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. Husky. ... Carrying case optional." Obviously all pretense of 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?

[PS, August 2019: I recently had a chance to work on a Custom Ultronic in the photo below. I can report that it has several special features:

• Lights indicate that power is turned on, and shine blue, white, or red to indicate the ribbon position.
• A Line Meter system is marked on the left end of the platen.
• The plastic paper guides are hinged.
• There is a paper bail.
• The typewriter comes with a large, plastic carrying case with a rotating, lockable clasp.
• Select-A-Type (a changeable type slug system) was available, according to a marking on the segment, but was not installed on this machine.]

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.

PS: The Ultronic was succeeded by the Jetstar (1968-70).

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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

An alternate manifesto

Thanks to insurgent R.S. for sharing this brilliant alternative manifesto for the Typewriter Insurgency. Let's have more! Let a hundred typebars click!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Typewriter ringtone / alert sounds for iPhone

Using the Sound Studio program on my MacBook and the Ringtone Designer app on my iPhone, I recorded some sounds from an R.C. Allen VisOmatic and Royal KMM, and turned them into alert sounds for my phone. Why? Just because I'm a child at heart.

You're welcome to have these if you like:

[Sorry, these are no longer available. You can make better ones, I'm sure!]

Download these files to your computer, add them to iTunes (they should show up in the Tones category), and then sync them with your iPhone. You can then select them as alerts or ringtones in the Sounds section of your phone's Settings. Let me know if you have any trouble.

I'm using the typing sound to alert me to an incoming text, the ding of the bell to alert me to an incoming e-mail, and the carriage return when I send an e-mail. The fourth tone is a bell plus a zipping carriage return.

Now I just need a phone case that looks like a typewriter. Here's a nice design I spotted on eBay, but one can also design a custom case.

What would the old typewriter inventors say about all this? I think they'd be delighted.