IBM Makes it Personal

“Personal” is an adjective normally associated with portable typewriters. While the discerning typist may have purchased an IBM 6781 “Personal Wheelwriter” for home-use back in the day, it’s far from portable (but much more portable than a full-size Wheelwriter).

Much like its predecessor, the IBM 6715 (Actionwriter) released in September 1985, the IBM 6781 is a compact (semi-professional) typewriter.

According to their respective specifications, the IBM 6781 and the IBM 6715 have the same height and width (give or take a millimetre), more or less the same weight (10.9 kg versus 10.8 kg) and the same buckling-spring “Model M” keyboard. So how are they different?

Things start to look very different when you look under the hood. The IBM 6715 was manufactured by IBM Deutschland in Stuttgart and, thanks to a technological alliance with TA Triumph-Adler, is largely based on the Gabriele 9009. As such, it takes a TA-compatible print ribbon and a 100-character TA-compatible print wheel capable of printing at a top speed of 13 cps.

Lift the hood of the IBM 6781 and we see a high-capacity IBM ribbon cassette and a 96-character Wheelwriter series printwheel capable of a top speed of 16 cps:

Again, acccording to their respective specifications, the IBM 6781 typewriter is 52 mm deeper than the 6715 – which makes it easier to accommodate the much larger ribbon cassette, but also (probably) a PCB mounted vertically at the back of the machine.

It’s interesting to note that the keyboard on the IBM Personal Wheelwriter sits lower than it does on the IBM 6715. As a result the facia is taller. It also has less of an incline, giving the typewriter a boxier (Wheelwriterly) shape overall.

The difference in the size of the consumables of the two typewriters is shown here:

I have plenty of TA printwheels:

Not so many (4) IBM Wheelwriter printwheels:

It’s the same with the ribbon cassettes, lots of TA ones, only 2 IBM.

According to their specifications, both typewriters have a noise emission reading of 65 dB(A), which is quiet without being whisper-quiet. Of course, the whole point of a buckling spring mechanical keyboard is that it makes all the right noises.

In the case of this particular 6715, the discolorisation is even more apparent when I put it alongside the off-white 6781:

A look at the untarnished plastic on the inside of the 6715 shows an original grey-beige that would still put this typewriter in the shade, comparatively speaking.

Ribbon listings refer misleadingly to Actionwriters 1 and 2. Manufactured in 1985, typewriters of the original production run (6715-001) were given an “IBM 6715” decal. A second run of models were given an “IBM Actionwriter 1” decal. While this seemed to presage the release of an “IBM Actionwriter 2”, further models failed to eventuate.

Instead, we had to wait until May 1988 for the release of the first of what were to be only a handful of “Personal Wheelwriter” models (re-issues excluded).

Both the IBM 6715 and the IBM 6781 were variously referred to as “Actionwriters” and while there is an “Actionwriter” name on the Serial Number sticker of this IBM 6781, I’ve yet to see an “Actionwriter” decal on any IBM Personal Wheelwriter.

The LEXMARK trademark dates this typewriter to at least 1991 – the year IBM divested its typewriter business. Think I’ll do some divesting of my own. Anyone want to buy an IBM 6715?


I was able to download a good quality instruction guide from

Removing the printwheel:

Installing the printwheel:

Removing the cassettes:

Installing the cassettes: