The Fashionable Type

This typewriter had better be impossible to find in Western Australia. I bought it cheaply on German eBay and had it shipped to the U.K. where I picked it up during a recent visit.

Fortunately, it’s very lightweight and was easily stowed away on the flight home.  Nice looking machine …
On first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking that this streamlined plastic wedge is one of Olivetti’s later-generation (Singaporean-made or Chinese made) electronic wedges.

It is, in fact, the end product of a technological alliance first established in 1985 between Robotron and the West German branch of Commodore Business Machines (CBM).

Commodore Fashion Typeline Style 32

Initially, the alliance between Robotron and Commodore was established to produce the mechanics and the firmware, respectively, for Commodore CBM 8028 and CBM 8229 letter quality computer printers (with a West German third-party supplying the electronics.)

It seems the alliance existed, in some form or another, until at least 1994 …

The Commodore Fashion Typeline series of portable electronic typewriters (STYLE 12, STYLE 12 PLUS, and STYLE 32) are, as far as I can tell, re-badged Optima SP-18, SP-20 and SP-24 portable electronic typewriters.

The presence, under the hood, of an Olivetti Praxis 20 compatible ribbon is confirmed by ribbon listings:

Praxis 20 (above) and an Olivetti Praxis 20 compatible ribbon (below)

Released in 1983, the Praxis 20 was the only Olivetti portable electronic typewriter to be manufactured in Italy.

Robotron appear to have adopted the ribbon cassette shortly after Olivetti used it for the last time when it released its ET Personal 50 – a re-imagining of the Praxis 20 – in March 1986.

Earlier portable (Praxis 30 and 35) and subsequent compact models (Praxis 40, 41, 45/D) made in Japan take a completely different ribbon cassette, as do later portables manufactured in Singapore and China.

I still haven’t figured out why this typewriter types the wrong characters even when the wheel is, as  far as I can tell,  properly installed.  Was it somehow damaged in transit? I have no idea.

It’s like a latter day Enigma machine. Can you crack the code?


8 thoughts on “The Fashionable Type

  1. Thanks Ted, that was my first thought, but I can’t see a KB/KBII switch inside or out, or figure out what the Code + key combination might be. 😉


  2. That’s one beautiful wedge.
    Looks like you tried “the quick brown fox…” Hope you figure out your character printing problem.


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