Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Royal Ultronic typewriter

You guys are good! Nick B. nailed the identification of the "mystery machine" in my previous post 21 minutes after it was posted. Yes, it's a Royal Ultronic. (Nick, let me know what sort of ribbon you'd like to have as your prize.)

The serial numbers for Ultronics may not fit the sequence for standard manual and electric Royals. In that sequence, according to the available information, 7541666 would date to 1963, but as we'll see below, the Ultronic was introduced in 1966.

A close-up showing the unusual tab rack (upper left):

Let's take a quick look at the history of the Ultronic. (Please add more facts if you know them.)

"The Ultronic, a fully-electric portable typewriter designed to bridge the gap between full-scale office electrics and partially electric portable models, has been launched in the U. S. by Royal. Market tests indicate that about six in every 10 Ultronics will be bought for the home." —Office Equipment and Methods vol. 12, 1966

LIFE, Dec. 9, 1966: The Ultronic is released in time for Christmas as an "office electric for personal use," advertised flanked between Royal's midsized portable and ultraportable manuals. Clearly the company's response to those "market tests" was to sell the machine as a non-business typewriter, specifically for students.

LIFE, May 12, 1967: The Ultronic is promoted as a graduation gift for "college-bound" high school seniors. This ad calls the machine "personal" yet "husky." It emphasizes the electric carriage return as a unique feature. Does anyone know when Smith-Corona introduced portable electrics with the same feature? It couldn't have been much later, and the Smith-Corona really is portable (though heavy).

LIFE, May 26, 1967: The idea of the Ultronic as a graduation gift is pushed even harder. Both of these May 1967 ads list the suggested retail price as $199.50. It was important for Royal to stay below the $200 line.

LIFE, Dec. 8, 1967: Now the machine is promoted as a Christmas gift for the kid who went off to college—"the one you haven't heard from in a while."

LIFE, May 31, 1968: "1. The Ultronic is big. 2. Heavy. 3. Husy. ... Carrying case optional." Obviously all pretense at portability was thrown out the window.

Despite the ad copy, here's a photo I've found of an Ultronic in a third color: green.

This one is labeled "Custom Ultronic," and has a faux-bois panel, much like this white Custom Ultronic that sold on Etsy. What did "Custom" mean? Was it just a matter of appearance?

I haven't found any ad later than May 1968 for the Ultronic, other than ads listing it among "discontinued" models. It seems that production may have lasted little more than a year and half, a disappointing performance for a typewriter that tried to fill a market niche that didn't need filling.

You can download the user's manual here.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A fruitful quest

Correction: moldy, not "moldly"!

Correction: it's an SM4, of course!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The continuing quest

1947 Crosley convertible.
According to Wikipedia the cars were made in two factories in Indiana, so the story I was told may be incorrect. The Cincinnati factory was a Crosley property, though.