The Typewriter Man

Typewriter of the Month - 2016

TYPEWRITER REPAIRS

Each month, one typewriter will be featured on this page of the website.
It may be a machine that I have been working on, or something that I think might be of particular interest.
January 2016
This picture shows the carriage at the halfway folded stage.
This picture shows the carriage completely folded down, ready to go in the carry case.
This typewriter was brought to me by one of my youngest customers - a boy of ten with a keen interest in mechanical things, and typewriters in particular. He already had two other vintage machines, and the Corona was a lucky find in an antiques shop. I doubt that the dealer selling it quite realised what he had there. It needed a through clean and service, repairs to the escapement, a new drawcord and new rubber parts. It now types amazingly well, and my customer took it away looking very pleased. I know that it will be in safe hands.
The first Corona Threes were made as early as 1909, athough the machine was originally called the 'Standard Folding Typewriter', manufactured in America by the Rose Typewriter Company. Unfortunately, the firm was under-capitalised, and the manufacturing rights were soon sold to a group of businessmen. With sufficient money behind the scheme, production was expanded and the little machine started to gain a significant share of the market. By 1914, the firm had been re-named the Corona Typewriter Co., and the machine became the Corona Three. A simple, lightweight portable typewriter, the trademark of the Corona Three was that the whole carriage was hinged so that it folded down over the keyboard when not in use. This meant that it could be placed in a much smaller carrying box than would otherwise be needed. In order to reduce the number of working parts to a minimum, the machine had three rows of keys and a double shift - one for capital letters, and a second for numerals and symbols. It was a very clever design, but as a one-model manufacturer, Corona had too many eggs in one basket. By 1924 they had realised that they could not survive by making just the one model. Customers were beginning to demand a keyboard with four rows of keys, as found on office-sized typewriters.

To meet this demand, Corona brought out a second model - the Corona Four. 'Four' because it had four rows of keys. It was a successful design from the beginning, but Corona still could not survive on making two models and finally merged with L. C. Smith (makers of office-sized machines) in 1926 to form 'L. C. Smith and Corona' - much later abbreviated to 'Smith-Corona'. The Corona Three had a long production life. Although other Corona models were introduced throughout the 1930's, the Corona Three soldiered on until 1940. By this time, it was hopelessly out of date, but had continued to sell because it was - above all - cheap!

This particular machine is a very interesting example. It is one of the very first to be branded as a 'Corona'. If you look carefully at the picture, you can see the words 'Standard Folding Typewriter' underneath the 'Corona' logo on the front. Just in front of the spacebar is the name of the company - Standard Typewriter Co. It hadn't been changed to 'Corona Typewriter Co.' yet ! For people who collect typewriters, this early machine is significant. Look again at the picture and you will see that the typebars are hung on individual bearings. Within the year, the design had been changed to the slotted segment that almost every other typewriter has. The feet are different to the later models, and there are a host of other small details that mark it out as rather special. The smaller photos above show how the carriage folds over so that it will fit into its carry case, plus here below is a picture of a slightly later Corona Four so that you can see the different segment arrangement.

Circa 1914 Corona Three
February 2016
Back in the mid-1970's, there were only three electric typewriters worth having. The IBM Model C or D, the Olympia SGE 50 and the Adler 21d.  Of the three, both the IBM and the Adler were designed from the ground up as electric typewriters.  The Olympia was at least partly based on the Olympia manual typewriter and shared many of its components. The surprising thing about any electric typewriter is that it is 99% mechanical.  The parts that thrust the typebars up towards the paper are mechanically operated, using an electric motor as the driving force.  Often, but not always, an electric typewriter is equipped with a special single-use carbon ribbon.  Almost like carbon paper on a roll, but actually on a thin plastic film, the carbon ribbon provides very sharp and clear writing.  Combined with the electric typewriter's naturally even impression, it can give the work an almost printed appearance.   A standard fabric ribbon, as normally found on a manual typewriter and selected by the flick of a switch, can be used for less important work.   Adler electric typewriters were made in Germany from the late 1950's right through to the late 1970's when they were superceded by 'golfball' models. Incredible 'maids of all work', they were to be seen in offices everywhere.

Nowadays, these machines are rarer than 1930s portable typewriters. Being almost exclusively a commercial tool, the electric typewriter would have given its all until completely worn out, whereupon it would be disposed of without any sentimentality.  Unlike the occasional office manual machine which would be taken home by an employee when it was discarded by the firm, the sheer weight and bulk would put off all but the most determined.  Place one of these on the average dining table, switch it on and hit the carriage return button - and the whole table will rock as the carriage slams to the right!  On the other hand, nothing beats the satisfaction and sense of speed when typing on a good electric.  They seem to fly!

This particular machine was the result of a request from a TV company wanting a fully-working model for an early 1980's office scene.   I managed to track one down, although it was in truly awful condition.  The rubber shift stops had disintegrated, a linescale was broken, most of the characters weren't printing properly . . . . . . the list went on. I made and fitted new shift stops - fabricated from some very hard rubber, re-machined a sticking escapement air buffer piston, serviced the machine and caried out a host of repairs. I only had left-hand linescales remaining in stock, so I turned a left one into a right one (they are mirror images).  Amazingly, I still had some 30-year-old brand new carriage return bands!   I left the wear to the paintwork, and made no attempt to touch it up.   After all, this machine would have been roughly ten years old in 1982 and the wear around the keyboard is typical of a decades use!


1973 Adler 21d Electric Typewriter
March 2016
There is e-bay rare, and then there is genuinely rare.   How about a mid-20th century portable typewriter of which there are fewer known survivors than you have fingers on one hand to count them with?   That would be the Halberg Traveller!

A firm in Holland set up making lightweight portable typewriters in 1952, mainly to get a share of the market created by the original 'flat portable' - the Hermes Baby.  The machine wasn't a copy of the Hermes, but was certainly influenced by it.   Apart from being a similar size, and having a similar-looking casing and snap-over carry case, it was even a similar colour!   However, Halberg production was spectacularly short.   It began in 1952, and ended sometime in 1954. This wasn't because the Halberg was a poor machine, but rather because it was a good one!  The entire Halberg factory was bought by Royal of America, and the style of the typewriter's casing changed completely to produce a new machine within the Royal range - the Royal Royalite.  As the 'Royalite', the machine continued well into the 1960's.   A licence to produce the Halberg was also sold to the Japanese - who produced a modified version as the 'Nippo'.   But original Halbergs are almost non-existent !

A customer contacted me late last year, wanting a new ribbon for their Halberg - which of course I was able to supply.   A few weeks later, they contacted me again to ask how much it would cost to have the machine serviced.   I quoted a rough price and the machine was sent in for an estimate, looking a little sorry for itself. It was only when I e-mailed the estimate back to the customer that I asked if they knew how rare their machine was. They had no idea!   I serviced the machine, attended to some minor repairs, and did a little panel-beating on the carriage end covers - which (being soft aluminium) had suffered some dents.  Having worked on several Royal Royalites, I can vouch that the mechanism inside the case is much the same and obviously the product of the 'Royal Netherlands' factory.   I have to say though - I was intrigued to be working on such a super-rare machine,  that also seemed quite familiar!


1952 Halberg Traveller
April 2016
The picture above appears to show two portable typewriters that are exactly the same. But look again - the one on the left is an Olivetti, and the one on the right is an Olympia! 

The 'original' Olympia Traveller first went into production in 1970. It was essentially an update of the 1950's/1960's Splendid 66 utilising most of the predecessor's mechanical parts in a new, squarer, casing. An excellent quality German-designed machine which stayed in production with only minor updates until well into the 1980's.  So why did Olivetti produce a blatant copy?   Well, to complicate matter further - the mechanism inside the Olivetti's casing isn't actually an Olivetti design!   It comes from the Swiss Hermes Baby!  

In the 1980's, many of the big names in typewriter manufacturing were falling by the wayside and being scooped up by Olivetti.   One of these was Hermes - a Swiss manufacturer with an excellent reputation for quality engineering.   The problem with the Hermes typewriter was that - being a Swiss product - they were very expensive to buy.   Hermes recognised this, and started assembling machines abroad to keep costs down.   Beginning with factories in France and Germany, they then went further afield and acquired factories in Hungary and Brazil.   When Olivetti swallowed up Hermes, the Brazil factory became an Olivetti outpost.

The Brazilian factory had been making a small portable typewriter - the Hermes Baby - which had been the market leader from the 1930's to the 1950's, but by now had been considerably cheapened.   So what were Olivetti to do?   They already had other third-world plants making their own design of portable typewriter. They decided on a strange course of action. They effectively put the Hermes Baby mechanism into an Olympia Traveller-style outer casing to produce a clone of their rival's best-selling typewriter!   Did Olivetti obtain a licence for the design?   Was it a straight rip-off?   No-one seems to know.   But the result is the machine on the left of the photo.   Even the snap-over carry case looked identical.
Direct comparison of the two machines show that there are slight dimensional differences.  For instance the Olivetti carry case will not fit the Olympia and vice-versa (although they look as if they should). Even stranger, once Olympia finished production of the Traveller themselves, they contracted Nakajima in Japan to make a 'Traveller 2' for them. The 'Traveller 2' is also a Traveller clone, albeit an officially-sanctioned one - again with an entirely different (Nakajima) mechanism inside. Finally, Nakajima produced the same machine under their own name, although these were never sold in the Northern hemisphere. Most of them went to Australia !
Typewriter Twins - Spot The Difference!
Olympia Traveller and Olivetti Tropical
May 2016
The Noiseless typewriter isn't silent of course, but is much quieter than a 'normal' typewriter - mainly thanks to its unique thrust action. The plungers (which replace the usual typebars) are propelled most of the way towards the page by the typist's fingers, after which momentum takes over to allow the typeface to travel the rest of the way. The result is a dull 'thud', rather than the usual 'thwack' as the character is typed. Since the sound of a large typing pool in full spate can be almost deafening, a quieter typewriter always seemed like a good idea. The problem is simply human nature.   A typist who is used to an ordinary typewriter will find the Noiseless mechanism most disconcerting.  There is no proper 'feedback' to judge how hard the character has been hit and the keyboard therefore feels 'mushy'.  It isn't mushy of course, but it is too 'different' for some. The typewriter trade didn't like them either because they were too different to a normal typewriter, and few engineers knew how to repair them properly.

The original Noiseless No. 4 was developed by the Noiseless Typewriter Co. in 1917, following a couple of earlier commercial failures. It originally had three rows of keys and a double shift.   However, by 1924, the Noiseless company had been bought by Remington who immediately developed the machine further to produce the four-bank Noiseless 6 that you see above.   At the same time, a range of Remington Noiseless portable typewriters were introduced, although these used a different mechanism to produce a similar quiet result.   During the 1930's Underwood and Remington agreed to swap patents and as part of this agreement, Remington manufactured versions of both the standard and portable for Underwood to sell through their own dealerships.  Even so, the Noiseless only ever had a limited market and never sold in great numbers.  After the war, the tooling was transferred from the USA to Remington's Glasgow factory where, following a redesign of the outer casing in the late 1940's, production continued until 1968!

Other manufacturers tried to imitate the concept, although most achieved a quieter typewriter by adding extra sound-deadening material to an otherwise standard machine.  The closest imitator was Continental, a pre-war German manufacturer known for taking the market-leading designs of other makers and producing a better-engineered version.  The Continental Silenta was their answer to the Remington Noiseless, but it too was never a best seller.

This particular machine came from a TV props. hire company, who wanted me to make it fully functional and back to as near new condition as I could manage.  It was the usual last-minute panic, but once again I managed to pull the proverbial rabbit from the hat and get it ready in time.   It required a full service and 'tune-up', plus a missing 1/3 keycard and keyring replacing.   Amazingly, I found exact replicas amongst my stock.  It works beautifully now, and I did tell the props. company that it was good enough to type their invoices on, should their computer ever break down!   The typewriter's starring role will be in a production about Winston Churchill.   Apparently he insisted on using these machines in his offices because he couldn't stand the 'clack-clack' of a standard typewriter. Not a lot of people know that!


1931 Remington Noiseless 6
Last month's feature showed an office sized Noiseless typewriter. This month we have a Noiseless portable!   First introduced in 1932, and offered until 1940, this machine was manufactured by Remington on Underwood's behalf.   One of a whole range of Remington Noiseless portables of different sizes, the Underwood 77 was really a re-branded Remington Model 7.   This was the medium-sized portable, sitting above the smallest model and below the Model 8 which was sold as a small office machine - the sort of thing that was bought by small businesses who couldn't justify a full-blown office typewriter for a few hours invoicing each week.  Surprisingly, the mechanism is quite different to that of the standard Noiseless (see last month).  Rather than the familiar Noiseless plunger system, the portable features a series of almost vertically mounted conventional typebars.  This gives a short stroke, but to achieve the quiet typing effect, the typebar is tethered and weighted so that the last part of the stroke is performed by the momentum of the typebar and weight rather than the typist's finger.   Like the full-size machine, this results in a dull 'thud' rather than a sharp 'thwack' !

The problem of user acceptance plagued the Noiseless Portable in the same way as it did the Noiseless Standard.  The keyboard 'feel' is so disorientating to the average typist that they never proved popular. Remington even introduced a Model One (known in the trade as the 'Noisy Noiseless') to get round this problem.   Basically the same machine without the tethering and the counter-weight, Remington referred to it as the Speed Portable.   That one was never marketed as an Underwood clone.   The Remington Noiseless Model 7 soldiered on after the war, by which time the tooling was transferred from the USA to Remington's French factory.   The final models, made until 1952, came in light grey crackle finish with black circular plastic keytops.

This particular machine came from a chap who has collected typewriters for many years, and enjoys using them.   Although the machine was in basically in good condition, the rubber feedrolls (that grip the paper as it passes through the machine) had succumbed to old age and were falling to pieces.   Rubber parts are always a problem with old typewriters, and the other issue was disintegrating feet.   I was able to get the feedrolls re-rubbered and import a set of reproduction rubber feet from America.   With the machine serviced and the rubber parts fitted, it was as good as new!   My customer was so pleased that he took the picture above as soon as he arrived home with his 'new' typewriter !



June 2016
1937 Underwood Noiseless 77 Portable
July 2016
Typewriter MAN of the month - Tom Furrier!
Going back twenty five to thirty years ago, you might have found several typewriter dealers in every large town or city.   Now there are practically none.   There must have been several thousand typewriter repair men in the UK alone.   Now you can count the remaining ones on the fingers of both hands.  Worldwide, particularly in the Western world, we are an endangered species!   I have a direct equivalent in America - a chap called Tom Furrier who runs a small typewriter repair shop in Boston.   We differ slightly in that his shop is 'bricks and mortar' whilst mine exists only in cyberspace (I actually work from home).   Both of us genuinely like old typewriters, which is probably what has kept us in the trade for so long - if you really enjoy what you are doing, it doesn't seem like work!   Busy as we both are, we occasionally exchange e-mails to have a general chat about the typewriter business.   A couple of weeks ago, Tom came to London with his family for a short holiday - so we arranged to meet up!






We had a very interesting lunch together.   Tom's poor wife and daughter probably thought that they would get away from typewriters for a week - no chance!   It is quite amazing how our respective careers on opposite sides of the Atlantic seemed to have paralleled over the years.   We both remember the lean times when typewriters were replaced by computers in offices practically overnight - resulting in the typewriter trade almost vanishing.   Both of us have spent almost our entire working lives fixing typewriters, and it was sobering to reflect that when we were sitting together we probably represented around seventy-five years of experience between us.  That's not to say that we know everything of course.   One of the joys of this occupation is that you are constantly meeting new problems and situations that you haven't tackled before.   Currently, one of our biggest challenges is that there are no new typewriter spare parts available - although we both have various strategies to get around this.   I don't think either of us will ever retire completely - probably just cut down on the working hours when we get older.   After all, you have to have something to get up in the morning for!

Tom's blog, 'Life in a Typewriter Shop' can be found here: http://cambridgetypewriter.blogspot.co.uk/

In the picture, that's him on the right and me on the left!




August 2016
1963 Smith-Corona 5TE Portable
Electric typewriters for offices were probably being made a lot earlier than most people think. Remington made an electric typewriter in the 1920's, and from this design the Electromatic (which in turn became the IBM) was developed. From the late 1940's onwards, most of the major manufacturers were marketing an electric typewriter alongside their range of office manuals. Sales of electics finally overtook those of the office manual typewriter in the early 1970's.

In 1957, American manufacturer Smith-Corona decided to test the water with something new - an electric portable typewriter. Sales of the 5TE were initially slow, but within a few years had picked up to the extent that other makers were putting their own electric portables on the market.  Smith-Corona then upped their game with a new model in 1964.   Strictly speaking, the 5TE is an electically-assisted typewriter, effectively an electrified 5-series manual machine.  The carriage return is still by hand-operated lever, as is the backspace and tabulator etc.  However for the first time, the typebars were driven up to the paper at the touch of the key button and would strike the page with the same amount of force irrespective of how hard the user struck the keyboard.   This gives incredibly even typing compared with an equivalent manual typewriter, and allows a skilled typist to go really quickly.

This machine must be a very rare sight in the UK.   A real luxury item in its time, I cannot imagine that many were sold here.   In fact, the machine in the picture was originally sold in the USA, and partially converted to English keyboard plus 240 volt operation over here.  The reason that it had survived so long was simple.  It was a 'cursive' version with a typeface that looks like joined-up handwriting!

In recent weeks, I have been working on a number of period typewriters for a well-known TV detective series set in the 1960's.  Having prepared several machines for the 'police station', I was asked to find a Smith-Corona portable electric typewriter for 'a rich man's house'.   Fortunately, after exhausting most of my usual channels, the machine in the photo came up on an internet auction site.   I tipped off the props buyer, and she bagged it!   When it got to me, I found that it was in quite poor condition.  The voltage conversion hadn't been done too competently and I had to re-do it to ensure that the machine was safe to use.   Several repairs, a service, and a thorough cleaning later, it was working well and looking much better!    Interestingly, there are a few modifications over the standard model as a result of the special typeface.   Because the cursive script is much taller and deeper than a standard typeface, the linespace has been modified to give more space than usual between the lines.  The machine will only take a single-colour ribbon for the same reason - there isn't enough height in each strand of a two-colour ribbon to cover the taller characters completely.



September 2016
Circa mid 1980's Olivetti Linea 98 Office Manual
Olivetti was probably the most successful typewriter manufacturer in the end.  By following a process of gradually swallowing up rival makers as they fell by the wayside, they nearly cornered the market!   In the final years, Olivetti owned Triumph, Adler, Royal, Imperial, Hermes and Underwood, as well as little-known makes such as Invicta and Everest.  Originally, Olivettis were beautifully engineered in the same way as classic Italian cars and motorcycles are.   Almost a combination of engineering and art, with an elegance that only the Italians seem to be able to achieve.  But from the early 1960's onwards, Olivetti changed the character of their typewriters in a way that made them more profitable to manufacture and ultimately allowed the firm to become a very large player.

The switch from beautiful castings and engineering - almost for its own - sake started in 1963, when the classic Olivetti Lettera 22 was replaced by a new model - the Lettera 32.  It looked very similar from the outside, but within, the construction was all steel stampings rather than castings, and clever - although minimalist - mechanisms. The new machine was a success and obviously cheaper to make - so from this beginning Olivetti were able to re-engineer the remainder of their range using the same principles.  The turn of the office manual came in 1967 when the Diasphron 82 (always called the D82 because no-one could pronounce 'Diasphron') was replaced by the Linea 88.  Otherwise a perfectly good machine, the Achillies heel of the L88 was the carriage, which had a nasty habit of falling off its way rods!   After 1972, Olivetti revised the model, producing the Linea 98 - a much better machine but using a completely different carriage based heavily on that of the Olivetti electric typewriter.  This probably made it the last NEW office manual typewriter ever designed, since all the other makers were still relying on mechanisms going back to the 1950's by then.   With the exception of the cast carriage bed, and - strangely - the outer casings, much of the inside of the machine was made up of the trademark multiple steel stampings.   Surprisingly, it was a pleasant machine to use, albeit not made to last in the same way as their rivals' typewriters.  They were cheaper too (which added to Olivetti's success) but woe betide you if your machine needed spare parts - those were always incredibly expensive !

By the 1980's, production of the Linea 98 had moved to Mexico.  Virtually all the other typewriter manufacturers had done the same thing - moved production of manual typewriters to 'third world' countries, whilst re-equipping in Europe to produce golfball and electronic machines.   With serial number lists having become a thing of the past by the time this particular machine was made, it is impossible to pinpoint the exact year of manufacture.   Therefore I'll guesstimate mid-1980's - near the end of production.

This machine was brought to me by a customer who only gave it the same sort of use that a portable typewriter might get - light and occasional.   When the firm that he had been working for had closed down, the machine was due to be put in the skip, and he saved it.   It would have been a tragedy if it had been thrown away because it was still practically new!   Through lack of use, it had become a little sticky, but was soon restored to health with a good service!




October 2016
If you take a look at the January 2016 'Typewriter of the Month', you will see another typewriter that looks very much like this one. This is no accident. In the way that the Japanese began their career in manufacturing by copying other countries' successful products, the Germans did the same. The machine that was copied by Siedel and Naumann in this instance was the USA-made Corona Three. There are plenty of detail differences of course. For the technically-minded, the escapement is a wheel one, rather than the Corona's direct-to-rack version. When the carriage folds over, it does so onto little hingeing brackets, set either side of the keyboard. The ribbon is an unusual 5/8" width, rather than the normal 1/2", and the spools are different. But so many things are the same. The method of ribbon transport and reverse are very similar, and the Erika also has only a single feedroll under the platen. The typebars are likewise on separate bearings - just like the Corona Three of the same period.

The story goes that Corona soon got wind of this German copy and successfully sued the manufacturers for infringing their patents. Production of the Bijou finished shortly afterwards for obvious reasons. However, Siedel and Naumann had the last laugh. They survived long enough to become part of the East German State Industries after the Second World War and as 'Erika' lasted longer than Smith-Corona - only finishing production of manual portable typewriters in 1989 !

This machine was in rather poor condition when it came to me. Some well-meaning person had obviously sprayed it with corrosion inhibitor - the sort of fluid that you apply to garden tools to prevent them from rusting. This had crept into every nook and cranny, coating the whole mechanism with a sticky wax. I had to wash the machine out several times and meticulously clean afterwards to remove it. Parts of the ribbon transport mechanism were broken and new components had to be made from scratch. Tiny 2mm screws had been sheared off in their threaded holes and had to be drilled out. Even the left margin was broken. But I eventually got there and the machine is now in fully working order. I even had the correct width ribbon fabric in stock !





1916 Erika/Bijou 3-Bank Folding Portable
November 2016
Most of the world's languages are written from left to right, which is why the carriage on a manual typewriter travels from right to left.  However for Arabic-style languages the reverse is true - and this requires a specially-modified typewriter!  In England, Arabic typewriters (commonly called 'Persian' typewriters by the trade) are pretty hard to find.  I have only seen a handful in forty-two years of repairing typewriters.  This particular machine is doubly rare.  It is the oldest Arabic typewriter that I have seen so far, and a very obscure German make - Urania.

The Urania Piccola was first introduced in 1924, and I imagine that - being a new company and desperate to get some orders - they agreed to make a batch of special machines for Egypt.  Not only did the carriage have to be modified to run in the opposite direction to 'normal', the linespace lever had to be hinged to work the 'other way' too!  To cope with the increased width of some of the upper case characters, the machine had a crude 'proportional spacing' arrangement which increased the width of the character space for certain type.


This particular typewriter came from a customer who was working in Egypt and bought it locally in a bazaar.   I did say, when it arrived, that if it was an animal, I would recommend it be put down humanely!   I have never seen a typewriter in such poor condition.   Dirty, dusty, with the wooden carry-case falling to pieces, having been repeatedly patched with sheets of tin.   And that was only the beginning!   Bodge after bodge had been perpetrated in an effort to keep it working at any cost!  The worst was a cracked segment that had been arc-welded together (you can see the mark in the picture).  Because this had obliterated the top of two of the typebar slots, the bodger had filed chunks of the typebar away for clearance!

Both spools - containing special 5/8 inch ribbon to accommodate the taller Arabic characters - were missing. I had to make a new pair from scratch!  The platen was rock hard and looked as if it had been attacked with an axe.   Feedroll rubber was completely missing on two of the bosses.   Screws were either missing entirely or had been replaced with whatever was to hand.   After a very time-consuming restoration, the result is as you see here.   I really ought to have taken a 'before picture'!


The customer was delighted when the machine was returned! I wonder if she can read Arabic?






1924 Urania Piccola Arabic Portable
December 2016
By 1971, the English Imperial Typewriter Co. and the American Royal Typewriter Co. had both been taken over by a firm called 'Litton Industries'.   Both long-lived and respected makes, Royal and Imperial had sat on their laurels to the point that they had allowed their models to become outdated - thus losing market share and making them ripe for a takeover.   Almost the first thing that Litton did to cut costs was to out-source the production of portable typewriters abroad, together with a programme of rationalisation between the two makes.  The Royal-designed Safari (a heavy-duty portable) continued to be assembled in Portugal, but the remainder of both ranges of lightweight portables were scrapped in favour of Japanese machines that were branded as Royal for the US, and Imperial for the UK.   The favoured sub-contracting manufacturer was Silver-Seiko (which means 'Silver Precision' in Japanese).   Later in the 1970's when the Litton agreement was discontinued, Silver-Reed became a make in their own right.

Litton did what they could to present an attractive and marketable range of portable typewriters, and one thing that was tried for about eighteen months was a typewriter with a Long Wave/Medium Wave radio in the carry case lid - hence the name 'Gemini' - two appliances in one!   Novelties like this were primarily designed to appeal to the American market, but because the range was common with the UK, a few 'Geminis' were sold here as 'Imperial' models.   I do not have the production figures, but I would imagine the numbers sold circa 1971 could only have been in the low hundreds.  Thus, the machine that you see in the photo is incredibly rare.   In fact, in over forty years of being in the typewriter trade, this is the only one that has ever passed through my hands!

The Gemini is a perfectly nice and well-specified typewriter, featuring a pre-set tabulator and a touch control. However, its appeal lies in the novelty value of the 'in-lid' radio and the incredible 'space age' styling - making it very much a product of its time.  The amazing white, blue and red colour scheme simply completes the wacky image!

This particular machine was bought in specifically to be refurbished and resold.   In reasonable mechanical order when it arrived, time had taken its toll on the radio, and I had to have that repaired before I could pass the machine on to its new owner.   Otherwise, it was 'as new' once completed and left me with both a new ribbon and a photocopy of an original instruction book.   I did wonder if I should keep it for my personal collection, but it is all to easy to get sidetracked when you love typewriters as I do.   I have to make a living after all!






1971 Imperial Gemini