Matsushita & the Margarita

Matsushita Denki (the Matsushita Electric Industrial Company) is the name behind the Panasonic brand.

Once the world’s largest consumer electronics company and still one of the world’s largest, Matsushita changed its name to Panasonic Corporation in 2008.

Company founder Konosuke Matsushita

“Matsushita’s story is different and unique. In 1952, Matsushita arranged to acquire the technical capabilities of the Dutch company Philips in return for 35 percent of the Japanese company’s equity. It then concentrated on enhancing its functional capabilities in product development, production, and marketing. These learned capabilities permitted it to enter related electronic commercial, industrial, and even information technology markets. As a result, by 1962 only 28 percent of its sales revenues of $64 billion came from consumer electronics.”

(From: Gaps in the Historical Record: Development of the Electronics Industry, Harvard Business School, Professor Alfred D. Chandler Jr. October 20th, 2003)

When it came to the Japanese market, Matsushita dwarfed its rivals thanks to its chain of National-branded electrical and electronic retail stores, stores which stocked no other brand.

..

When it came to export markets Matsushita rivalled Japan’s big five computer companies (Fujitsu, Hitachi, NEC, Toshiba and Mitsubishi Electric) and was up alongside Japan’s big players in the electronic typewriter business, Brother, Nakajima, Sharp and Canon, producing an extensive range of electronic typewriters in all three (personal, semi-professional (compact), and professional) product categories:

Series KX-W Word Processors:

KX-W905/940/1000/1030/1505/D55

Series KX-E office machines described as “full size” and complete with their own D2 typewheels:

KXE-2000, 2020, 3000, 3008, 3100, 3200, 400, 4000, 4020, 4500, 500, 500B, 500E, 501, 501E, 506, 506E, 508, 508E, 601, 603, 7000, 7000M, 700M, 701, 708, 7500

KX-E3100 (Jetwriter III) above

KX-E4000 (above)

KX-E compatible D2-Type (A choice of D1 and D2 is available) print wheel (above and below). In KEYB II mode, these print wheels provide extra foreign language characters. The D2-Type wheel provides scientific/statistical symbols in place of some of the language symbols.

Interestingly, Series RK-T personal electronic typewriters have cupwheels instead of daisy wheels (the cup wheel pictured below is one I purchased on American eBay. No typewriter to go with it.)

RK-T 25, 28, 30, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 40, 40D, 45, 55

RK-T40 sighting (USA)

Most extensive of all – perhaps reflecting Matsushita’s home electronics rather than office equipment focus – is the Panasonic KX-R series of personal electronic typewriters:

KX-R190 /191/194/195/196/200/210/250

300/320/330/335/340/350/355/430/435

440/530/535/540/550/560/800

Minor styling variations apart, KX-R series typewriters have the same uniform look and feel, with a dark grey/ silver grey housing and a black keyboard. The key switches feel like they’re rubber dome over membrane/ The keycaps appear to be double-shot ABS. Overall, they’re quite tactile. The KX-R250 has an endearing staccato typing feel. Less endearing is its slow carrier return, but at least the carrier return is smooth and silent.

KX-R compatible print wheel (above and below)

A KX-R530 and a KX-R250, two portable wedges I recently picked up for $20 each:

KX-R250 (above), KX-R530 (below)

Drawbacks to both these machines :

  • The typing line is barely visible.
  • The warning beeper that’s meant to alert you as you enter the “hot zone” (the right margin being just 8 characters away) is very quiet and therefore easy to miss.

To my mind the KX-R250 has the following advantages:

  • The KX-250 is an old-fashioned two-platen-knob machine. It also has slider switches you can use to set the typing mode, pitch and line spacing manually. On the KX-530 you have to enter a Code + Key-press combination.
  • The KX-R250 has a bigger and more readable 37 character plus counter LCD screen. While I normally prefer to type in T/W mode, you can easily switch to L/L (line by line) mode and not only check what you’ve written, but also check the approach of the dreaded hot zone via the character count at the far right of the screen.
  • The KX-250 has a removable power cord, which I always prefer. Cable and plug are easily stowed inside the machine.

So the KX-250 is the one to keep. 😉

More comparison pics:

Double-knob KX-250 (above) Single-knob KX-R530 (below)

Tactile KX-R250 (above) Less tactile KX-R530 (below)

KX-R250 (detachable cord, above), RX-530 (stowaway cord, below)

10 thoughts on “Matsushita & the Margarita

  1. @Nokolay — I have a 560 that was printing pale. Then I realised that it was fitted with a nylon ribbon rather than a film, and the ribbon was just low on ink. Apologies if this sounds too obvious…

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  2. Thanks,
    My R315 prints pale. I thought there was some additional setting to increase the impression.
    (e.g. I found service manual for Olympia and there were jumpers for impression control adjustment)
    Otherwise kx-r series are very durable and affordable (today) typewriters.
    I can’t find much information about kx-r series on the net. So that is useful info.

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  3. The KX-R560 has a Typing Impression control (CODE + L) allowing three settings (1, 2 and 3) where you enter the desired number. Some KX-R models have Bold Print (CTRL + B) for example the KX-R250. So possibly yours just has Bold Print.

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  4. Is it possible to adjust impression control for Panasonic kx-r series typewriters (kx-r315)

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  5. Hi Joe, thanks for dropping by. My impressions are that these Panasonic wedges are very solidly built, more so than similar Brother
    portable typewriters, and also a bit quieter too. Would love to try the larger Panasonic and Brother office machines to see what they’re like. 😉

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  6. I always admired Matsushita as a company, having serviced many of their VCRs and shoulder-mounted camcorders back in the 1980s-’90s. And the local company who did our kitchen remodel has one of these typewriters in their showroom. Not sure which model.

    How would you rate the quality compared to, say, Brother machines?

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