EX Machina

Psst. Wanna buy a great typewriter? I got one cheap!

“But before you leap for your telephone, here’s a little secret not too many people know.

The Silver Reed EX-42 electronic typewriter is not your average typewriter.”

For $20 AUD, I actually got more than I paid for; and paid far less than others paid when the typewriter was first released back in 1982 …


Advertising from the December 1983 edition of ‘Popular Science’

To be honest that “heavy-duty servo-controlled stepper motor” (or at least the hammer) is not so whisper-quiet.

Mustn’t quibble though. It’s not too noisy either.

The EX-42 is a solidly-built, aesthetically pleasing machine.

And seems to bear little relation to the EX series machines that came before and after.

Silver Reed EX-66 (above)

The pick of the very many EX series machines that Silver Reed produced (or had produced for them) over the years are the ones depicted on this South African advertising card:

Psst. Wanna buy another “great” typewriter …

EX-55 (above)

The EX-44 is more function-rich than the EX-42, has a KBI and KBII selector switch, plus  the addition of 15 pitch (rather than just 10 and 12 pitch) …

Apart from having darker body plastic, the EX-43N appears to be identical to the EX-44 …

Not only did Silver Reed accentuate the shape of their EX wedges, they accentuated the shape of their EX wedges on the cover of their instruction guides …


What the marketing fails to mention is the EX-42/44’s greatest asset …

… its keyboard.

Yep, those key-swapping geeks over at Geekhack have identified the EX 42/44 as one of a select few that have mechanical Cherry switches …

“Cherry Corporation was founded in the United States in 1953 and started producing keyboards in 1967, making them the oldest keyboard manufacturer in the world that’s still in business. The company was moved to Germany in 1967 and bought by ZF Friedrichshafen AG in 2008, but keyboards and mechanical switches are still produced under the Cherry brand.

Their most popular line of switches, the Cherry MX series, was introduced in the early 1980s. These switches are usually referenced by their physical colour, with each colour denoting the switch’s handling characteristics – whether it is clicky, whether it is tactile, and how much force is required to actuate the switch, in centi-Newtons (cN) or grams (g).”

The most commonly found switches are Cherry MX Brown (quiet, tactile bump), MX Blue (loud, clicky), MX Red (quiet, no bump, a popular gaming switch), and MX Black switches which are by far the stiffest and have a medium to high actuation force, at 60 cN. Cherry MX Clears (Chinese White) are often referred to as ‘stiffer’ browns.

Cherry MX Green (high-resistance, clicky) switches are hard to find and expensive. An MX Green switch can be made, however, by replacing the spring in the MX Blue switch with the spring from the MX Black.

The keys on the EX-42 feel closest to a Cherry MX Brown switch. Great to type on. Think I’ll keep this one in the typing pool!

It’s disappointing to note that, at a top speed of 12 characters-per-second, Silver Reed EX series (EX-42. 43N, EX-44) compact electronic typewriters are slower than most of their (early 1980s) contemporaries.

But speed isn’t everything (unless you’re a touch-typist with a competitive streak) and as I said when I bought a Silver Reed EX-42 electronic typewriter in October last year, these EX-series typewriters have an attractive simplicity, a very good build-quality (hence they’re quite heavy), a gorgeous keyboard, and a classic wedge shape—as featured on the cover of the Operating Manual (a copy of which I finally tracked down).

The only downside to owning one of these early Silver Reed wedges is the scarcity of their ribbon cassettes and print wheels. I managed to pick up a few ribbons cheaply on a recent trip to the U.K., which is where I also got the operating manual.

The brevity of the operating manual reinforces how simple this series of typewriters are, with the EX-42 being the simplest of the three.

The operating manual tells me that the EX-44 and the EX-43N have a paper table/fold-down plastic lid, and an eraser table, that the EX-42 doesn’t have.

EX-44 (above)

The EX-42 is also missing a KBI and KBII keyboard selector switch, 15 pitch selection and a 15 pitch line on the margin/pitch scale.

But who needs 15 pitch when the EX-42 is so big on character?

(Incidentally, these print wheels were sourced from IBM) The 15 pitch Gothic Mini print wheel I also bought recently during my U.K. trip (the one with the Selectric-style spring clip) works perfectly well when the EX-42 is set to 12 pitch:


8 thoughts on “EX Machina

  1. Hi Louis, see updated post, I added a note and two images about halfway down. Hope nothing’s broken or missing in your case. Best of luck!


  2. I have one of these but the ribbon doesn’t turn with the cog so can I please have a picture of the typewriter without a ribbon in it.


  3. Silver Reed typewriters have had a good reputation. I’ve only ever used one of the bigger ones. I do not remember the model.


  4. Interesting. I like the photo of the machine next to the edge of the pool, seems intrinsically incompatible yet intriguing.

    I do like my Cherry MX Brown keyboard. Sounds like a nice machine.


Comments are closed.