By the 1930s, typewriters were firmly established in the workplace. While American portables were viewed as the less capable offspring of their office parent, it seems the German typewriter company Seidel & Naumann had focussed their efforts on perfecting the portable without an office standard looming over it.
And perhaps for this reason they named their typewriter Erika and made it the most visible label on the machine. Moreover, it’s in a unique type style that speaks to the brand rather than the company. Most other typewriter companies made sure you knew who made their typewriter. And if their typewriters had names, they usually said more about their function rather than their form: Smith Corona Silent, Royal Quiet Deluxe, Remington Quiet-Riter.
Olympia didn’t even bother to add a name label to most of their typewriters, since they were often obscure letter number combinations like SM3. Not exactly something that inspires. Olympia probably decided they’d let their typewriters do the talking. After all, they are superb machines.
But a name says much about what a company thinks of their product.The Teutonic roots of the name Erika suggests something that means noble. And among the Erika line of nobility, the model M is Queen, from her one-piece outer shell to her reinforced carriage rail and levers and silver-ringed glass top keys, she’s not only pleasing to the eye, but has a firm touch that retains a lightening quickness. This is not a typewriter that lives in an ordinary office, she’s meant to grace the desk of a writing aficionado.
At first you might think she’s carriage shifted, but when you actually use the shift, you’ll notice only the platen roller is lifted, making for a lighter experience. About the only quirk is the placement of the margin release. If you look closely, two silver buttons flank each side of the space bar. The second from the left is the margin release. The others are used for setting tabs and margins. The margin set is nice, rather than hunting in the back of the machine to set them, just adjust the carriage to the position you want and depress a button. Royal has a similar function called the “Magic Margin.”
While you can find Erikas with an English QWERTY keyboard (rare!), the more prevalent style is the German QWERTZ layout, where the Y and the Z have been switched. Normally I wouldn’t recommend this layout if you write in English, but typing on the Erika M is pleasing to the soul in ways other typewriters fail to touch. And if you’re not concerned with producing final draft copy on your typewriter, let the Ys and Zs swap lives, you’ll still know what the word is, mazbe. (Hint: that’s maybe) If nothing else, it’ll make for humorous copy.
Some have suggested the M, in the Erika M, stands for Meisterklasse, or Masterclass. While this seems appropriate, I like to think of her as Erika the Magnificent. She’s also in a class by herself. There is no equal.