Tim’s Museum of Obsolete Tech – 3

Speedwriter Manual Portable Typewriter

Typewriter with coffee cup for scale.

Ignoring any possible historical significance or practical considerations, I obtained this typewriter because it looks like the model my first dad owned – the typewriter of my childhood, not that I ever used it then. But there is some historical significance to this machine.

Speedwriter was one of many brand names used for typewriters from Zbrojovka Brno, a Czechoslovakian company that made everything from guns to cars. In the 1930s they made typewriters under license from Remington (also an arms manufacturer), but by the 1950s they were selling their own typewriters under the brand name Consul. During the 1960s they supplied white label typewriters to many companies, including department stores and, in Canada, Commodore (yes, that Commodore, of C-64 fame).

Stamp inside the case, confirming 1966 manufacture.

The serial number on mine indicates this is a model 232, from 1966. It is in excellent condition. It was part of the estate of a relative of the seller, and they were likely the only owner. It came with the case, manual, and a complete set of brushes and cloths.

It’s a compact and sleek typewriter, though features are lacking. There’s no ribbon colour select, and no number one/exclamation mark key. You type a lower-case L for 1. For an exclamation mark, you type a period, then backspace, and type an apostrophe. However, the carriage roller is cleverly designed with markings to let you know when you are close to the end of a page.

Close-up of typewriter mechanism.
The simple mechanism uses just one link from the key to the typebar.

Less obvious is a simplified key link mechanism. While it allows for reduced weight and size, and is cheaper to make, typing on this machine is rough and loud, and requires more effort than my full size office manual. I had assumed all portable typewriters were like this until I obtained my Olympia portables.

A sitting woman in a sleeveless blouse and skirt, balance the typewriter on her knees. She's looking at what she typed, while sucking on a pen.
First page of the instruction manual, with ample sixties sexism. There’s no way you can type with the typewriter on your knees, but it gets the lady’s legs into the picture. Holding the pen like lollipop is an infantilizing bonus.

Like many portables, this typewriter uses a carriage shift instead of a basket shift. In other words, the shift key raises the carriage instead of lowering the set of typebars. This makes the shift a little heavier, but, as with other aspects of typing on this machine, it’s not a concern for occasional use.

White typewriter case

While not an elegant or refined typewriter, it’s easy to see why this model, under any brand name, would have been popular for people with limited funds and/or limited typing requirements.

Abstract images, including some letters.
Instruction manual cover.

Categorized as Writing

By trc

Freelance writer, freelance editor, web consultant, and film studies scholar.


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