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Wednesday, 23 April 2014

The Royals: From Hemingway to Hemingway to...whatever this is.

It has occurred to me that, though I am at heart an Olivetti fanatic, I also have had a fair share of Royal typewriters come my way. Many of them I liked, too! If there was a company I would rate right next to Olivetti as far as the second most fashionable and accessible machines, it would be Royal.

So Here We Go!

'49 Royal Quiet Deluxe

Probably the least loved of all Royal typewriters, even if it is one of the best. Inside it is a classic QDL, just like Hemingway's. Hemingway used this one--or so Mr. Typewriter says--before he died. It was designed by Henry Dreyfuss. Read a great article about him here. This was also a favorite of Ian Flemming, the man who created James Bond. His, however, was gold plated--a sign of how much it pays to invent James Bond.

Mine came from a girl, who got it from her neighbor, who didn't want to keep it. Their loss. I had Chuck Theile from CCS Business Machines take a whack at it, and now this QDL is on my desk nonstop.

This was the last of the "classic" Royal typewriters, and as far as I am concerned, they don't get any better.

'50 Quiet Deluxe

Bigger shell and fiberglass keys, it isn't quite the classic, and it certainly isn't as iconic. It's quality speaks for itself, though. This is still a great Royal.

'60 Safari

A Bob Dylan favorite. It looks like the sixties. Bubbly and just as likely to rocket off into space as it is to pound out your next term paper. I don't know about these. They have the Royal name, and they certainly aren't bad machines, but they don't FEEL like a Royal.

This one I saved from a washer and dryer store. All it took was a little TLC and a couple hours to get it moving again. The rubber was fantastic. The guy at the front desk told me that they only used it for receipts, so you can imagine that it was used regularly, but only enough that it didn't rot.

After a year with me, I sold this one. I hope it's new owner is enjoying it.

Litton Royal Tab O Matic

Here we go. The history of Royal as a subsidiary, as an American company, and as an independent firm is a long and confusing and sometimes unknown history.

But this Royal is from the end of that history, when Royal was halting all its American production. Instead of making quality machines, Royal was rebranding Japanese typewriters from Nakajima. It was all the rage in the 70's. They were cheaper to make, were made in a way that made their shells easy to redesign, and the market was aiming toward the ultra light "Baby Rocket" style anyway.

Sounds great, right?

It wasn't. Not for Royal, anyway, who would waste away through the 70's and 80's. All that's left of them now is a small firm that still sells Nakajima knock off electronic typewriters.

It's not like it's a bad typewriter, per say. It works, and is all metal. That's saying a lot during a decade that pretty much worshiped cheap plastics. But it's based on the Hermes Rocket, which was innovative about forty years before. Better slim line designs came after--for example, the Lettera 32. What really made the Rocket so great was high--stupidly high--quality. This one didn't have that, and so it too was sold off.

'70 Apollo 10

Another of the Nakajima Royals, this one was actually designed in Holland. It was first made around the same time that Royal was selling European ultra slim portables based on Holland typewriters--your Parade, El Dorado, Dart, and of course the Apollo. Later on, when Royal was focused exclusively on Japanese rebranding, they gave the name and shell design to Nakajima, which fit one of their manual models into it and added a motor for kicks. Using it, it feels just like the above Tab O Matic. It has the same carriage shift and slant to the keys.

'50 Royal Aristocrat

A lot of people might have trouble telling the difference between Royal typewriters. Then you get your hands on a couple and realize that it's all in the materials. As its name suggests, the Aristocrat is the royalty of Royal. It has the best action, the coolest paint jobs, the quietest carriage return, the fastest maximum type speed. It feels like a full size in a portable body.

Even mine, which came to me in very rough shape, is still one of the best typewriters I have ever used. I am thankful that, though Royal fell from grace in the decades that followed this machine, they never thought to sully its good name on a knock off Nakajima or brother clone.

Those are the Royals so far. That's all from Elliott at the Kitchen Table, getting used to Elite typeface.