Olympia SM9 (1966)
The Olympia SM9 is a writer’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.
About the only mark against this typewriter is just how plain it looks. Its muted colors and basic lines are not there to inspire, but rather fade in the background as you fill page after page with words. Maybe this was by design and it certainly reflects the mid-1960s trend away from style. This was the beginning of the age of technology and maybe the designers at Olympia figured the market was after utility and tech, rather than style. But what may be off-putting at first in terms of style and design, the daily use of this typewriter more than overcomes.
One competitor in this space was the Studio 44 from Olivetti. The stylish Italian, with Tennessee Williams as their pitchman. The rugged office machine brought to the artist’s studio. The Studio 44 certainly beats the SM9 in looks, but when it come to typing, the German-made machine leaves its rival in the dust.
You could drop down a size and go with Olivetti’s smaller unit, the Lettera 32 and now you’d have a typewriter that could keep up with the SM9, but what you’d sacrifice is the feeling of solid mechanicals under your fingers. The Lettera 32 is way cool to look at, and it’s fun to use and the legendary writer Cormac McCarthy uses one, but its lightness feels like you’re typing on thin ice. The SM9 is a rock. Solid. Dependable. A work horse. It’s German. It might be a bit over-engineered, but hey, the Germans have fun in their own ways. And you’d have fun writing the big novel on this excellent typewriter.