Olympia SM9

Olympia SM9

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.

14 comments

  1. What is the difference between an Olympia SM-9 and the Deluxe? I noticed the badgings are different, but what functional differences are there? This is significant because the EBay seller and buyer seem to put both in one big, undifferentiated bucket.

  2. I don’t know what changed between the SM3-5 and the SM7-9, but something did. For one, the latter three don’t feel at all like their predecessors and they don’t sound like them. Yes, they are fine machines and work wonderfully, but the aesthetic experience is very different.

  3. Quick question. I have one of these typewriters and I love it. But I have the touch adjustment set on maximum and I was wondering if that would effect the life-span of the typewriter.

    • SM4, SM7 and SM9 are really nice! Check it out…

      SM1 = 1949->, Carriage-lift typing, rounded Keys, no tabulator key.
      SM2 = 1950->, Carriage-lift typing, square Keys, no tabulator key.
      SM3 = 1953->, Carriage-lift typing, with tabulator key and manual (slow) tab setting.
      SM4 = 1958->, Carriage-lift typing, with the keyset (fast) tabulator system!!! Cool!

      SM5 = 1962->,New design, Carriage-lift typing, tabulator key, manual (slow) tab setting.
      SM6 = There was none. (No s3x today!) German word for 6 = “Sechs”. Ha-ha!
      SM7 = 1962-> Like SM5 but with the keyset tabulator system!!! Cool!

      SM8 = 1964-> With new segment shift design (basket shift), tabulator key and manual (slow) tab setting.
      SM9 = 1964-> With new segment shift design (basket shift), with the keyset (fast) tabulator system!!! Cool!
      SM9 = 1969-1979 A few updates, Housing design, Color, Logo, cost saving measures

      I own the SM9 (1964) version and I find it a friendly typewriter. It’s not the rounded type of the 50’s nor the square type of the 70’s. It’s just in the middle, which is cool. Mine likes alcohol though. I have to constantly place some drops into the basket joints to keep the hammers moving. (I haven’t owned the TW very long, a few days, so the final cleaning is on the todo list.)

    • Its the touch adjustment. You will feel a spring being tensioned as you move it from – to + If you lift the front you can see the lever and spring. I use mine close to minimum tension but its a matter of personal preference.

  4. Yes, fantastic machines, the SM9. Looking for an online or hardcopy tutorial that will show me how to remove the platen. Any suggestions? Thanks.

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