Typewriters’ Block

Described by Nick Tauriainen as an anomaly in Part 2 of his Olympia SM Series, 1964-1980s, the Olympia Colortip-S is the typewriter I bought twice, as mentioned in a previous post.


But what appear, on first glance, to be two of a kind, are actually two very different typewriters.

As Nick  points out, referring to the SM8/SM9:

“In 1969, a similar but completely new body shell was introduced.”


In all photos, or pairings of photos, a 1968 Colortip-S is shown Left, and a 1970 Colortip-S is shown Right


Apart from a difference in body shape, the other notable difference between these two is the presence, or absence, of a key blocking mechanism that distinguishes the Olympia Colortip-S from “ordinary” SM9 typewriters.


As we can see, the 1968 Colortip-S (left, rectangular feet) is equipped with a blocking mechanism, whereas the 1970 Colortip-S (right, rounded feet) isn’t.

ColorTip-S-1968-BlockMechanism ColorTip-S-1970-No-Block-Mechanism
ColorTip-S-1968-Serial ColorTip-S-1970-Serial
The blocking mechanism can be engaged when learning to type. A lever, which runs underneath and up both sides of the typewriter, has 3 positions:
  1. Delete the programming (clear the keys that are selected as free and lock all keys) – simply push the lever all the way back
  2. Programming (selecting the keys that are free) – pull the lever towards you and into the middle position (it will click into position) then press the keys that you want to be free.
  3. Writing (typing with the free keys) – pull the lever all the way towards you …
Colortip was the name given to the typing course book that came with coloured stickers that could be applied to the keyboard. I don’t have any of the coloured stickers or the course book, but you can use the blocking mechanism with any set of touch-typing exercises.
Of the two typewriters, the 1970 Colortip-S has by far the better typing action. It’s a joy to type on, and I wonder if the lack of a blocking mechanism has a lot to do with it, or whether the later SM9 is simply the better typewriter?
Or it could just be that the mechanism of the 1970 Colortip-S is cleaner.
Still, no matter how hard I scrub the keytops on the  ’68, the keytops on the ’70  will always be whiter and brighter …
ColorTip-S-1968-Rkeys ColorTip-S-1970-Rkeys
As Nick T also pointed out, there’s a difference in how (and where) the type adjustment is set on these typewriters …
ColorTip-S-1968-Lkeys ColorTip-S-1970-SpoolL
The 1968 Colortip-S has a type adjustment lever to the left of the keyboard (above left). You can also see the Tab keys are built into the spacebar.
The 1970 Colortip-S has a type adjustment lever underneath the ribbon cover (above right). Tabs are set using a lever to the left of the keyboard (below right).
ColorTip-S-1968-SpoolL ColorTip-S-1970-Lkeys
What gives my 1970 Colortip-S a further edge over the ’68, is its wonderfully large typeface …
ColorTip-S-1968-TypeSample ColorTip-S-1970-TypeSample

On the downside, the 1970 Colortip-S has a missing margin scale (that may change) and a chunk bitten out of its Total tab clearance lever (that may also change if the one on the ’68 is easy to remove).

The ’70 also has a dent on the right-lower-rear of the machine, but that’s compensated for by an attractive Olympia badge, which is either missing or never existed on the ’68.
ColorTip-S-1968-RearR ColorTip-S-1970-RearR
There’s also a slight difference in the lettering of the logos on the front of the ribbon cover …
ColorTip-S-1968-Badge ColorTip-S-1970-Badge
Note also how the ribbon cover on the ’70 Colortip-S opens wider than it does on the ’68.

9 thoughts on “Typewriters’ Block

  1. Hi,
    I have bought a Colortip S at ebay too.
    I have the version without the silver edges at the rear, maybe a later version than the one from 1970.
    But: I could not write with the typewriter. The keys needed much force and the typebars just moved
    half way towards the paper. After getting very angry because i thought the machine was crap, I
    hit the keys hundred times so hard that it finally worked, more or less.
    Because I read your blog before, I thought that it was the fault of the blocking mechanism,
    as you considered before. I saw that it was just attached under the machine without contact to the other
    parts of the typewriter. So I removed it. And from now on the machine just writes perfectly, as
    far as I can judge it. Perhaps somebody just removed the blocking-mechanism from your 70s-machine?
    I can understand it.


  2. Nice writeup on the two. I have personally not got my hands on a Colortip machine as yet, however I am looking for the earlier 1950’s version with the squared off ribbon cover. That model comes in a beige and grey.

    Olympia went on a cost-cutting spree with a lot of machines as the competition from Brother mounted and people decided on price rather than quality. As such they started using cheaper parts and dropping things that weren’t needed.


  3. Thanks for the comment Ted. As far as I know, the Colortip-S always has the pale blue ribbon cover. The other typewriters I chose are quite different …


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