The Fifth Element

Good news: Searching on the French boule rather than the German kugelkopf, reaped the reward of my fifth interchangeable spherical print element or “golf ball”…

The Fifth Element

For some reason, getting my hands on a T-A Royal “golf ball” proved just as difficult as finding one of these …

The Fourth Element

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This idiosyncratic fourth element has been much sought after by Taylor Harbin, myself, and other collectors. In this instance, searching on the Italian testina sfera (“ball head”) came up trumps.

The golf balls Olivetti made for their more compact Lexikon electric typewriters are also scarce. I had to buy a non-working Lexikon 82 in order to get my hands on my third element …

The Third Element

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Easier to come by, at least for me, was this one …

The Second Element

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Brother, Silver Reed, and Juki were alone among the Japanese manufacturers, I think, in adapting IBM’s “golf ball” technology as an alternative to the daisy wheel.

NEC and Panasonic dabbled briefly with print thimbles, and IBM were happy to deny the daisy wheel its existence (for several years), clinging onto their Selectrics for as long as was humanly possible (and profitable).

The First Element

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This first element is, of course, the one that started the ball rolling (pun intended). Not counting the drums and cylinders used on early index typewriters and teletype machines, the IBM Selectric golf ball is the first in chronological order. The order in which subsequent others came onto the market goes something like this:

  1. 1961—IBM Selectric and Selectric “clone” compatible
  2. 1974—Olivetti Lexikon 82/83DL & Smith Corona Vantage/Intrepid compatible
  3. 1975—Triumph Adler/Royal SE 1000/5000 series compatible ¹
  4. 1976—Olivetti Lexikon 90/92/92C/94C series compatible
  5. 1981—Brother Super 7300/7800/7900/ & Selecta 7500/7600 series compatible

“When the five elements are perfectly aligned, electric typewriters will return to rule the world!”

The “elements” I don’t yet have in my collection are IBM’s first generation and second generation golf balls. For more on that,  see:

¹The Sixth Element

11 thoughts on “The Fifth Element”

  1. My local junk shop has a SE1000 without a typeball. They only want $5 for it, and it ‘probably don’t work at all’, and I can;t test it ‘cos’ someone cut the cord after it failed an electrical test. For $5, if it had a ball I’d be prepared to have a go at fixing it, but are balls hard to find?

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  2. unknown if they are the same – I’ve seen ads that imply the Facit/Juki/Rem and IBM balls were the same, but have not heard anyone directly confirm that they are compatible.

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  3. I’m not surprised there are more. There were so many (short-lived) electronic writing systems being developed in the mid Seventies, some of which would have had golf balls. The truth will out … 😉

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  4. There are more.. I have one that is *not* for Selectrics (doesn’t fit any of mine 1,2 or 3) and doesn’t look like any I’ve seen.
    Markings: 296-46 (stock number under lever), and “pc 10 12” (on plastic cap).
    Looks like a pretty neat condensed sans-serif typeface, but I have no idea what machine it goes to..

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