pitches, has a keyboard memory of 48 characters, a correction memory of one line or 383 keystrokes (???), allows up to 12 tabs to be set (including decimal tabs), and can safely handle 1 original plus 4 carbon copies.
With a generously wide (2 lines x 40 characters) LCD screen, it’ll take a while to reach the “hot zone”, and an eternity to reach someone on the Brother “hotline” …
Call me picky, but this typewriter’s “Lego-land” construction (as exemplified by one hideously simple platen knob) lets it down badly.
What, no grooves? I’ve seen better looking toothpaste tube caps.
Remember the parable of the dentist in the Coen Brothers’ movie A Serious Man, wherein a Hebrew message was discovered engraved in the plaster mould of a goy’s teeth?
“Help me, save me”
Oy vey, Brother, if this typewriter could speak! I see dark echoes in the way an identity number has been burnt into the skin of this machine, not once, but twice!
Why would anyone do such a thing? I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man: which of us is possessed?
I finally managed to connect my Silver Reed EX-32 with a Centronics-to-USB bidirectional cable and get it to print (a rough video is embedded at the end of this post). It ain’t fast but, hey, what’s the rush?
The breakthrough came on a Toshiba Portege M405 laptop running Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005.
The above steps are pretty much the same on my Windows 10 laptop. However, it refused to cooperate, or elaborate further on this minimalist error notification (clicking on it simply opened up the print queue).
No luck, no matter how many times (4) I switched USB ports.
In addition to setting up a Generic/Text printer and pairing it with a USB port, you have to press CODE + P to toggle between Typing mode and Printer mode. This is revealed on pages 28 and 29 of the Silver Reed EX-32 Operating Manual …
The Silver Reed I/F44 interface box is specific (I think) to the Silver Reed EX-44 (and EX-43N), and connects to the front of the typewriter via a flat cable. …
Putting this to use will be a bigger challenge, should I ever trade-in my EX-42 for an EX- 44.
In pre-USB times, parallel and serial interface boxes were very common. The AEG Olympia Carrera, for example, offered an “IF-Box” very similar to the I/F44 …
One small step for man …
The Canon S-300 (introduced in March 1987 and also sold as the UTAX T-3300) occupies the same ambiguous “portable-compact” territory as machines like the Brother CE-70. Functionality-wise, it sits at the top of the S-series …
The Canon S-200 (also sold as the UTAX T-3200, below) is a lower-spec model, without an LCD screen, and without any of the extra (Text, Mode, margin and tabulation) keys to the left and right of the main keyboard.
According to specifications the S-300 boasts (this example in my collection is *dead* so I can’t test this):
The “truly compact” AP-1500 (16 cps) is actually less compact (in terms of its footprint) and takes a larger ribbon, however the difference in “class” shows when you compare them side by side …
Weight-wise these two typewriters are similar, however the S-300 shares more in common with the AP-150 (July 1985, 15 cps), and takes the same ribbon. I guess the category it fits into could be “personal compact” as opposed to “office compact”: In other words, a cheaper, brighter, lower-level, more consumer-friendly version of a compact typewriter.
I *think* the Canon MX-300 (below) is the same typewriter …
Model name variants (possibly regional) confuse matters. Another example is this almost identical S-68S …
And this anomalous (I’ve only ever seen this one) Korean-made S-66 MX which is very close to the AP-150 in its keyboard layout …
Different, yes, but note the “vacant lot” immediately to the left of the Return key. The S-300 has the same thing …
The S-300S (S = more storage options?) has “a vacant lot” at the far left of its top-most row of keys. …
Should you find a working model S-300, or similar, let me know how it goes. Ribbon cassettes are still reasonably easy to find worldwide. The typewriters themselves, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly scarce. 😉
Vladimir Nabokov’s mention (in his partial-autobiography Speak, Memory) of the French novelist Gustave Flaubert’s debut novel Madame Bovary (1857) as “unsurpassed”, led me to read it and see whether his use of the superlative was justified.
It was. Having read the book for the first time I can see Flaubert may have had more than a minor influence on Nabokov’s writing style and subject matter.
Take for example, the scene in which the druggist. Homais, chastises his simpleton of a servant, Justin, after discovering him in possession of a volume of pornography, but then softens his attitude, adding:
“It is not that I entirely disapprove of the work. Its author was a doctor! There are certain scientific points in it that it is not ill in a man should know, and I would even venture to say that a man must know.”
This, and Flaubert’s portrayal of Emma, his female protagonist, as a woman with carnal desires is illuminating, especially when you learn that Flaubert, no stranger to brothels, suffered from venereal disease for most of his life.
As well as pursuing women, Flaubert believed in, and pursued, the principle of finding “le mot juste” (“the right word”).
According to Amazon, there are 117, 120 of them, and the average reader will spend 7 hours and 48 minutes reading Madame Bovary at 250 WPM (words per minute).
Time well spent!