EM ‘n EM

I like the profile of these Brother EM series office e.t.s. Architectural, but not quite as stylish as Olivetti ET series office typewriters released around the same time.

By December 1987 (when this EM-611 was manufactured) office e.t.s in general had become faster, lighter and more sophisticated than those released at the start of the decade.

The Brother EM-611 sits towards the lower end of the range in its EM series. While still hefty, it’s lighter (12.5 kg) and quieter (< 59 dBA) than earlier Brother office e.t.s.

Higher-end models in the same series have more memory and a print speed which ranges from 20 up to 30 cps, depending on the model, but 16 cps is plenty fast enough for a hack like me.

I’d sooner have the Brother EM-411 compact model, which has the same 40 character LCD screen and the same 16 cps print speed, but you have to take what you can find.

Unfortunately, the line spacing selector button is jammed and I’ve not been able to tease it free.

Unfortunately, the line spacing won’t work. Pressing Enter takes me to the left margin and gives me a single line spacing. Fine, if a single line spacing is what you want.

A single line spacing is also what you get when the line spacing is set to 2, 3, or 4 (as indicated by the red LEDs.

A nice feature that the EM-611 has that the compact EM-411 doesn’t have, of course, is a high-yield ribbon. The ribbon cassette used by Brother’s compact EM series has the same footprint and shape and will actually fit the larger office machines, however using it results in only every third character being printed.

Why? Because the larger EM-611 is expecting a wider high yield ribbon. In order to accommodate this wider ribbon, the cassette is three times thicker as a normal ribbon, as shown here:

I had thought there might be a setting that allowed you to use a lower yield ribbon, but no mention of such a thing in the instruction guide that came with the typewriter.

Type a line of text, something highly unoriginal like “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” and the characters are distributed efficiently across the high yield ribbon:

The typewriter must be adjusting the platen up and down on each key press. Magic!

Another nice feature on these e.t.s is the adjustable keyboard, which can be raised or lowered to one of three positions by depressing two latches on the left and right rear of the keyboard:

This flexes and releases two plastic feet, one on either side of the keyboard unit, which can be raised to an intermediate or full position:

I know this having torn-down a yellowed, faulty and incomplete EM-721 parts machine to  examine the workings of the keyboard.

As usual, for information on the workings of the keyboard, I turned to Daniel Beardsmore, who tells me this one uses a foil-in-dome capacitive system that Brother developed itself. Daniel created a gallery on his website at: https://telcontar.net/KBK/KAref/Brother_EM-721/

Daniel also came up with a theory about the dot codes that Brother used on its keyboard PCBs and membranes: http://telcontar.net/KBK/Brother/#dates


One thought on “EM ‘n EM

  1. Interesting bit about the Brother dot codes! I’d imagine that the dots are *removed* because they are silk-screened onto the board. It’s far easier to plug a hole in a silk screen than to make a new hole in it. Probably they started with the screen boxes fully filled, then painted a plug in the screen for every month that passes.


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