Erika 10

Erika 10
Erika 10 (1954)

If you’ve ever used a high-end typewriter, such as an Olympia, Hermes or the versatile Smith-Corona and thought a typewriter couldn’t get much better, think again. The Erika 10 takes the best these manufacturers have to offer and puts them into one of the finest typewriters ever made. It has the precise German engineering of an Olympia, the design flair of the Swiss Hermes and the simplicity of the All-American Smith-Corona. You’d think something produced in Soviet controlled Eastern Germany would lack the refinement of its Western counterparts, but whoever was responsible for the Erika typewriter might have taken that as a challenge to beat the best that capitalism had to offer. Continue reading

Optima Elite

Optima-Elite-MediumOptima Elite (1950s)

It’s hard not to talk about the Optima Elite without comparing it to it’s German cousin, the Olympia SM3. You can feel the same bloodline running through the keys, but once you start typing you quickly realize it’s a different creature. The Optima Elite has the same spring-loaded keys as the SM3, but somehow manages to have a defter touch. It feels like the throw distance between key press and typebar strike is shorter on the Optima, making for a snappier action. Plus, the carriage shift mechanism on the Optima seems less burdensome than the SM3. The overall looks of the Optima suggests a more workmanlike approach to the job, rather than the flashier SM3 with its abundance of chrome. However, when it comes to carriage movement, the SM3 is the hands-down winner. While the Optima is no slouch, the SM3 is legendary for its smooth gliding carriage. As for output, typed characters on the Optima are precisely aligned and the typeface has a nice boldness to it that makes reading easy.

Olympia SF Deluxe

Olympia-SF-DeluxeOlympia SF Deluxe (1960s)

This is the typewriter for all your writing needs. The Olympia SF Deluxe has a strong, authoritative touch, giving you the confidence to tackle any project.  Olympia marketed the SF as a lightweight typewriter for personal correspondence, but make no mistake, this is a heavyweight ready to fight in your corner and take on the big boys. It has all the guts of its bigger brother, the SM9, but packed into a sleek body that doesn’t dominate your desk. Continue reading

Smith-Corona Skyriter

Smith-Corona SkyriterSmith-Corona Skyriter (1960s)

The jet set crowd needs a tool for their age, and by its looks, the Smith-Corona Skyriter is just the thing to get you there. Its got the round metallic lines of a Pan Am Boeing 707. If your next assignment requires you to drop everything and hop on the next flight to Buenos Aires, then all you need to do is throw the Skyriter in its bag and off you go. It’ll easily fit under your seat or the overhead. And once you check into your hotel room, put it on your desk and start working. This typewriter is low, stout and sturdy. You won’t miss your desktop model. There’s nothing light or flimsy about a Smith-Corona. They’re work horses. And the Skyriter can hold up to the thousands of words a week you can throw at this thing. The keys strike easily, yet with authority. You won’t feel cheated when you use this typewriter. In fact, you’ll probably want to continue your story even when the call of the bar beckons. And don’t be shy about making a racket with this typewriter, it’s quiet and fast. The typeface has a strong, muscular quality, lending your writing authority, but without heavy handedness. If you’re considering other ultra-portable typewriters, such as the Olivetti Lettera or Hermes Rocket, the sturdy Skyriter has the guts to get the job done, but without the flashy style of its European counterparts. That doesn’t mean it lacks good looks, with its taut, lean lines, it eschews simplicity and a get-the-job-done mentality. If writing is your job, the Skyriter is your kind of typewriter.

 

Hermes Rocket

Hermes RocketHermes Rocket (1960s)

The Hermes Rocket typewriter is a pint-sized powerhouse. This little Rocket is built tough. With its all metal body and snap-on shell, you can load it in your pack and scale the Matterhorn. Yodel-ay-hee-hoo! You’ll be singing the praises of this typewriter while banging out your field notes from your tent at base camp. Continue reading

Hermes Rocket

Hermes RocketHermes Rocket (1970s)

The first thing you notice about a Hermes Rocket typewriter is its compact size and quality workmanship. The Swiss have definitely mastered the art and craft of the small form-factor. But what really distinguishes Hermes from most typewriters is its unique style. From its ultra-chic lines to its soothing sea foam colored shell, there’s nothing like the sight of a Hermes. It’s not only good to look at, but is one of the most solid typewriters out there. Continue reading

Olympia SM9

Olympia SM9

Olympia SM9 (1966)

The Olympia SM9 is the typer’s typewriter. It just plain works. Its utilitarian lines and solid mechanicals produce consistent type that fills you with confidence the more you use it. Its got the appearance of a plain vanilla office machine, but in the nifty size of a portable. If you need to bang out a big manuscript, this is the typewriter for you.

Everything about this typewriter has been refined by the Germans. The SM-line of typewriters from the 1950s and 60s were the pinnacle of manual typewriter technology. The SM9 is the culmination of that typewriter expertise. The keys are solid. The carriage movement smooth. When you begin typing you realize quickly that you’re in capable hands. The journey of words has found its companion. Continue reading

Royal Futura 800

Royal Futura 800

Royal Futura 800 (1958)

If you were to judge a typewriter solely by its looks, then the Royal Futura 800 would be a winner. But when you start typing on this typewriter, it becomes quickly apparent that this is not the machine for the serious writer. However, what makes this typewriter unique is the typeface. It has a cool aesthetic that is whimsical and fun. Continue reading

Hermes 3000

Hermes 3000

Hermes 3000 (1958)

When sitting down to a Hermes 3000 for the first time, you feel drawn to the machine and your fingers want to type. The typebars strike with great precision, they’re tight, controlled, yet snappy. It’s made in Switzerland, famous for these characteristics. There’s a muted quality about this typewriter, probably due to an insulated unibody construction. This typewriter is fully enclosed, and even includes an integrated snap on shell. What is it with the Swiss and keeping a lid on things? Continue reading

Royal Quiet DeLuxe

Royal Quiet DeLuxeRoyal Quiet De Luxe (1946)

If you want a solid typewriter that’s stylish and extremely easy to use, go with the Royal Quiet De Luxe. It’s American simplicity at its best. Everything about this typewriter is top notch. The typebars strike the platen with exceptional ease, making fast typing a breeze. Its black finish and chrome accent, mirror what writing is about, black words on white paper. This is a writer’s tool. Continue reading

Smith-Corona Sterling

Smith-Corona SterlingSmith-Corona Sterling (1950)

Take classic 1950s Art Deco style, combined with simple and solid mechanicals, and you have the Smith Corona Sterling. There’s nothing fancy about this typewriter, it just works. The round corners and green keys make this an inviting machine. Your fingers naturally fall into the deep cups of the keys. And when you start typing, the typebars move with a surprising lightness. When you flip this typewriter over, you can see why. There’s not much there! It has exactly what it needs to work, nothing more. Which means that after these many decades, it still works like the day it was purchased. Because it types so effortlessly, this is a real speed demon, like one of those 1950s roadsters. The carriage return lever has a nice curve to it and sticks out far and has a big paddle on the end. When the words are flying, you can’t miss this thing, unlike other portables which tend to minimize this lever.

Hermes Rocket

Hermes RocketHermes Rocket (1941)

The nifty little typewriter in this review originated in 1941 and was passed down to a granddaughter from a grandfather who served in World War II. I can see this little typewriter rumbling over the fields of northern France and Belgium in the back of a Willy Jeep.  This is a field reporters machine. It’s got all the looks of military issue ordnance. This typewriter is small and could easily fit in your rucksack. And with an all steel, snap-on cover, it’s ready for a jaunt to the coffee shop or in a saddle bag slung across a camel’s back for a trek across the Sahara. Continue reading

Olivetti Underwood Lettera 32

Olivetti Lettera 32

Olivetti Underwood Lettera 32 (1963)

The first thing you notice about this typewriter is how compact and solid it feels. It’s like they’ve shrunk a standard model to pint-sized proportions.  It’s got all the great lines of an Olivetti and feels like the previous generation Lettera 22.  It’s definitely a newer, more improved version of its previous self.  It’s a little boxier and the keys strike a bit easier. Continue reading

Olivetti Underwood Studio 44

Olivetti Underwood Studio 44 (1965)

Olivetti Underwood Studio 44 (1965)

At first glance, you notice the size. For a portable typewriter, it’s rather large. But once you get it on the desk, the sleek lines make it appear more accessible. Olivetti’s are known for their great curves and design. The Studio 44 is no exception. Even the name “studio” suggests an artist at work. This is not your standard office typewriter, but it has the solid mechanicals required for doing work, lots of work. Continue reading

Olympia SM3 DeLuxe

Olympia SM3 Framed

Olympia SM3 DeLuxe (1955)

The Olympia SM3 is a reliable workhorse, from a solid body construction to keys that provide good response and feedback.  When you first sit at this thing, you marvel at the beauty and how it exudes a certain egalitarian work ethic. These machines were meant for typing — lots of typing. Rolling paper in for the first time, a reassuring clicking sound is made, like loading a weapon for words. The platen moves with rigid precision. There is no slop. Continue reading