Canon Fodder: Part One

Canon, the tenth largest public company in Japan, producer of cameras, faxes, laser printers and photo-copiers, have erased electronic typewriters from their company history.

No mention of the company’s Costa Mesa, Orange County, California plant, which opened in 1974 and produced typewriter ribbon cassettes, office copier products such as toners and drums.

No mention of the 1981  launch of the AP400/500 electronic typewriter.¹

No mention of the company’s 1988 plan to transfer production of their AP series electronic typewriters from Japan to Costa Mesa: A $24.8-million investment that would allow them to move their manufacturing capability closer to their biggest market –the United States.

I’m not sure of the reason for this oversight, because if this AP150 (probably manufactured in Japan) is anything to go by, AP series electronic typewriters are nothing to be ashamed of.

ap-150-fr02

My first impressions:

  1. I like the size of it: falling somewhere between a portable and a compact (it’s described as “compact” on the cover of the instruction guide, but is smaller than the other compacts I own (IBM 6715, Xerox 6002).
  2. I don’t like the discoloration of the plastic, which would be easier to live with if it were consistent like it is on my IBM 6715. The rear of the typewriter (perhaps it was exposed to sunlight from a window?) has a lovely tan patina, whereas the remainder of the typewriter is a less attractive shade of nicotine yellow.
  3. After powering on (phew!) the motor is practically silent while idling. When typing you don’t feel as if you’re making furniture with a nail-gun like you do with the Nakajima ALL AE355 (since sold) or the Brother CE-30 portable. Instead, what you get is a gentle rat-a-tat-tat that’s easy to live with. Nice keyboard too.
  4. The 96 character daisywheel sets off on its various orbits, making a whole lot of fuss that suggests its working five times harder (and faster) than you are typing. It’s all bluster though, because it’s the wheel that has to do the catching up, not you.
  5. As it “zips” back to the left margin, the carriage return (or rather, the ribbon-carrier return) makes the appropriate sound of a zipper being pulled smartly upwards (which is far better than the slow, ratchety carrier returns you get on cheap electronic portables).

ap-150-tan-patina

Unsightly discoloration or “tan patina”.

ap-150-xerox6002b

The Canon AP150 faced stiff competition from the Xerox 6002, a cleaner, quieter machine.

ap-150-xerox-6002

Yes, I like the AP150. Although I’d like it a lot more if it weren’t discoloured.

ap-150-r01

I could also live without the LCD screen.

ap-150-fr0

When it comes to wedges, I always think basic is best. Text processing:  one small step towards being a computer; one giant leap away from being a typewriter.

ap-150-ribbon0

Everything seems to work fine, but no type sample because I need a new ribbon cassette.

ap-150-l1-open

At least I have an instruction guide: First call of business, how to use the typewriter like a typewriter. This is easily accomplished by selecting “C” for “Character-by-Character” mode (the right-most selector button to the right of the LCD screen) …

ap150-p15-16-50

ap150-p13-14-50

Canon Fodder: Part Two

Canon Fodder: Part Three

Canon Fodder: Part Four

Canon Consumables

Canon AP 150 Instruction Guide

Canon AP 300-Instruction-Guide

~

¹ (3/17/2017) I was wrong when I said electronic typewriters failed to get a mention in Canon’s company history.

The AP400 and AP500 get a mention in a Canon Factbook at www.slideshare.net (scroll down to 1982):

11 thoughts on “Canon Fodder: Part One”

  1. Yeah, thanks Scott, the instruction guides generally warn owners not to expose the machine to sunlight. There are (or were) a whole bunch of AP- standards, much more than there are (were) compact ones. but you don’t see either advertised secondhand/used that often.

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  2. I just found an AP 150 the other day for 6.50 at a goodwill with a couple daisy wheels and a ribbons and tape and the manuals. I appreciate your comment about the discoloration. This ones not awful but definitely the same thing where the back by the window got the treatment of sun. Cool machine though. I guess the AP 350 is the standard.. didn’t see any of these up for sale.

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  3. Thanks Steve.

    I think I’ve worked out the problem, but have yet to solve it.

    At the bottom of the piston/motor which fires upwards to raise the cassette, is the other end of the piston with a metal disc that slams into the bottom of the motor. I can see the remains of possibly a washer of some sort there which has perished. I found some of it lying in the bottom of the typewriter as well.

    Hard to tell what material it was. I suspect it wasn’t just a rubber washer to dampen the impact, but it also helped the piston bounce back down as soon as it hit.

    I spent a good hour with rubber, neoprene, paper, card etc seeing what might work to replace it. Making a washer out of a 3mm thick Neoprene came closest – it makes it bounce back down instantly, but if I type more than 1 character every half a second, it doesn’t fire up again for some reason.

    I suspect if I keep playing with material types and thicknesses I may get there in the end. But maybe not. It was very frustrating: as soon as I found a combo which made it lower again instantly, I could no longer type fast with it reliably firing upwards again, and vice versa.

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  4. Hi Adam, that must be frustrating. The typing line being obscured is a weakness of some electronic machines both big and small. It seems like you checked the obvious with regards the ribbon mechanism. I don’t have any problem with my compact AP 1500. The typing line is always clear, in fact, I don’t see the ribbon rise at all, its that fast. The AP 1500 has a 31 character LCD display. Probably my best wedge. Not that that helps you. 😉

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  5. I’ve just acquired a Canon AP550. I love it in all respects except that the ribbon, after being lifted up to be hit with a petal from the daisy wheel, stays up for longer than any other typewriter I’ve used. Just a fraction of a second, but long enough that if typing fast, it basically stays up and obscures the typing line constantly so I can’t see if I’ve made typos.

    Is that normal for these machines? When I try manually moving the piston in the motor that raises the cassette, it feels very free, so it seems the electronics is deliberately keeping the ribbon raised for this amount of time.

    It’s possibly normal because you can use the line-by-line entry mode, i.e. use the digital display, but I’m surprised that the more basic typing experience is completely thwarted by the lack of ability to see what one is typing!

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  6. I’ve seen several articles of how to restore discolored plastic. I think one of them was on Ryan Adney’s Blog, Magic Margin.

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  7. The flaceblook group has been talking up the virtues of peroxide developer (from hair salon supply) as a way to get rid of yellow discoloration in plastic machines. (:

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