|OLIVETTI machines are very well covered elsewhere, but the machine at left bears mention. This is an UNDERWOOD 378 by label, but the root model was the OLIVETTI LETTERA 92, which first appeared around 1986 and is one of the most often-seen and variously relabeled portables of modern times. There are a LOT of variants of this basic machine, which is essentially the mechanism of the much older LETTERA 32 in a new body. Below, a machine of the same type but simply labeled ACHIEVER; this label may be associated with Sears-Roebuck Department Stores.|
|In 1950, Montana SpA of Turin (or Torino) Italy was launched for the singular purpose of manufacturing perfect license-built copies of the early version of the Hermes Baby. Three basic variants can be found, starting with the early model seen at left. This is the Montana Luxe.
Montana appears to have produced a decent, but not significant, number of machines overall, and cannot be considered anything but an also-ran in typewriter history.
|At right, we see the first changes made to the machine, beginning around 1960 or 1961. It's obvious that the colors have changed, but what is not obvious is that everything you see on the machine's body that's light grey is no longer metal, but plastic. A definite reduction in manufacturing cost in reaction to the horde of flat machines which were available by then, but with no added features to provide competition. Yes, the "gull-wing" ribbon covers are still metal.|
|The machine seen here, a CARLTON, is also of the final variant for Montana-made portables. The (all plastic) body and zippered case are now very cheaply made, and it seems that machining tolerances are sloppy, making these machines poor relations to the units manufactured about fifteen years prior.|
|At right, Cuyler Brooks' VORNADO, in the final Montana phase of design, from sometime in the middle 1960's. We also see a scan from the instructions for this machine.
This is, naturally, a relabeled machine which was sold in the US -- as was the machine you see below.
|Above, Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 32 compared with the Olivetti-Underwood 21. The 21 is a large, heavy and different desk model machine, comparable with many other large portables but harder to find. The later body for this big Olivetti is seen on the right, as the Olivetti Studio 45.
You can see some other Olivetti machine variants, which carry some variation of the Underwood brand name, by clicking here.
|Although there are more model variants of Olivetti portables around than you can imagine, they contain one of three basic mechanism designs; the old, small portable design of the Lettera 22, the total redesign of that machine seen as the Lettera 32, and the large and heavy desk model machines commonly, but not always, labeled with the "Studio" name. No matter the appearance, any Olivetti modern portable will contain one of these three mechanical designs, and over ninety percent of the machines you'll find will be analagous, mechanically, to the Lettera 32.|
|Further views of this machine, and its all plastic lid. This is the Montana de Luxe, which appears to be the hardest of the three variants to find. The lid is actually made of a high-impact type of plastic and is sturdier than you might think.|
|Portable Typewriters: "Made in Italy." The reaction upon hearing "made in Italy" is normally "Olivetti," but as we will see, this most famous typewriter company did not exist in a vacuum in its home country. We'll take a look at other makers from Italy, with details on construction and history where relevant.|
|by Will Davis.|