Smith Corona Breaks Bad

Viewed from afar, the Smith Corona XD 7600 word processing typewriter (1989) is an attractive looking wedge:

However, the closer you look, the uglier it gets.

The keyboard cover is a little over-engineered …

Remove the Keyboard Cover from the typewriter. To replace the Cover, place it securely on the Keyboard (front then back).

Owner’s Manual: Chapter I – Getting Started

To remove the keyboard cover, the assumption is you have to do the reverse and lift at the back, positioning your thumbs in two concave circles either side of the cover as you flex the plastic and pull up and towards you.

This disengages two tabs, one on each side of the cover, which engage with two slots on either side of the typewriter.

On the plus side, there’s no danger the cover is going to fall off during transit.

On the downside, it’s not that easy to prize the cover off. The first time I tried, I thought the plastic tabs might break under the strain.

Speaking of plastic “breaking under the strain”, good luck trying to find an XL/XD series typewriter that does not have a broken or missing rear cord compartment door. The one pictured here has lost one of two thin plastic dowels which hinge at the bottom of the compartment hatch on either side.

The decal appears to have been laser etched before being infilled with black and red:

The legends on the keycaps use the same colour combination, but are not laser etched, nor are the keycaps triple-shot or even double-shot plastic. No, that would be just too expensive for Smith Corona’s low-cost mass production ethos. These legends are pad printed:

You can see the thin coating that’s been applied over the top of the legends, which is not enough to prevent them from wearing away very quickly after moderate-to-heavy use of the keyboard.

Close inspection on an XL model revealed that the keycaps on these typewriters have a prong which engages with a metal plate underneath. Quite hard to remove without breaking, and if you do manage it, impossible to put back in place.

The key switches are leaf spring over membrane – a proprietary switch design patented by Smith Corona, who chose to go its own way rather than use one of the many keyboard OEM companies on the market (Key switch information and image below provided by Daniel Beardsmore (Deskthority)).

Smith Corona’s patented “H” series correction tape cassette is one of its better ideas. Replacing the correction tape is quick and easy, but at what cost to the consumer?

Smith Corona’s patented “H” series ribbon cassette is NOT one of its better ideas.

Examine comparable ribbon cassettes made by (or for) the likes of Brother, Nakajima and Olivetti, and they’re mostly flat on both sides. These patented (why would anyone want to copy them?) ribbon cassettes have strange protuberances on the underside, which not only make them awkward to fit, but much more likely to break:

Naturally, Smith Corona were not prepared to use third-party ribbon cassettes, especially not Japanese ones, or adopt the standard correction tape spools used by most other electronic typewriter manufacturers.

A compartment behind the platen for the storage of these custom-made consumables seems, to me, like a complete waste of time and space:

Bad design choices. Shoddy construction.

It’s a shame Smith Corona couldn’t have spent more time improving the quality of their products and less time blaming their woes on Japanese competition.

Perhaps if they’d collaborated more and complained less, they’d still be around.