A Serious Machine

This Brother AX-550 portable electronic typewriter punches well above its weight (said weight being 4.5 kg and noticeably lighter than my Brother AX-10 or Brother AX-30. No doubt, cheaper construction materials and components account for the difference.

So what kind of punch does this cheap-looking AX-β (BETA) version of an AX typewriter pack?

Truth be told (rather than a half truth), the specification for this typewriter should probably state “a top speed of 12 cps” rather than “12 cps” as stated in the User’s Guide. In other words, this typewriter’s average speed feels more like 10 cps.

A reasonably tactile keyboard and a smooth carrier return compare well with older JP-12x portable electronic typewriters, however the motor that rotates the type wheel wheezes like a mildly asthmatic dog.

Nonetheless, the AX-550 does what it was designed to do and is still in good working order almost thirty years after it was made.

This function-rich portable typewriter (the User Guide weighs-in at 111 pages) sits at the top of the Brother AX-β series – however there are at least four distinct (JP-12x, JP-18, AX BETA, GX/SX) AX-prefixed variants.

Some later AX- portable wedges have the scalloped GX/SX body shape, for example an AX-325 (added on the TWDB). Another UK-made AX-210 seems like a JP-18 yet different again (also added on the TWDB).

The only ones with this β (BETA) body shape I’ve come across so far are the AX-110, 130, 140, 350, 450 and 550. (Various non “AX” word processors, WP-1600D, WP-3400, etc have a similar BETA-like body shape.)

This one was sold – as distributor stickers on both the paper table and the front cover of the User’s Guide attest – as a “business” machine.

It supports Pica, Elite and Micron pitches, has a keyboard memory of 48 characters, a correction memory of one line or 383 keystrokes (???), allows up to 12 tabs to be set (including decimal tabs), and can safely handle 1 original plus 4 carbon copies.

With a generously wide (2 lines x 40 characters) LCD screen, it’ll take a while to reach the “hot zone”, and an eternity to reach someone on the Brother “hotline” …

Call me picky, but this typewriter’s “Lego-land” construction (as exemplified by one hideously simple platen knob) lets it down badly.

What, no grooves? I’ve seen better looking toothpaste tube caps.

Remember the parable of the dentist in the Coen Brothers’ movie A Serious Man, wherein a Hebrew message was discovered engraved in the plaster mould of a goy’s teeth?

“Help me, save me”

Oy vey, Brother, if this typewriter could speak! I see dark echoes in the way an identity number has been burnt into the skin of this machine, not once, but twice!

Why would anyone do such a thing? I ask you, Velvel, as a rational man: which of us is possessed?

2 thoughts on “A Serious Machine”

  1. Do you have an article about the best daisy wheel machines to use, if one were in the market to acquire one?

    Also, which Canon Typestar is the preferred model?

    Keep up the great work!


Comments are closed.