Plugged in with Brother (Compacts)

What is a “compact” electronic typewriter? In this context “compact” means a semi-professional electronic typewriter, which, relative to a full size “office” machine, is compact in size. These mid-level machines will typically have a typing speed anywhere between 13 and 18 characters per second.

Typically, electronic typewriters in the Compact category will have:

  • A 381 mm (15 inch) paper width and a 297 mm (11.69 inch) writing width. (CE-400, 600. 700) or
  • A 368 mm (14.48 inch) paper width and a 297 mm (11.69 inch) writing width (Brother CE-500, 550, 650) or
  • A 343 mm (13.5 inch) paper width and a 280 mm (11 inch) writing width (Brother CE-40, CE-50, 51, 60, 61, 65, 68, 70 low-end compacts that might be considered “portable”)

There is some overlap between the portable and compact categories at one end, and the compact and office categories at the other.

This was especially true in the case of Brother, who had a habit of pairing-up their semi-professional and professional (mostly CE and EM prefixed) electronic typewriters, using both prefixes interchangeably across the two categories, often applying both prefixes to lower-spec/higher-spec versions of the same typewriter. This meant that CE and EM prefixed electronic typewriters often shared the same instruction guide – with the EM prefix sometimes (but not always) being reserved for the higher spec machine.

Completely different CE and EM series E.T.s were also marketed as lower-spec, higher-spec pairs. The 1984 CE-60 (Jp-16x), for example, was described in advertising of the time as “a compact, lightweight version of the EM-200” (JP-15x). At $749, it was also a third of the price.

CE Series JP-16x 1983-1985

Although they share the same prefix and have a similar design, CE JP-16x compact electronic typewriters are different to CE JP-11x electronic typewriters which belong firmly in the portable camp.

Looking at the back of these ETs (in this case a CE-50), a distinguishing feature (and an improvement on the JP-11x) is a power cord compartment which is separate to the ribbon cover and which runs across the back of the typewriter:

A vent runs along the bottom edge and across the whole width. The manufacturer badge is on the left between the vent and the cord compartment.

Model numbers include (but may not be limited to) the CE 40, 45, 50, 50XL, 58, 60, 61, 65, 68, 70.

Various models in the USA were marketed under the names “Compactronic” and “Correctronic” – names which Brother recycled over the years across different electronic models and series. In the case of this series:

  • “Compactronic” CE-555 and CE-666 models advertised in the USA in June 1985
  • “Correctronic 50” (the only one I’ve sighted and what appears to be a CE-50)
  • The CE-65 and the CE-70 were also sold in the USA as the “Executron” 65 and 70, respectively (another recycled name)
  • The CE-61 was also sold as the “Electra” 61 (another recycled name in Japan)

CX Series JP-16xx 1986-1989

Compare the curved lines of “Professional” CX-series compact electronic typewriters to the boxy or rectangular lines of the “Professional” 420 and 460 typewriters (USA) and you’d think they were completely different ETs.

However, look more closely and you will find commonality in the slider switches to the left of the keyboard, the LEDs above the left-hand side of the keyboard, and the overall keyboard layout, including a “Word Out” key immediately to the left of the space bar.

Furthermore, the “Professional” 420 and 460, as named in the USA, are identical to the EM-401 (below) and the EM-411, as named in Europe.

CX-series model numbers include (but may not be limited to) the CX-50, 60, 65, 80, 85, 90, 400, 440.

The typical colour scheme for the CX “Professional” series is a cream/white body and keyboard with a black Word Out key and a matching pair of black platen knobs and a dark margin scale:

Advertising for the Professional CX-80, USA Nov 1986:

Looking at the back of these typewriters, the power cord compartment is on the left (different to the JP-16x category above). There is an upper vent to the right.

A vent also runs along the bottom-rear of the typewriter. There are two (doubled) feet/strips left and right. The manufacturer badge is on the right between the upper and lower vents.

These typewriters have a one-piece lid with a steeper incline or “swoop” over the keyboard.

The lid is arched to accommodate space for two spare print wheels on the underside of the lid.

EM/CE Series JP-16xx 1986-1989

As noted above, these typewriters were marketed alongside CX-series “Professional” ETs and have the same keyboard configuration. The body shape is boxier however, as typified by the EM-401 (again, below):

Looking at the back of these ETs, the difference between them and the CX-series is stark. There is a vent along the top, a vent along the upper rear, and a smaller vent bottom right. A serial port (See Comments) is located at the centre (on some ETs) and a manufacturer badge sits above the lower vent on the right.

These typewriters have a non-detachable power cord and there is no cord compartment. There are two large foot strips (doubled) to the left and right.

Manufactured in the USA by Xerox, on Brother’s behalf, the EM-411 was also sold as the “Xerox Memowriter”:

Models in this series include (but may not be limited to) the EM-401, EM-411, CE-500, CE-550, CE-650.

CE Series JP-15xx 1988-1992

In advertising in Australia 1988, Brother made a distinction between their CE series (Compact) and EM series (Office) typewriters:

“A new CE family of machines is for typing in small offices. It ranges from a basic electronic typewriter, the CE-600, to the CE-1050 with an 80-character two-line screen and a 70,00 Word Spell corrector. Three more powerful machines for larger office environments extend Brother’s EM range of electronic typewriters: The EM-750fx and EM-850fx can be upgraded to the EM-2050 (the keyboard is detachable like the EM-850fx), which has an 80-character 25-line display and advanced word processing functions. Prices range from $789 to $3145.”

These e.t. are different to the earliest models listed as JP-15x, namely: EM-80, EM-85, EM-100, EM-200.

There are in fact two distinct body shapes which came after and these correspond to the “CE and EM families of machine” referred to by Brother themselves (above). For this reason, I created an EM Series JP-15xx category (in my post on Brother Office E.T.s) and a CE Series JP-15xx category here.

Model numbers include but may not be limited to CE-400, CE-600, CE-700 (AKA CX-800).

CE-400 (above)

Classification is not helped by the fact that model numbers are not contiguous from one grouping to the next. We have a CE 500 and a CE-650 in the previous JP-16xx series, for example, and a CE-400 (AKA EM-430) and a CE-600 and CE-700 (below) in this series.

You could argue that the e.t.s in this series would not be out of place in the Office (Professional) category, especially those (CE-700, EM-1000, 1005, 1050) at the top of the range; however a speed of 15 cps is on a par with most E.T.s in the Compact category, while a 381 mm (15 inch) paper width and a 297 mm (11.69 inch) writing width puts them right at the top end of the Compact category in terms of width.

Looking at the back of these machines, there are four vents (two on the body, two on the base), a fixed power cord, and a manufacturer badge bottom right:

EM-430/CE-400 (above and below)

A ribbed vent also runs along the top/rear, behind the platen:

CE-700 (above and below)
CE-600 (above)
CX-800 Alpha (above)
EM-1050 (above)
EM-1000 advertising 1987 (above)

3 thoughts on “Plugged in with Brother (Compacts)

  1. Thanks Ted, I’d be lost without you … Yeah, as a matter of fact I just picked up a CE-550, types like a charm at 15cps, but no IF box (I have one for the Silver Reed EX-44/43N (parallel) but no typewriter to go with it – my EX-42 doesn’t have the interface!)


  2. One note: I’m not certain that the data port on Brother ETs are actually “serial ports” in the way most people think of them. They are proprietary connectors for the external IF “computer to typewriter” interfaces (see IF-50). These interfaces had actual RS-232 serial and Centronics parallel ports, and translated those inputs to drive the typewriter. The only two Brother typewriters I know of that has actual RS-232 serial ports are the thermal mini EP-22 and EP-44. (and these apparently aren’t *exactly* RS-232 implementations, as some recent experimentations seem to demonstrate)

    Brother IF-50:

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