E.T. Twinning (Part One)

Without being able to go back in time to the 1980s and experience an e.t. as it was when it was new, it’s difficult to judge the merits of a particular brand and model of e.t. based on the one second-hand model you own.

Identical when new, any two electronic typewriters that rolled of the production line 35 to forty years ago, are now no longer the same.

“Not even identical twins can have the exact same experiences.” 

John Medina

One might have had one lady owner and been used sparingly. The other might have seen several owners and been heavily used.

One might have been knocked about during transit and left out in the sun to yellow. Another might have been re-assembled using parts from a donor machine.

One might have been stored in a hot shed or garage to attract cockroaches and house paint. Another might have been stored in a damp cellar to attract mice and mildew.

If you’re lucky, of course, that e.t. you picked up online lived its entire life in the Goldilocks zone, not too hot, not too cold.

More likely though, that e.t. you picked up online is neither perfect nor complete. All the more reason to find another one.

What reasons can there be to buy an e.t. you already have in your collection?

1: To get your hands on a stash of hard to find consumables or an instruction guide. I’ve done that a few times.

Twins: Two for the price of one? No. Two for the price of two!

2: Out of curiosity, to compare your machine against another. Is it as good as it gets?

You can spend too much time wondering which of identical twins is the more alike.

ROBERT BRAULT

3: (3 can often stem from reasons 1 and 2) To use one of the two machines as a parts machine or do a straight swap for the machine you’ve got (for example, you find an unblemished “as new” model or a colour variant you prefer).

If I ever had twins, I’d use one for parts.

STEVEN WRIGHT

Take two Panasonic KX-R305 portable e.t.s as an example:

As mentioned in a previous post, these “second generation” 5 kg, 11 cps KX-Rs (introduced in November 1988) are 1 kg lighter and 1 cps slower than “first generation” KX-R portable electronic typewriters (introduced in June 1987). There’s a noticeably cheaper grade of plastic and probably more plastic throughout. The typing action is quieter than it is on original KX-Rs and the 11 cps print speed is just fast enough to pass muster. You could do a lot worse.

Why did I buy a second KX-R305 when the one I already owned (on the left, above) was in pristine cosmetic condition?

While the typewriter itself was in pristine condition, its top cover had a missing/broken latch. (Reason 3).

That’s the kind of flaw that niggles at you and how else are you going to find a replacement top cover other than to find another KX-R305?

At the same time, of course, you can satisfy your curiosity and do a typing comparison and a cosmetic comparison between the two machines (Reason 2).

“The moment when you realise that you’re typing with the wrong twin…”

As it turned out, in addition to having an intact top cover, the second KX-R305 had a slightly better typing feel (firmer and quieter, less vibration of the print unit). This makes sense since the respective serial numbers suggest it’s the younger of the two (1CAMC014133 vs 0FAMB006388).

The trade off: minor blemishes on the front facia and sides of the younger model. For me, the typing action on the unblemished older model (the one with the “Demo” sticker) is still good enough, so I’d rather keep that one:

Only room for one. As you can see I’m short of table space.

Some lucky person’s gonna come by a very good KX-R305 typewriter in their local thrift store (even if it ain’t perfect).

7 thoughts on “E.T. Twinning (Part One)

  1. allrighty then. Re-dated that one, and I’ll describe the serial number datecode on the Panasonic page. Keep an eye out for other ETs that use a similar code – might be able to unlock a few more (:

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  2. Hi Ted, great work. Yes, the typewriters listed in the Info-Markt catalogs have a “Markteinführung” entry which translates to “launch”.
    So I think we can take that to mean the launch date in Europe, especially since I have found advertising in the U.S. for various models that are earlier
    than the Info-Markt launch date (typically by one year). Sometimes, the USA and European launch dates do seem to coincide though. Must get around to adding some of my wedges on the TWDB (work’s getting in the way) 😀

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  3. Ok, I’m poking around the Panasonics in TWDB (most are yours) and would like to wrangle some more confirmation. The first one I checked was this one:
    https://www.typewriterdatabase.com/1987-panasonic-kxe508.16920.typewriter
    where you use info from “InfoMarkt Ausgabe 1989, Germany” to date it to 1987, but the serial number suggests May, 1986. Thoughts? Could it have been released earlier than April 1987?
    All the rest I re-dated where the serial number existed – they all make sense when re-aligned to this serial number theory. (:

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  4. HI Ted, absolutely. The latest advertising I’ve come across for a KX-R is for a KX-R320 (Canada) dated 8th of September 1993. I’d hazard a guess that was Panasonic’s last year of e.t. production, but I could be wrong about that.
    You’re on to something with the serial numbering sequence. Looking thru my archive of images there’s a label on the back of a Panasonic W1500 (detachable keyboard separate to the print unit) which reads “December 1990 OLBMD084675”

    So you’re right about the year and month and probably right about the model code and factory too.

    KX-R305 0FAMB006388 AUS
    KX-R305 1CAMC014133 AUS
    KX-R305 2AAMD028103 AUS
    KX-R305 2KAME032147 AUS

    KX-R800 0IBMA302304 USA
    KX-R315 8DBUB005043 GERMANY

    My KX-R250 7ICMA001665 AUS
    My KX-E508 6EM12A01057 AUS
    My RK-T28 7JBRA02407 AUS

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  5. Oh, man. That serial number system screams of what I’ve come to think of as “Asian datecoding” found in many Japanese and Chinese manufacturers – where the first digit is the last digit of the year, followed by a letter indicating month, more letters indicating model and maybe a final letter indicating factory. Would you suppose these could have been produced as late as June 1990 and March 1991?

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