Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Slippery Slope ...

I'd been driving myself crazy trying to sort out my entries in The Typewriter Database for my nearly twin Olympia SM9s, confusing the serial numbers, their dates of manufacture, and mixing up which one was pica and which elite.  I finally sat them down side by side on my office couch for a direct comparison and eventually worked it out that the 1972 machine has the smaller elite typeface, while the twin born six years later in 1978 uses pica. OK, fine, but seeing them together revealed some other, more subtle, while at the same time perhaps more significant differences.

Now, whining is something one does not normally relate with talk about the SM9, so prepare yourself.

(Almost) Twin Olympia SM9s

1972 Olympia SM9

1978 Olympia SM9
Above is the 1978 pica version of my 1972 elite SM9. Still a fine typer, but there are a couple of changes from the 1972 version. The unnecessary but lovely machined swirl pattern on the paper support is gone. Gone also is the red paint on the casting of the key lever pivot support bar. Unnecessary embellishments but they gave a special bonus touch, exhibiting a bit of corporate pride in the machine, and retained from the design going way back to my 1957 SM3. I noticed and appreciated those enhancements even as a pimply high school adolescent. Gone, too, is the handy, white-capped carriage lock lever. By 1978 it has become an unattractive and somewhat unpleasant-to-the-touch lever sticking out from under the left end of the carriage. Obviously all of those 1972 features added to the cost of manufacture while doing nothing for the touch or typing quality. 

Yes, still a very fine machine, and if I had to place my life in a wheelbarrow to flee a burning house both would likely be in it. But are these subtle signs of the beginning of a worldwide corporate slide away from pride in quality and integrity towards avarice and greed?

No, of course not, I'm just a cranky old curmudgeon this evening.


  1. Tony, that's a pleasantly-lit room you have there in your first photo. And I love the idea of narrow shelves to set paintings on.
    Regarding the SM9s, my 1966 model quickly became a favourite once I sorted out what was wrong with it.
    I think you're gonna need a bigger wheelbarrow if your house goes up in flames.
    And, for what it's worth, I think your '72 model has the edge over the '78 one.

  2. That's a very attractive room and typewriters.
    Are either of those machines Japanese? I had a Japanese one and the quality just was not there.
    I think one of the fun parts of collecting typewriters is finding the subtle differences in the machines from the same model line and manufacturer.

  3. Thanks, I'd never seen an analysis of a late SM9 before. How long did they make these? The Database goes up to 1979.

  4. I have a 1978 Olympia SM-9, with a 12-inch carriage. I have also had a 1966 version of it, and, I hate to say it, I prefer the 1978 model. (especially the case handle)

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  6. "A cranky old curmudgeon" is your descriptive words but I know this is not the case. One of the privileges of growing older is we have a more global view of the world. When I look at the cock-up 20th and 21st century humans have done to this inhabitable world we live on, I wonder how humankind will fare in the near future. I can well understand why you wrote "cranky old curmudgeon".

  7. I love your setup, and that's one heck of a clean and beautiful machine.

  8. where is the serial number?! Im struggling to find mine!