Thursday, November 22, 2018

Test-Typing Munk's Collection

The Triumph Perfekt from Ted Munk's collection.

Test-typing someone else’s typewriter collection is often a messy business. You aren’t thinking about finely crafted prose or pristine impressions of ink upon paper. Often - or at least in my case - it’s more like a hurried flurry of poorly typed letters, hardly representing real words at all.

Such were my attempts at test typing on some of Ted Munk’s collection of typewriters, during my recent visit to Mesa, Arizona.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a video summary of my trip to Arizona:

First up was the Canon Typestar 4. This is a machine resembling in form an early 1990s laptop computer. The Typestar line features a small LCD display for editing-as-you-type; a carbon film ribbon cartridge (that’s no longer in manufacture, but examples can be purchased online at exorbitant prices) and a thermal printing feature. It’s this latter ability to print onto a roll of thermal paper that makes these machines still viable.


In actual use, we had an issue getting the text to show on the small LCD screen as we typed; it may have been due to some cryptic setting on the machine. As a result, and because of the location of the thermal print head, it’s somewhat like using a blind typewriter, where you can’t see what you’ve written until after a line advance.

Still, the laptop-like feel of the keyboard, and diminutive form-factor, made for a writing experience somewhat like an AlphaSmart device, with the added benefit of a print-out on thermal paper. No, this isn’t considered an archival medium, but for rough-draft writing it’s more than adequate. You’d want to transcribe your draft onto archival typewritten text once back home; or into a word processor for more formal editing.

In use the machine is nearly dead-silent; you wouldn’t have an issue typing in a quiet coffee shop or on an airline tray table next to a finicky flier. Powered by four D-cell batteries, it’s a nifty little unit. There were a number of machines made in the Typestar line. I couldn’t find a convenient online synopsis of the various models’ features, however. Perhaps Rev. Munk has some resources.


The Brother EP-20 is like a small brother (pun alert) to the Canon Typestar. It too used a now-obsolete carbon film ribbon, and also features thermal printing. Its keys are more like calculator chicklet keys, but the machine is even thinner than the Typestar. It’s thermal printing isn’t as nice as the Canons, obviously more dot-matrix in appearance, but essentially dead quiet.

The tradeoff with the Brother is an even smaller form factor for less sophisticated text - which may not be a bad thing, considering thermal-printed text is essentially a temporary medium anyway.


The Royal Companion is a cute little depression-era machine that takes up a small footprint. Ted’s sample has a wonderful finely textured black finish. I was enamored by the small size. It’s kind of like a miniature QDL. The typing action was pretty darned good, too. I can see why it’s one of Ted’s keepers.


The Remington Scout was an interesting machine. The type bars lie flat for storage, then are raised up by a lever for use, resembling in my overly-active imagination like a ready-to-strike velociraptor in Jurassic Park. This example has a wonderful Art Gothic typeface.

Of special note is the function of the carriage return/line advance mechanism, where the main lever rests toward the rear, with a separate lever for advancing the line spacing.


The bright red Olivetti Valentine stuck out on Ted’s shelves like an Italian starlet in the spotlight. This was my first time seeing one in person (typewriter or Italian starlet) and I was duly impressed. From online reports, I’d expected the feel of the keyboard to be less than impressive, but I was surprised at the touch. If they’re all like this one, I can see why they’re so popular. Of course, you’re not going to go out typing in public with one of these unless you’re purposely trying to attract attention to yourself. Best to spend time with your hot little Italian in the privacy of home.

The Triumph Perfekt was the biggest surprise of the day. I loved the no-nonsense curves of the machine and its solid build quality. But the feel of the keyboard was most impressive. First, the slope and spacing of the keys was perfekt. But the action of the keys was great - kind of like a cross between a Hermes 3000 and Olympia SM-something. The resistance of the keys was steady and consistent throughout the entire keystroke. Smooth. Wonderful. I was smitten. Reading back on Ted’s blog, he picked up this beauty for all of $10. The typewriter gods certainly smiled on him that day.

It’s nice to see and use in person machines you’d otherwise only read about online. And I’ve gained a bit more insight into Ted’s typewriter collecting preferences. Another good reason to associate yourself with fellow typewriter enthusiasts - we all can learn from each other.

Labels: ,


Blogger Bill M said...

It sounds very nice to be able to test type so many different typewriters.
I enjoyed my Royal Companion, perhaps similar to Ted's. but I gave it to a typewriter enthusiast I met in FL. I also agree with the Valentine. The few I used were fine typewriters. One day I hope to get a Perfekt. From your review I guess that is why it is call a Perfekt.

11:15 AM  
Blogger aphexian said...

Something I’d love to do someday is to take someone elses collection for a test drive. Sounds like Rev. Munk has quite the selection of fine machines. I left a comment on your latest video Joe. Did you take your Rocket to get repaired because of the skipping issue, or was it something else? -Mitch

12:11 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

oooh, how's this for a meta linkback idea?
Joe tries out some of my machines and writes his impressions in a blog post. I then link to the blog post from the Typewriter Database gallery pages of each of the six typewriters mentioned. Then Joe's impressions are recorded in the history of each machine so reviewed.
Here's links to the aforementioned machines to complete the holistic circle of meta-ness, and to point readers to more information on the specific machines, along with a set of links to yet other impressions of that typewriter. *pkow* :D

2:10 PM  
Blogger Mike A. said...

Thanks for the demonstration Joe and Ted. Great way to get your hands on some new hardware. Of course, now you’ll find yourself shopping for a new machine… or two.

BTW... had to go find a copy of Google Chrome to enter this. Has anyone ever figured out how to get Safari to like Blogger?

9:27 PM  
Anonymous John from Scotland said...

I've just discovered you on YouTube, Joe, and I'm absolutely loving your stuff. I'm currently binge watching all your videos. My interest in TW's started when a friend gifted me a display-only Royal No10 last Christmas. Within the year, I have amassed a Corona Standard Flat Top, an Olympia SM5, a Hermes 3000, an Olympia Splendid 66, an Olivetti Lettera 35 and a Silver Reed Silverette II. Please keep doing what you're doing but please also give some thought to categorising your videos and naming them according to content ('Retrieving the Rocket' is a case in point - little did I know that this video contained an excellent interview with Bill Wahl and contributions from Ted Munk, Key Snap and Daily Platen!).

5:47 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home