|Some collectors find early electric portable typewriters interesting as a sort of sidelight; here is some general information about these machines.|
|Although electric typewriters were invented long before the Second World War, it wasn't until the 1950's that they went into large scale production world-wide. It was only a matter of time until someone introduced an electric portable machine, which Smith-Corona did (first) in 1957 with its Model 5TE Electric Portable.|
|This machine falls properly into the category of "semi-electric" machines; some functions are electrically powered, while others remain fully manual. This is due to the fact that the machine is largely an electrified adaptation of the Silent-Super, with new electric type-bar mechanism and clutch linkage. Spacing is powered, as is the basket shift mechanism. Tabulator functions are manual, as is the backspace. Carriage-mounted devices are all manual as well.
A small electric motor was used to provide power; the motor ran constantly when the machine was turned on. A safety interlock cut off power if the top lid was opened.
|This machine was certainly a gamble. The top-end manual portables of the day were already considered expensive, and this machine was even more so. It was difficult to believe that average individuals would have purchased such machines, and advertising copy from the time clearly shows an emphasis on two kinds of uses. First, Smith-Corona tuned its 'individual' ads toward wealthy customers, featuring Yale University pennants and the like in the illustrated dorm rooms. Second, new ads featuring small businesses were run, showing that this machine was cheaper than a standard but still very useful; it could type up to 9 manifold copies and could be used in smaller doctors' offices, for example. Sales were slow for a few years, but eventually (in a newer body style) the Smith-Corona line of electric portables became extremely popular. Leadership in sales was assured by constant reinvestment -- powered carriage return, for example, and (in 1973) the well known 'cartridge ribbon' which inserted from the right side and made ribbon changes an easy, clean operation.|
|At right, typical ad art of the day shows affluent students enjoying the use of their Smith-Corona Electric Portable typewriters. Other ads show small office settings.|
|NAKAJIMA The machine seen here was manufactured by Nakajima in Japan, and is labeled as a GRANT'S 707 GULLWING ELECTRIC.. It represents the earliest version of Nakajima electric portable, dating to roughly 1976. It is essentially the Nakajima manual portable, with type-bar mechanism replaced with a cam-type electric variety. However, the carriage shift is still manually operated, and most carriage related functions are all manual as well (backspace, margin release--- normal and rapid spacing are electric.) The name derives from both the Boeing jet of the time and the fact that the individual ribbon covers open to the sides. Serial number E 19241.
Huge numbers of similar electrics were made by BROTHER and SILVER-SEIKO with a myriad of names as well at this time.
|This machine represents essentially the next step in "electrified manual" portable typewriter design. It's an SCM/SMITH-CORONA STERLING AUTOMATIC 12, and if there were an electrified CORSAIR, COUGAR or COURIER this would be it. It's much smaller than the usual SMITH-CORONA electrics, and has a vinyl zipper case. It was made by Corona Typewriter Manufacturers PTE Ltd. in Singapore.
The machine is carriage shifted, but this is power operated. Carriage return is power operated as well, and there is no carriage return lever -- although the machine could be had without power return and with the lever. Only rolling of the platen is manually performed on this machine (and setting margins of course) -- it's conceptually the final phase of electric type-bar machines.
|As we know, single-element machines (either daisy-wheel or ball-type) eventually superseded electric type-bar machines, and these eschewed moving carriages by moving the type element, greatly easing design and also making power paper handling easy to include. The development of microprocessors led to addition of spell checking and word processing functions, vital in order to compete with proper PC word processors. But it was (in both standard and portable typewriters) essentially electrified manual typewriter designs which led the way to the inclusion of electric power in typing.|