In May this year I blogged about compact electric typewriters and got a good response when I asked: which is the most compact electric (type-bar) machine? One typewriter muted as a candidate was the Royal Apollo 10, an electric typewriter that has a manual carriage return lever rather than a press-of-a-button carriage return. You can also operate carriage shift and space bar when the power is off.
Just like driving a car with a manual transmission, a great deal of satisfaction and sense of control is to be had in “shifting” the carriage of a typewriter by hand, so I was curious to try-out one of these manual-electric hybrids …
Imperial 300 AKA Apollo 10
While this machine is a lot bigger in the flesh than it looked to me on paper, the metal spools are tiny (are they original? I think they must be) …
Since they owned the naming rights, Litton Industries applied the “Royal” and “Imperial” brands to the typewriters they sourced from the Japanese (Silver Seiko, Nakajima) as well as to the typewriters they inherited from the Triumph-Adler (TA) Organisation.
“Apollo 10” (aimed primarily at the American market?) fits with the imaginative model naming schemes adopted by the Royal typewriter company.
“Imperial 300” (aimed primarily at the British market?) fits with the unimaginative model numbering schemes favoured by the “Imperial Typewriter Company”.
It’s been suggested that the Gabriele electric S (AKA the Olympia Monica electric S) is the most compact electric type bar typewriter.
With that in mind it’s interesting to compare the Imperial 300 alongside the Gabriele electric S. You can see in the following photo there’s not a lot of difference in terms of footprint …
The Imperial 300 is physically bigger (or at least taller) but feels slightly lighter than the Gabriele electric S, which, given it needs more power to return the carriage (and operate the basket shift), has a heavier motor.
It also has a noisier motor. Compared to the whisper-quiet hum of the Imperial 300, the Gabriele electric S sounds like a tumble dryer at your local laundromat.
The arched roof of the Imperial 300’s lid provides plenty of space for the non-detachable power cord and plug to be easily stowed away within.
With the Gabriele electric S, you have to store the detachable cord and plug in a cramped compartment on the underside of the lid. There’s less space, making stowing the cable more of an arm wrestle.
But it’s not all negative as far as the Gabriele electric S is concerned. While the motor of the Imperial 300 makes it quieter when the machine is idling, it also makes it noisier when the machine is typing, due to the greater force that is applied to the type bars.
(What makes this noise differential worse is the fact that the platen of the Imperial 300 has hardened more than the platen on the Gabriele.)
Another plus are the keys on the Gabriele electric S, which are more tactile and responsive than those on the Imperial 300 …
An example of the Imperial 300’s Elite typeface, if you’re interested the extract is from “Humboldt’s Gift” by Saul Bellow (1975).
If you could transmogrify these two machines and combine the manual carriage return and the quieter motor of the Imperial 300, with the softer hammer and more tactile keys of the Gabriele electric S, you’d have the perfect electric typewriter.
These electric machines enjoyed perhaps a decade of popularity before electronic typewriters, and then computers, replaced them. From The New York Times, December 16th, 1974 …