1970 Olivetti Linea 88
When Olivetti entered the 1960's, it was already a multinational company with factories all over the world. Although, as an organisation, its' tentacles were spread worldwide, their products were still Italian in the best possible sense. Always a style-conscious firm regarding the outside design of their machines, this philosophy extended to the inside 'works' too. The Italians used to specialise in engineering almost as an art form. Why make something utilitarian when you can make it beautiful too ? Why make a mechanism that does something the same way as everyone else, when you can make one that produces the same result but in an entirely different way - just because you can ? I think you get the idea..... You can sometimes see the same thinking in older Italian cars and motorcycles too.
Things were beginning to change at Olivetti in the mid-1960's however. As wonderfully engineered as their earlier machines were, they were also labour-intensive and expensive to make. A toe in the water was the Lettera 32 portable introduced in 1964 as a replacement for the expensive-to-produce Lettera 22 - which was really an office typewriter in miniature. The method of construction was entirely different. Lots of steel stampings and welded assemblies replaced the beautiful nuts and bolts construction of the previous model, although on the outside the two machines looked very similar. The Lettera 32 was nevertheless a pleasant typewriter to use and caught on quickly. No doubt heartened by their decision to go for a new form of construction entirely, the concept was scaled up in 1968 to produce the Studio 45 heavy-duty portable to replace the classic Studio 44, which by then had been in production for some sixteen years. For 1969, it was the turn of the full-size office typewriter to receive the treatment and the Olivetti Linea 88 completed the process of engineering transformation.
Like the smaller machines, the Linea 88 was all steel stampings and welded construction, and featured a moulded plastic outer casing in either mauve or off-white. As a nod to the previous and well-loved Diasphron 82 (always called the D82 in the UK because no-one could pronounce 'Diasphron') the carriage ran on way rods and bearings at the back. The rest was all-new. In fact it is thought that this was the last entirely new office typewriter to have been designed from the ground up - all the other makers relying on older 'sets of works' in updated outer casings right through to the end of manual typewriter production. Even so, the way-rod system in its' new guise proved troublesome and the Linea 88 was redesigned as the Linea 98 (using the proven carriage from Olivetti's Editor electric typewriter) from 1972. With a relatively short production run, and many of these machines going to an early grave with carriage rail trouble, the Linea 88 is a comparatively rare sight today.
This particular machine survived as a family heirloom, although it had been put away in a damp stone building for many years - resulting in much internal and external rust. Normally I would have said that it would be too expensive and unsatisfactory to return a machine in this poor condition to working order. But the customer insisted. It was an heirloom after all. The shift and ribbon transport mechanisms were seized solid with rust. The metal top of the carriage was rust-pitted. So was the eraser table and steel closing plate on the underside. The right hand carriage cheek was broken, with 25% missing. Need I go on ? The picture tells the story really. I managed to bring it back from the dead ! Missing decals were replaced with substitutes that I made - and that includes the nameplate on the front which should read 'Olivetti Linea 88', but doesn't. The customer was, however, very pleased when he received it and thought that I had done an excellent job - even though there is still some unavoidable rust still showing !