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.
It’s confusing how Brother released two iterations of their CE series and AX series electronic typewriters, especially when their production timespans overlapped.
The typewriters of the “first” CE and AX iterations (based on JP number) have an old-fashioned mid-’80s vibe and the same two-tone design aesthetic …
Brother CE-30 (JP-11x) and Brother AX-10 (JP-12x)
Brother AX-10 (JP-12x) and Olivetti Praxis 20 (circa 1983)
… whereas the typewriters of the “second” CE and AX iterations have a more modern look.
Although it may seem obvious that Brother CE series machines are “compact electronic” typewriters, hence the CE model number prefix, I’d always thought of my CE-30 as a portable machine; that is, until I bought an AX-10 to compare it with…
Compared to compact office electronic typewriters like the Canon AP150 or the Xerox 6002, the CE-30 is relatively small and light. Up against the AX-10 it’s big and heavy.
So the CE acronym makes sense in that respect (“compacts” being bigger than “portables”), but what exactly is AX if it’s not a tool for chopping wood or a 9 point word in Scrabble?
An AX acronym that comes up in a Google search (in the context of dog-breeding) is Agility EXcellent, which seems appropriate given that the AX-10 is very lightweight and able to be moved quickly and easily. But can it be operated quickly and easily or is it a dog to type on?
Not at all. For a start, even though the AX-10 is much lighter than the CE-30, its keyboard has a nice solid feel to it. In fact it’s the same keyboard minus a few functional bells and whistles.
And the good news is that the AX-10 doesn’t suffer from what I think are the two main shortcomings of the CE-30, namely:
Cable storage for the AX-10 is a breeze.
There’s more space, more leeway. Furthermore, because the compartment is at the back of the machine rather than under the ribbon cover, failure to stow away the cable won’t (should you still have a problem, which you won’t) impede the closure of the ribbon cover.
Even better, the typing action on the AX-10 is quieter. The hammer mechanism of the CE-30 is more substantial …
… whereas the hammer on the AX-10 is a simpler, cheaper design, but more importantly, has a gentler impact …
The print wheels on these two 1985 machines are the same (Prestige 10/12), but the ribbon on the AX-10 is smaller, as you would expect. Brother print wheels come in a tabbed plastic sleeve. Inserting, removing and replacing the ribbon cartridge and the print wheels on both these machines couldn’t be simpler.
I have a good stash of these smaller Brother ribbons, which is one reason I bought the AX-10. All things considered, it’s one of my better electronic purchases ($30).
I think I’ll keep it around and say goodbye to Big Brother. 🙂
Brother CE- 650
Brother CE- 550
There goes my CE = Compact Electronic theory!
See Also: The Golf War: Olivetti versus Brother
As promised, a few comparison pictures of the Brother Super 7300 alongside the Olivetti Lexikon 82.
I have to say I much prefer the Brother. Having said that, the Brother is in excellent working and cosmetic condition whereas the Lexikon 82 isn’t. In fact it died. Black goo in and around the power switch indicates something got fried!
So it goes and so it doesn’t type (to paraphrase Vonnegut and Polt). But at least I snapped a few comparison pics to remember it by before I take it apart.
As I thought, the Lexikon 82 is lighter (just), has a flatter profile, and a more-or-less similar footprint.
The Super 7300 is more substantial in its size and in its build quality, and to my mind that’s what makes it better — plus it has a more tactile keyboard.
What struck me was how small the Olivetti element ball is compared with the Brother and IBM element balls. Oddly, many of the photos I took don’t show this. Take this image for example:
Olivetti, Brother and IBM element balls from Left to Right.
This image does show the difference, however that Olivetti ball still appear larger than it does to the naked eye. Strange that!
The Brother and IBM balls are of a similar size, (perhaps the Brother ball is a tad taller) and also similar in the respect that they have a jagged tooth bottom edge, whereas the bottom edge of the Olivetti ball is flat.
The Olivetti ribbon cassette is comparatively small too when compared against the Brother:
And apparently the Lexikon 82 element balls and ribbon cassettes are hard, if not impossible, to find, so the Brother Super 7300 wins on that score too. 😉
They say you should never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Ignoring they (or that), I opened up the mouth of this FREE 1990 Brother AX-450 and peered inside, searching for the reason why it wasn’t working.
The obvious answer seems to be that these machines are so poorly constructed they’re bound to break sooner rather than later. Specifically, what’s broken in this instance is the hammer mechanism, which is permanently set to a forward position.
So for zero dollars (not counting the cost of petrol to go and pick it up) I got myself a piece of plastic junk.
A nicely-sculpted piece of plastic junk it has to be said. I particularly like the way the plug and cable stow away at the back of the machine.
This is the only advantage this machine has over the Brother CE-30 — with the CE-30 you have to fold the cable and plug into a small compartment underneath the ribbon cover and it’s a very difficult art to master.
Apart from that shortcoming, the CE-30 is bigger, better constructed, and hence, still working. The rule seems to be that the smaller an electronic wedge is, the more cheaply constructed it is, the shorter its lifespan is likely to be.
At least I got myself another instruction guide to scan (when I get around to it) a spare printwheel and three brand new ribbons (not that they fit the CE-30 which takes a bigger ribbon cassette).
I bought this Brother Super 7800 purely for comparison purposes, thinking it couldn’t possibly be better than the Brother Super 7300 …
Functionality-wise, it has a few more bells and whistles, but aesthetically I prefer the Super 7300.
The other determining factor when choosing between them is size. Any over-large typewriter that comes my way these days is only with me on a temporary visa so-to-speak. Photos are taken, identity papers are checked, and the machine is sent on its way. As was the case with this Super 7800.
The “case” of the Super 7800 makes you think it’s a lot bigger than the Super 7300 …
It is bigger, but not by that much.
The case of the Super 7800 is a lot wider, allowing for storage of cable and plug and a cover. The plastic case is also reinforced by a sturdy metal brace, which is necessary. The Super 7800 may not be a lot bigger then the Super 7300, but it is a lot heavier.
An unnecessary enhancement is the release lever that flips open the ribbon cover (on the Super 7300 the snap-on ribbon cover pulls off) …
Ribbon cassettes are the same on both models
It ain’t rocket science, but “lift-off” tape was a big selling point …
And it seems there are only six typefaces to choose from. Then again, how many do you need …?
The Super 7300 is beautifully proportioned (if you appreciate the fuller figure) …
… whereas the Super 7800 is strictly business …
… and let’s face it, ugly …
The serial number on this one dates it to 1981 …
A name that came up in an online search was that of James Herriot. But I can’t find any photographic evidence to support the claim that Herriot (real name James Alf Wight) used a Brother Super 7800 …
Extract from The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting by Darren Sean Wershler-Henry
Future online searches will at least yield the Brother Super 7800 instruction guide in English, German, French and Spanish. Rather than create a PDF, I’ve included the images here (it’s a relatively short guide) …
A miniature version of golf, “crazy golf” as it is sometimes referred to, is not a pursuit that should be taken seriously …
… it’s fun though, as is the Brother Super 7300 “portable” golf ball typewriter, a once serious business machine, now a novelty purchase …
I mention “miniature golf” only because I was impressionable enough to buy into the advertising …
“IBM made it possible. Brother make it portable.”
The Brother Super 7300 is certainly much lighter than a “Baby” Selectric 721, but it’s difficult to argue it’s smaller …
Lately, I seem to be enjoying a run of Japanese machines (based purely on local availability rather than a conscious decision to collect them):
As you can see, Brother are stretching the limits of what might be considered “portable”. Yes, it’s much lighter than the Selectric pictured alongside it, but I don’t feel confident the plastic handle on the 7300’s snap-on lid could cope with a prolonged journey!
Still, it is a “compact electric” according to Wilfred Beeching’s definition, and “portable” in as much as you can lug it between offices quite easily.
(BTW If you want to know what “heavy” is, buy a Sharp ZX-500 like the one owned by William Golding.)
The other quibble I have with the Brother advertisement above, as clever as it is, is the fact that Olivetti “made it portable” years before Brother did. The Olivetti Lexikon 82 was first produced in 1974 according to Wikipedia (1975 according to Olivetti Storia di’un impresa), which makes it 3 (or 2) years earlier than the Super 7300 (1977).
Also, by the look it, Olivetti made their golf ball typewriters more portable than Brother were able to make theirs …
The hum (I can also hear something quietly ticking over) and the typing feel of the Super 7300 is similar to that of an IBM Selectric.
The Brother (black) element ball is also of a similar shape and size to its IBM counterpart, but is not similar enough to be interchangeable. The slide on the top of the ball is an improvement on the lift-up tab on the IBM ball …
This typewriter came to me with Courier 10 pitch and Script 10/12 pitch element balls. Just as well I have a spare, because they seem to be completely unavailable online.
No instruction guide, but then there’s not a lot to these typewriters (he said having not yet tried to change the correction tape or ribbon cartridge).
I don’t know why, but I get a sense of (sledgehammer-to-crack-a-nut) overkill from this typewriter. Call me a philistine, but to me a daisy wheel and a moveable ribbon carrier makes a lot more sense.
The Super 7300 is a big solid typewriter, yet there’s something very fragile and clumsy about the action of that hemmed-in plastic ball. I just get the feeling it’s not going to last (“it” being either the motor, or the plastic ball, or the ribbon cassette, or the handle on the lid, etc.).
As Mr Martin points out on his Typewriter Museum website (see link below), the big difference between this machine and the IBM Selectric is the fact that the Super 7300 has a moveable carriage and a fixed ribbon carrier/typing ball.
It’s weird, the traditional carriage moves right-to-left and there’s a traditional Shift and Shift Lock key. but there is no carriage shift (or basket shift in the absence of a basket). It’s the element ball that “shifts” invisibly into uppercase.
When you hit the return key, the bulky carriage zooms back to the right — and then slows at the very last second, almost as if some kind of parachute or air-cushion braking mechanism has been engaged within.
Despite my “electrical insecurity”, I do like the look and feel of this machine, and I think it sits well in my collection as an example of a particular (peculiar) category of typewriter.
Its close relation, the Brother Super 7800 (JP-14-N) is physically bigger, squarer, and more sophisticated …
Brother Super 7800 (above) with repeat spacer and a tab set and clear switch which the 7300 lacks.
Brother Super 7900 (also JP-14) without repeat spacer, above and below.
There must have been a good reason why Brother chose not to replicate the moveable ribbon carrier/typing ball that was a feature of the IBM Selectrics. Probably, they stuck with the moveable carriage simply to make use of the carriages and components of their existing (JP-4, 8, 10, 12) electric type bar typewriters.
Brother also produced Electronic 8300 and 9300 daisywheel typewriters with moveable carriages just like the ones on these JP-11 and JP-14 golf ball machines.
1982 marked the advent of Brother’s more slimline CE series (JP-11x) and AX series (JP-12x) electronic typewriters. In the years prior to this, it seems Brother were happily mixing and matching old and new components to provide their customers with a wide selection of electric (type-bar, golf ball, daisy wheel) typewriter options.
They certainly kept things interesting.
The Brother page of The Typewriter Database (TWDB)
The Brother page of: Mr Martin’s Typewriter Museum
The Litton T-A Organisation “Royal” R700 (Adler Universal 390) I bought a few months ago has gone to a new home, thus making room for a smaller Litton, T-A Organisation “Royal” (Nakajima) …
A distinctive feature of this typewriter are three special keys which allow the typist to backspace and select from a small subset of umlauts and accents consistent with the Italian or French language …
Nothing unusual about that, except that the three contrasting key-tops draw great attention to themselves …
A close inspection of the type slugs reveals what my initial thought was — that this is a modified machine.
But is it a modified machine? Possibly this is the way the machine was originally built?
Special keys aside, it’s interesting to compare this Litton “Royal” with the Litton “Imperial” I recently purchased.
It’s a battle between an “Imperial” Silver Seiko on the one hand, and a “Royal” Nakajima on the other, with the former coming out on top …
On the face of it, they’re similar typewriters (in terms of their size and weight and general body shape) …
They both have a Pica typeface and share the same Litton Industries logo on the front of their ribbon covers …
Like the “Imperial”, the “Royal” has an all-metal body except for the back of the carriage, which is plastic. The quality of the metalwork and paintwork are better on the “Imperial” Silver-Seiko.
Serial number 50251990 …
On the plus side, the “Royal” Nakajima has tabulation and the aforementioned special keys …
That’s the only reason I bought it really – out of sheer curiosity. It was also a cheapie at $20 AUD.
On the subject of Japanese typewriters masquerading as something else, here’s something else I’m curious about …
If this “Brother” M-1500 were listed on the TWDB, would it fall under the category “Brother (Nakajima)”?
The likeness to this Chevron (Nakajima) is uncanny …
Hmm… Curiouser and curiouser …
Another “Royal” Nakajima (above).
A “Nakajima ALL” Model 2000
An Adler Tippa De Luxe!