January 2017: 1962 Triumph Matura Super
When considering adjectives that best describe the Triumph Matura Super, super is a good place to start. Actually, triumph works well too, and that’s because it is both a design triumph and simply super to use.
The Olympia SG1 might be the go-to benchmark for exceptional standard-size performance, and when compared to it the Matura holds its own. In terms of type action and ease of use it runs a close second to the Olympia, and arguably surpasses it when scrutinizing its overall design. The typewriter’s organically shaped case flows nicely over its mechanical innards and is pleasing to look at, more so when you ignore the 50 cm interchangeable carriage fitted to this particular example that admittedly, like all wider carriages, makes it appear top heavy.
There’s nothing like pulling out a favorite big gun to start off the New Year with a bang. And there are few standards better suited to typing out long, pesky lists of New Year’s resolutions, even if they might include that annual promise to stop buying typewriters.
Typewriters are often featured in the artwork used by film and television production companies to promote themselves, which makes sense given it is after all a natural connection: What better than a typewriter to represent screenwriters and their artistic efforts?
These animated corporate logos using a typewriter are usually run within the opening frames of a film that you’re about to watch, or during the fleeting final seconds of a television program that has just ended. And more often than not the typewriters are not literal images of a specific model, but rather a creative embodiment of a non-specific model.
Two of my more favorite typewriter adaptations are those used by Primrose Hill Productions and K/O Paper Products. The Primrose version, a skeleton clacking away at a tombstone-like machine confers the loneliness of the writing process, while K/O’s take pushes a different theme, the transfiguration of a standard typewriter by a four-handed keyboard to represent the power of collaboration in writing.
October 2016: 1960 Royal Diana
It’s the kind of machine that practically everyone shopping for a typewriter would pass on. Covered from top to bottom in cheat notes written by someone who had a particularly bad memory, or perhaps was mechanically challenged, or both, the permanent marker scribbles defacing the Royal made it resemble the tattooed skin of a Polynesian native.
Such bizarre deformations are only paint deep, and not a good enough reason to pass on a Royal Diana. Here’s why: The Dutch-made typewriter is a superb portable, and has a sublime type action that makes you want to type – all day long.
The Diana, for some inexplicable reason, is a model that seems to fly under the radar of most collectors. Perhaps it’s the machines modest appearance, which incidentally is reminiscent of earlier Olympia SM models. Or maybe it’s because lesser machines get so much hype by bloggers unfamiliar with the Diana. Whatever the reason, it selfishly suits me fine: The Diana is more than deserving of being a Typewriter of the Month, and I would never pass on an opportunity to buy one – at a reasonable price, of course.
September 2016: 1963 Olympia SG1
Unless you have extensive experience with every single typewriter that was ever manufactured, it’s rather pointless to label any one model as being the best. And even if you’ve had use of a wide range of makes and models, and analyzed them with a commitment to objectivity, the best typewriter will always end up being a reflection of your subjectivity and bias; there’s no escaping the reality that different typewriters suit people differently, which makes it impossible for an absolute best typewriter to be crowned.
Respecting this, I won’t pretend to know which model is the best typewriter, but of the many hundreds of different models that I’ve typed with, I can state that the Olympia SG1 is my absolute favorite.
It’s reliable, robust, feature-rich, boasts top-notch performance, and it was built to make maintenance less of a chore. The Olympia SG1 checks off more items on my personal wish list than any other model, and although there are other typewriters that come close to it, nothing makes me want to roll up the sleeves and get to work like the big Olympia. It’s a willing workhorse and consummate companion for writers, and it’s also the current Typewriter of the Month.
As absurd as the concept is for a rodeo rider to use a portable typewriter on the back of a bucking bronco, imagine how foreign it must have all seemed for Swiss typewriter buyers who faced the localized version of Remington’s American ad.
Selling typewriters internationally no doubt posed many challenges for manufacturers, and it’s easy to imagine how many of the ads created using culturally skewed themes ended up being lost in translation. Was it a cost-saving measure for Remington to re-use the same artwork the world over, or just simple ignorance to global diversity?
This example of the artwork used to promote the Remington Portable by a typewriter retailer in Lausanne, Switzerland, (it’s now the site of a chocolate store), loudly praises the ultra-portable model, and lists its virtues as robustness, speed, compactness, and it being well-featured. Of course it would have to be all these things – and more – to be effective on the back of a wild animal, not to mention to be able to survive such a stunt.
August 2016: 1956 Everest K2
The Everest K2 is one of those love/hate models that polarizes opinion and slots owners into one of two opposing camps, and any machine that can stir up such debate is a perfect machine for TYPEWRITER of the MONTH.
The majority of K2 detractors grumble about lacklustre performance, claiming the typing experience is more similar to trudging through valleys than soaring above peaks. My own experience with the typewriter has proven the opposite: Not only does the Everest portable type well enough to satisfy the most pedantic requirements, it also provides a taught and concise feel that turns the keyboard exercise into an enjoyable interaction.
K2 is the second highest mountain in the world after Mount Everest, which might lead you to think that the typewriter physically towers over the competition, but a measuring tape proves that it’s actually an average size for a portable. A more likely explanation for the mountain-inspired name would be that its form, much like the snow-capped peak of K2, is simply something beautiful to look at. How typical of Italian industrial design that you can find yourself appreciating the view even more than the performance.
July 2016: 1955 Underwood Universal
From the mid to late ‘50s Underwood displayed what appeared to be a scattered, if not manic approach to the design of its portable typewriter cases. Four different designs existed over the five year span, and even the Underwood logo that badged each machine seemed to be the subject of a constant evolutionary flux. In hindsight, when you factor in the company’s close association with (and eventual takeover by) Olivetti at the end of this period, it’s easy to view this chapter in Underwood’s history as the death throes of the company’s identity.
The ranging designs from this era included everything from curvy, deco-inspired shapes, to pragmatic and stoic enclosures. Occupying the middle ground of these design extremes is this ’55 Universal with its white enamel front cover that makes the typewriter look it belongs alongside the stoves and fridges found in American kitchens during the nifty fifties. It was daring for Underwood to present the typewriter as an appliance, and the distinctive design earns this Universal Typewriter of the Month honours.
June 2016: 1957 Smith-Corona Super
This top model of the ubiquitous Super-5 series arguably represents the zenith of Smith-Corona’s portable designs, and yet it is often overlooked by today’s typewriter buyers. Despite its remarkable performance characteristics, and a proven record of robustness, most contemporary buyers only see a machine’s aesthetics, which is perhaps the only fault to be found with the Super-5 typewriters.
In isolation the Super-5 design is wonderfully organic and streamlined, but much of its nuanced details are lost in the drab colour palettes that Smith-Corona used for the majority of Super-5 models it produced. The bland brown-grey-green paint covering most Super-5 models effectively turns what is a sexy typewriter into a stodgy-looking machine, but not so with this ’57 model, which is one example of the less frequently seen colour variants. Literally rocking the Super design, this lava black finish with light grey accents and ivory-coloured plastic is transformative, and it makes this machine worthy candidate for Typewriter of the Month.
It might not exactly be an example of typewriter porn (yes, collectors actually use the phrase), but this postcard that features a model seductively draping her arm around a Swedish-made FACIT T1 is a curiosity.
The T1 is not exactly an attractive machine, and it makes one to wonder if the postcard shouldn’t have been titled Beauty and the Beast.
You would think that the card, which is postmarked July 1962, was a promotional item from Facit, but it doesn’t have the company name anywhere on it. If this was supposed to be a form of advertising, it wasn’t a very effective one. And if not advertising, does it suggest that there was actually a demand during the ’60s for postcards that featured women posing with typewriters?