E.t.s that don’t add up

In American university course numbering systems, so the Wikipedia definition goes, the number 101 is often used for an introductory course at a beginner’s level.

If your first introduction to a portable electronic typewriter happened to be a Royal Alpha 101, it’d be a very poor introduction. It’s one of four Royal electronic typewriters (along with the Alpha 100, Beta 200 and Beta 202) that come with a daisy wheel and an (impossible to source) “Ink Roll Cartridge”. I think I read somewhere they have a ponderously slow top speed of 6 cps.

Beta 202:

Alpha 100:

Darren Goosens kindly sent me a description, images and a movie of the print unit:

“I think the wheel does a full turn every letter you type, and the roller just sits there touching it all the time. It does not move. Next email I’ll send a movie. These photos show the carriage, then show how it flips open. They show the roller — on a fixed, simple mount. And I pulled it out and took a couple more. You can see it is deformed (scalloped), so probably lacks springiness which will be why the letters are poorly inked.”

The print unit opened …

Ink Roller in-situ (two-o’clock) …

Ink roller removed:

“The movie (below) does not really show it because the rotation speed is aliased by the frame rate, but you can see that the roller holder does not move, and if you focus on the bit of the wheel with short spokes, you might be able to convince yourself it is spinning right round every time, not flicking back and forth. You’ll see it always returns to the same place, so a print cycle consists of (1) rotate to letter
(2) stamp (3) keep rotating in the same direction back to zero. that way every type gets inked every time a letter is typed.”

Darren Gossens

Ink rollers are a consumable more commonly associated with electronic desktop calculators. Canon, for instance, still sells ink rollers (rollers manufactured by Sharp) for some of its calculators:

So why would any OEM daisy wheel electronic typewriter manufacturer abandon the tried and tested (and clean) inked cassette ribbon for the dirtier option of an exposed ink roller?

The obvious answer seems to be: They wouldn’t, however an OEM electronic desktop calculator manufacturer might. Especially, if commissioned to do so by Royal Business Machines/Royal Consumer Business Products to provide an entry-level typewriter that could be bundled with its OEM’d electronic calculators.

In any event, the Royal 240 PD/II calculator (pictured above) does NOT take an inked roller. However, the Royal 20 PD does:

The inked roller (above) is also compatible with Royal 20 PD 90 PD 107 PD 125 214 PD 315 PD 550 HD 920 PD 6600 HD & 6800 HD EZ Vue – 550 HD & 6800 HD calculators:

Royal desktop calculators were sourced from Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia according to various manufacturer badges.

Nakajima manufactured and supplied “Signet” series portable e.t.s to Royal in 1988, but it’s not clear who these earlier Alpha/Beta e.t.s were sourced from, other than “Japan”.

Up until 1991, Triumph-Adler’s traditional rival, AEG Olympia, partnered with Matsushita (Panasonic) for its calculators.

According to Joerg Woerner at the Datamath Calculator Museum (http://www.datamath.org/Featured_Companies.htm), Towa Sankiden of Japan (a company known for its electronic cash registers and point-of-sale technology) manufactured electronic calculators for Triumph-Adler and therefore might be the prime suspect.

Towa also supplied electronic typewriters to Quen Data in Germany, however this does not preclude the very strong probability that Triumph-Adler Royal sourced electronic calculators and cash registers from a variety of OEM suppliers.

Konishiroku (the maker of Konica cameras), may have also entered into its own OEM arrangements when it acquired a 34% stake in Royal Business Machines in May 1984.

Who knows?


3 thoughts on “E.t.s that don’t add up

  1. Hi Darren, thanks for your insights. Yeah I reckon a calculator roller’s probably worth a try if the roller easily disengages/engages from/with the holder. But as you say the diameter and length would have to be just right. 😉 on the other hand, a Japanese Nakajima made Signet would be a better overall replacement for the e.t. you’ve got, (unless the weirdness outweighs the frustration and makes it worth keeping).


  2. One thing about the roller if it is working well is you have nothing between the typebar and the paper. So it’s like some very early typewriters (grasshopper https://www.typewriter.be/yost2.htm) in that it ought to give a clean impression — though only compared with a nylon ribbon, not with a carbon film. I find the keyboard of the Beta 202 too sensitive — even a brush a key and it strikes. I find while using it I am more worried about that than about what I am typing… An annoying thing is the lack of cable stowage. It takes a standard appliance cord, but there’s nowhere to put it, so even though you can clip the lid on and pull out the handle and carry it, you either have to tuck the cord in with the print head (which does not sound like a good idea to me) or have a second bag. So I agree — a machine with a generally weird mix of ‘features’.
    I have toyed with the idea of buying a calculator roller and putting it onto the typewriter roller holder, but I’m not sure the inner and out dimensions would match. Any ideas?


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