Erika’s Element of Surprise

Manufactured in the German Democratic Republic by the VEB Kombinat Robotron in 1987 and exported to Western Europe, the Erika 3004 was unavailable to citizens of the GDR at the time of its release.

Named after Erik Honecker’s granddaughter and as bland as Honecker himself, the 3004 is not quite as run-of-the-mill as it first seems.

One of a number of idiosyncrasies is a 100 character drop-in “Schnellwechselkassette” (“Quick Change Cassette”) first introduced with the release of Robotron’s first compact electronic typewriter, the S 6005 in 1986:

I bought a batch of these S6000/S3000 series compatible cassette printwheels long before this typewriter came my way.

Odd to think that the ribbon cassette used in these and all future (Robotron Optima GmbH) portables is a ribbon cassette first used in March 1984 by Olivetti in its only Italian-made electronic portable, the Praxis 20, before its use was discontinued (the exception being a 1986 re-issue of the Praxis 20, the ETP Personal 50).

Show me another portable electronic typewriter that dispenses with platen knobs completely for the convenience of Paper Up and Paper Down keys conveniently located either side of the space bar.

The key switches appear to be double shot (in some cases triple shot) ABS plastic.

Another idiosyncrasy is an ON/OFF slider switch masquerading as a conventional rocker switch.

This typewriter feels faster than 10 cps, which is likely its average speed rather than its top speed. The keyboard has a slight springiness to it and delivers a pleasantly subdued staccato – almost as if the characters are not just being typed but transmitted.

Come to think of it, in 1987, perhaps these typewriters were available to citizens of the GDR afterall …

Upgraded typewriters with more correction memory and the addition of 15 pitch, the 3005 and the 3006, followed in 1988.

Upgraded models with added (bold, underline and centering) formatting options, Erika 3015 and 3016, followed in 1989.

A model S 3010, the last in the series, was produced in April 1990.