Faced with its second oil crisis in a decade (the first stemming from the Arab-Israeli war in 1973, and the second stemming from the Iranian revolution of 1979), Exxon Oil ramped up efforts to diversify its business, only to find itself at the forefront of a revolution akin to the electrification of the typewriter in the early 1950s.

Released in February 1978, the Exxon Qyx was manufactured by the QYX computer division of Exxon Enterprises, a division subsequently absorbed by Exxon Information Systems (EIS), established in 1980 to coordinate the company’s office equipment and data processing ventures following the acquisition of Zilog — an American manufacturer of the Z80 (Intel 8080-compatible) Z80 8-bit microprocessor— and Vydec, an American manufacturer of office desktop word processors. The company also formed a technological alliance with Compucorp, a microcomputer manufacturer.

Sold alongside the QWIP, a facsimile transmission device, and a range of Vydec word processors and Compucorp microcomputers, the Qyx provided high-speed printing at 300 words per minute, for 1 original and 6 copies, and was capable of dual pitch (pica and elite) printing as well as proportional spacing.

Available in black, and then a uniform grey-beige, the Qyx was marketed with 5 levels of functionality, and could be upgraded to include more memory, a 24 character “window into the memory” plasma display, and a communications module to enable Qyx-to-Qyx, or Qyx-to-PC, transmissions.

Widely regarded as the world’s electronic typewriter, the Exxon Qyx was billed as “the tiger of a typewriter” and “the intelligent typewriter that grows smarter without growing larger”.

In truth, the Qwix was already over-large— not much smaller than other telex-capable teleprinters available around that time (the Qyx used an interchangeable metal print wheel manufactured by Qume, and not dissimilar to the wheels used by the Xerox 800 Electronic Typing System introduced in October 1974).

Xerox would, most likely, have disputed Exxon’s claim to have released “the industry’s first electro-magnetic print wheel”.

Described as “cost-effective” to own, due to its upgradability, the Qyx proved to be anything but cost-effective to manufacture. Initially released in New York, Washington and Philadelphia, the bulky Qyx never went into mass production, making it a hard-to-find (and hard-to-carry) collectible.

Exxon Information Systems customer base and product technology rights were divested, in 1985, and sold to Lanier Business Products Inc. (then a subsidiary of the Harris Corporation, an international communications and electronics company).