Olivetti typewriters

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The Olivetti company, an Italian manufacturer of computers, tablets, smartphones, printers and other such business products as calculators and fax machines, was founded as a typewriters manufacturer by Camillo Olivetti in 1908 in the Turin commune of Ivrea, Italy.

By 1994, Olivetti stopped production of typewriters, as more and more users were transitioning to personal computers.

The mechanical models[edit]

M1 (1911)[edit]

The M1, the first Olivetti typewriter.

Until the mid-1960s, the Olivetti typewriters were fully mechanical. Introduced at the Word Fair in Turin in 1911, the first Olivetti typewriter, the M1, was made of about 3000 hand made parts and weighed 17 kg.[1] It was the first Italian typewriter and had a keyboard of 42 keys corresponding to 84 signs,[2] 33-cm paper roll allowing for 110 characters and featured two-colored ribbon, automatic reverse direction, and return key.[3] Heavy and massive, it was intended for professional use in offices.

M20 (1920)[edit]

In 1920 the M1 was replaced by a new model, the M20. It featured several innovations, including the trolley running on a fixed guideway. Unlike the M1, which was essentially sold in Italy, it was exported to many European and non-European markets.

M40 (1930)[edit]

To update the M20, Olivetti worked on a new model which came out in 1930 and remained in production until 1948, the M40. A second version came out in 1937 and another one in the 1940s. Customers particularly appreciated the fixed-guide carriage, the lightness of touch of the keyboard and the speed of writing.

MP1 (1932)[edit]

In 1932, Olivetti presented a portable typewriter shortly after the launch of the M40: the MP1. Conceived by Gino Martinoli and Adriano Olivetti, developed by Riccardo Levi and designed by Aldo Magnelli, it weighed "only" 5.2 kilos compared to the 17 kilos of the M1, measured 11.7 centimetres high (half the height of the M1), and was intended for the office world and private users.

The mechanics was partly masked by the body and the monumental vertical structure of the M1 had been flattened and lightened. In addition to the black color of the M1 and M20, red, blue, light blue, brown, green, gray and ivory were added.

Studio 42 (1935)[edit]

Also known as the M2, it was designed in 1935 by Figini and Pollini, Ottavio Luzzati and Xanti Schawinsky. It is characterized by the various colors available: in addition to the classic black, it was also available in red, gray, brown and light blue.

The keyboard is the QZERTY type, as is usual for Italian machines (apart from modern computer keyboards). In addition to the writing keys, the keyboard includes a space bar, two shift keys, a shift lock, a return key, and a tab key.

The set of writing keys has an obvious lack: there is no key with the number 1, which is obtained by using the lowercase letter l (L) or the capital I (i); likewise, there is no zero, which is obtained by typing the capital O (o). Although this may seem strange today, it was quite common in the old typewriters.

There is also a portable version, with the machine fixed on a wooden base with black imitation leather and a removable protection also covered in wood, a black leather carrying handle and a chrome lock.[4]

Lexikon 80 (1948)[edit]

Studio 42 (1950)[edit]

Lettera 22 (1950)[edit]

A Lettera 22, first model

The Olivetti Lettera 22 [oliˈvetti ˈlɛttera ˌventiˈduːe] is a portable mechanical typewriter designed by Marcello Nizzoli in 1949 or, according to the company's current owner Telecom Italia, 1950.[5] This typewriter was very popular in Italy, and it still has many fans. It was awarded the Compasso d'oro prize in 1954. In 1959 the Illinois Institute of Technology chose the Lettera 22 as the best design product of the previous 100 years.

The typewriter is sized about 27x37x8 cm (with the carriage return lever adding about 1–2 more centimeters in height), making it quite portable at least for the time's standards, even though its 3.7 kg (8.2 lb) weight may limit portability somewhat.

A side view of the Lettera 22
A front view of the Lettera 22
The Lettera 22: "Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera"
The Lettera 22

The model was eventually succeeded by the Olivetti Lettera 32.

Mechanics[edit]

The Lettera 22 is an oblique frontstroke typebar typewriter. The typebars strike a red/black inked ribbon, which is positioned between the typebar and the paper by a lever whenever a key is pressed; a small switch located near the upper right side of the keyboard can be used to control the strike position of the ribbon, in order to print with black, red, or no ink (for mimeograph stencils).

Ribbon movement, which also occurs at every keypress, automatically reverses direction when there is no ribbon left on the feed reel; two mechanical sensors, situated next to each wheel, move when the ribbon is put under tension (indicating ribbon end), attaching the appropriate wheel to the ribbon transport mechanism and detaching the other.

The Lettera 22 uses a basket shift or segment shift (that is, the unit including the typebars moves up and down when shifting, as opposed to the carriage shift system). The Lettera 22 is quite compact compared to other 1950s portable typewriters using a basket shift, such as the Smith Corona Sterling or Remington-Rand Quiet-Riter.

The Lettera 22 also features a tabulator setting and clearing system that is controlled from the keyboard, and an innovative margin release that does double duty as a paragraph indentation key (it indents a paragraph when it is held down as the carriage is returned).

Keyboard[edit]

For the Italian market the keyboard is in the QZERTY layout, as with most Italian machines (excluding modern computer keyboards). Aside from the typing keys, the keyboard includes a space bar, two shift keys, one caps lock key, a backspace key and a margin release key. Of these, only the backspace key bears a mark on it (an arrow pointing right), while the other five mentioned are left anonymous.

The character set conspicuously lacks the numbers 0 and 1, which are supposed to be substituted by uppercase "O" and lowercase "l". Although this may seem like a strange absence today, this was actually common on older typewriters.[6]

Also lacking are the keys for uppercase accented vowels, some of which are present in Italian; however, these characters aren't typically found on modern keyboards, either.

The keyboard for the American variant is in the QWERTY layout. Although the character set lacks the number "1", presumably to be replaced by the lowercase "l", the "0" is present. One key has the fractions ½ and (shifted) ¼, while another has ¢ (cents) and (shifted) @. A British version is slightly different.[7]

Layout[edit]

  • Normal
é " ' ( _ è ^ ç à ) -
q z e r t y u i o p ì
a s d f g h j k l m ù
w x c v b n , ; : ò
  • Shifted
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 & ° +
Q Z E R T Y U I O P =
A S D F G H J K L M %
W X C V B N ? . / !

In popular culture[edit]

The Olivetti Lettera 22 is mentioned on pg. 15 of Thomas Pynchon's 2009 novel Inherent Vice.

The Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter was featured in the film The Talented Mr. Ripley.

The novelist Will Self,[8] poet and singer Leonard Cohen[9] and actor Tom Hanks[10] have expressed use and ownership of this typewriter.

Indro Montanelli, the famous Italian journalist and newspaper director, used his Lettera 22 almost everywhere. A monument in Milan's public gardens Giardini Pubblici Indro Montanelli, inspired from a famous photo of Montanelli from the 1950s, is dedicated to him and his Lettera 22.

German writer Günter Grass had three Olivetti Letteras, which he used exclusively at his homes in Portugal, Germany (Schleswig-Holstein) and Denmark.

American writer Joan Didion mentions her Olivetti Lettera 22 in her book Where I Was From, recalling that she typed her 1963 novel Run, River on it.

William S. Burroughs replaced his Remington typewriter with a Lettera 22 in 1964.[11]

Travel writer Jan Morris reported using an Olivetti Valentine, a bright red model of the Lettera, from the 1960s until she "entered the computer age.".[12]

In chapter 99 of Hopscotch, Argentinian novelist Julio Cortázar writes (translation follows) "En aquel tiempo había sido como si lo que escribía estuviese ya tendido delante de él, escribir era pasar una Lettera 22 sobre palabras invisibles pero presentes, como el diamante por el surco del disco." This translates to "In those times it had been as though what he wrote were already stretched out ahead of him, writing was passing a Lettera 22 over invisible but present words, like the needle on the groove of the record."[13]

Studio 44 (1952)[edit]

Diaspron 82 (1959)[edit]

Lettera 10 (1979)[edit]

Lettera 32 (1963)[edit]

A Lettera 32 with Arabic keyboard

The Olivetti Lettera 32 is a portable mechanical typewriter designed by Marcello Nizzoli for Olivetti in 1963 as the successor of the popular Olivetti Lettera 22. The Lettera 32 was also very popular amongst writers, journalists and students.

The typewriter is sized about 34x35x10 cm (with the carriage return lever adding about 1–2 centimeters in height), making it portable at least for the time's standards, even though its 5.9 kg weight may limit portability somewhat.

The Lettera 32 did not come with a manual but with an instruction card.[14]

Mechanics[edit]

The Lettera 32 is a downstrike typebars typewriter. The typebars strike a red/black inked ribbon, which is positioned between the typebar and the paper by a lever whenever a key is pressed; a small switch located near the upper right side of the keyboard can be used to control the strike position of the ribbon, in order to print with black, red, or no ink (for mimeograph stencils).

Ribbon movement, which also occurs at every keypress, automatically reverses direction when there is no ribbon left on the feed reel; two mechanical sensors, situated next to each wheel, move when the ribbon is put under tension (indicating ribbon end), attaching the appropriate wheel to the ribbon transport mechanism and detaching the other.

Keyboard[edit]

The keyboard uses QWERTY, AZERTY and various other layouts. Apart from the typing keys, the keyboard includes a space bar, two shift keys, a caps lock, a backspace key, margin release key, paragraph indentation key and a tab-stop set/unset key.

As was common in older typewriters, it lacks the number 1, which is supposed to be substituted by the lowercase l.

Popular culture[edit]

Cormac McCarthy used an Olivetti Lettera 32 to write nearly all of his fiction, screenplays, and correspondence, totalling by his estimate more than 5 million words. The Lettera 32 that he purchased in 1963 was auctioned at Christie's on December 4, 2009, to an unidentified American collector for $254,500, more than 10 times its high estimate of $20,000.[15] McCarthy paid $11 for a replacement typewriter of the same model, but in newer condition.[16]

Francis Ford Coppola used an Olivetti Lettera 32 to write the screenplay for the 1972 motion picture The Godfather, which he also directed.[17]

Subsequent models[edit]

From then on, the technology of the hand-held portables tends to stabilize. The mechanics of the Lettera 32 is therefore maintained at the base of the subsequent models: the Olivetti Dora and Lettera De Luxe (1965), Lettera 25 and 35 (1974), Lettera 10 and 12 (1979) and 40/41/42 and 50/51/52 (1980) differ mainly in design.

Dora (1965)[edit]

Lettera DL (1965)[edit]

Studio 45 (1967)[edit]

Lettera 25 (1972)[edit]

Lettera 35 (1972)[edit]

Lettera 35 model

The Olivetti Lettera 35 is a portable mechanical typewriter created in 1972 by Mario Bellini and released to the public in 1974.

More than 10 years after the Lettera 32, Olivetti felt the need to renew the design of its portable typewriters. Thus, the Lettera 35 was launched. Unlike the Lettera 22 and 32 , which maintain a simple and essential style, the Lettera 35 features a robust design to create the image of a professional machine that recalls the future Lettera 36, an electric typewriter released in 1970.[18]

Mechanics[edit]

With the same mechanics as the Lettera 32, the Olivetti Lettera 35 is a typewriter with pressure writing levers. Each time a key is pressed, the corresponding hammer, through the kinematic mechanism, goes to beat on the tape with red or black ink, behind which is the sheet of paper on which is thus imprinted the corresponding symbol.

A lever located at the top right of the keyboard can be used to control the position of the ribbon and select printing in black, red or without ink (in case of copies with carbon paper or for the preparation of ink matrices for the mimeograph). The ribbon winds with each key press and automatically changes winding direction when it is finished in one of the two spools in which it is wound. Two mechanical sensors located near each spool move when the ribbon stretches (this indicates that it is finishing) and reverse its winding direction.[19]

Keyboard[edit]

The original Italian version used the QZERTY keyboard, although versions with different key arrangements were produced which corresponded with other languages.

The alphanumeric keys totaled 43 of the 86 total keys. Other than this, the keyboard had a space bar, two keys to set uppercase letters, a caps lock key, a lever to for the ability to go beyond the set margins, a key for backspacing, a lever to switch tabs, and a (red) key to switch between tabs. [20]

The set of characters available has obvious shortcomings: there is no key with the number 1, which is obtained by using the lowercase letter l (L) or the capital I (i); there are no keys for the accented uppercase vowels used in the Italian language, which were replaced by normal letters followed by the apostrophe. This type of solution was quite common in the typewriters of the time.

Valentine (1969)[edit]

The Olivetti Valentine designed by Ettore Sottsass.

The Valentine's transgressive design of Ettore Sottsass, defined by the poet Giovanni Giudici as "a Lettera 32 disguised as a sixties girl", quickly became a cult product. It is the first example of a surprising, non-conformist office product that anticipates the evolution of the working world towards a more informal style.

Studio 46 (1973)[edit]

The electromechanical models[edit]

Praxis 48 (1964)[edit]

Lettera 36 (1970)[edit]

Lexikon 82 (1974)[edit]

ET 101 (1978)[edit]

ET 201 (1979)[edit]

ET 121 (1980)[edit]

ET 351 (1980)[edit]

Praxis 35 (1980)[edit]

ETP 55 (1987)[edit]

ET 2400 (1988)[edit]

CWP1 (1988)[edit]

Lettera 92 (1988)[edit]

ET Personal 540 (1991)[edit]

The Editor series was used for speed typing championship competition. The Editor 5 from 1969 was the top model of that series, with proportional spacing and the ability to support justified text borders. In 1972 the electromechanical typeball machines of the Lexicon 90 to 94C series were introduced, as competitors to the IBM Selectric typewriters, the top model 94c supported proportional spacing and justified text borders like the Editor 5, as well as lift-off correction.

In 1978 Olivetti was one of the first manufacturers to introduce electronic daisywheel printer-based word processing machines, called TES 401 and TES 501. Later the ET series typewriters without (or with) LCD and different levels of text editing capabilities were popular in offices. Models in that line were ET 121, ET 201, ET 221, ET 225, ET 231, ET 351, ET 109, ET 110, ET 111, ET 112, ET 115, ET 116, ET 2000, ET 2100, ET 2200, ET 2250, ET 2300, Et 2400 and ET 2500. For home users in 1982 the Praxis 35, Praxis 40 and 45D were some of the first portable electronic typewriters. Later, Olivetti added the Praxis 20, ET Compact 50, ET Compact 60, ET Compact 70, ET Compact 65/66, the ET Personal series and Linea 101. The top models were 8 lines LCD based portables like Top 100 and Studio 801, with the possibility to save the text to a 3.5-inch floppy disk.

The professional line was upgraded with the ETV series video typewriters based on CP/M operating system, ETV 240, ETV 250, ETV 300, ETV 350 and later MS-DOS operating system based ETV 260, ETV 500, ETV 2700, ETV 2900, ETV 4000s word processing systems having floppy drives or hard disks. Some of them (ETV 300, 350, 500, 2900) were external boxes that could be connected through an optional serial interface to many of the ET series office typewriters, the others were fully integrated with an external monitor which could be installed on a holder over the desk. Most of the ET/ETV/Praxis series electronic typewriters were designed by Marion Bellini.

By 1994, Olivetti stopped production of typewriters, as more and more users were transitioning to personal computers.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Olivetti M1 and M20, The Typewriter Museum (2017)
  2. ^ Olivetti M1, Berthold Kerschbaumer, The Classic Typewriter Page (2021)
  3. ^ Dante's endorsement for the Olivetti M1, Italianways.com (March 2015)
  4. ^ Istruzioni per l'uso della macchina Olivetti Studio 42, Olivetti, 1935.
  5. ^ Olivetti design at Telecom Italia
  6. ^ On a computer keyboard, the numbers are compulsory because computers cannot interpret a letter for a number like humans can.
  7. ^ "Lettera 22 Instuctions: Cover". Flickr.com. 26 July 2009. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  8. ^ Clark, Alex (17 March 2018). "Will Self: 'The novel is absolutely doomed'". the Guardian. Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  9. ^ Cohen, Scott (August 1985). "The Portable Leonard Cohen". Spin. p. 25.
  10. ^ Warner, Kara (17 July 2012), Tom Hanks' Online Series 'Electric City' A 'Different Brand Of Noir', MTV.com, retrieved 26 November 2012
  11. ^ Miles, Barry (2013). Call Me Burroughs. New York: Twelve. p. 426. ISBN 978-1-4789-8181-7.
  12. ^ Morris, Jan (1997). Fifty Years of Europe. New York: Villard. p. 198. ISBN 0-679-41610-2.
  13. ^ Cortázar, Julio (1984). Rayuela. Madrid: Cátedra. p. 612. ISBN 978-84-376-2474-7.
  14. ^ "Typewriter User's Manual - Olivetti-Underwood Lettera 32 (circa 1964)". www.munk.org. Retrieved 2021-09-03.
  15. ^ Kennedy, Randy (2009-12-04). "NY Times: Cormac McCarthy's Typewriter Brings $254,500 at Auction". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-12-04.
  16. ^ Cohen, Patricia (2009-12-01). "NY Times: No Country for Old Typewriters: A Well-Used One Heads to Auction". NY Times. Retrieved 2009-11-30.
  17. ^ Kilgannon, Corey (2013-12-27). "NY Times: Finessing Typewriters for Nearly 40 Years, and Now Turning Over the Keys". The New York Times. Retrieved 2021-03-20.
  18. ^ Macchina per scrivere portatile Lettera 35, Storiaolivetti.it (2021)
  19. ^ Il design dei prodotti Olivetti, Storiaolivetti.it (2008)
  20. ^ Dalla MP1 alla Valentine, passando per la Lettera 22 e 32, Storiaolivetti.it (2008)