Olympia Traveller de Luxe

I’ve become a bit obsessed with typewriters. This is an Olympia Traveller de Luxe. The term “traveler” is definitely relative — it weighs about 5kg, and is quite the pain to carry.

            Wide angle

Even though it is indisputably simpler than a modern laptop, the complexities of it seem more striking. It is packed with tiny linkages that all work in harmony to get the text on the page. Even the ink spools are more complicated than you might think. Each press of a key winds the ribbon a small amount from one spool to the other, and then once one side is exhausted, pressure builds on a pin that causes the mechanism to switch directions — returning the ribbon to the other spool.

            Top down without case

You can adjust the margins using two sliders behind the paper slot. When you are within about 8 characters of the end of the line a little bell dings, reminding you to return the carriage. It is sometimes a little awkward when you are in the middle of a particularly long word, but you can always -hyphenate anything that will not fit. If you feel like living life on the edge, you can override the margins, letting you fit those last couple of characters in.

If you have a split color ribbon, you can swap colors using a little switch on the right. Personally I’ve never felt the need for anything over than black, but it is a nice option to have.

Line spacing is configurable; you can pick from the rather cramped 1, the standard 1.5, or the roomy 2. You first return the carriage, then pushing further scrolls the new line in. You can also disable the line spacing, and freely spin the platen wheel to your hearts content. This is very useful for loading the paper into the typewriter.

Making, or rather fixing mistakes, is quite the pain. The previous owner evidently used liquid correction fluid as the typewriter was liberally decorated with white spots when I first acquired it. Luckily some isopropyl alcohol made short work of removing it (and giving me a headache). I’ve had some success using a correction roller (like these), but it’s a pain to scroll the paper up and down to apply it. It is also very easy to apply too much or too little, as your hand and the applicator cover up what you are trying to correct. A method I’ve yet to try is using correction tabs, which are little bits of plastic coated with white ink. You use them by backspacing over the offending character, then striking it again through the tab, whiting it out. I’ve put far too much thought into this, given I’m perfectly happy to just cross out my mistakes and just be mildly infuriated.

            View of the hammers

One thing that strikes me as particularly ingenious is how the shift works. There are two characters on each striker, with the bottoms being lowercase, and the tops uppercase. Pressing the shift keys physically “shifts” the carriage up, meaning the top of the hammer strikes the paper. Instead of having a “Caps Lock” key like we’d expect today, you have a “Shift Lock”, meaning that you can’t type any characters from the bottom half of the strikers, like numbers and most punctuation without unlocking the shift first.

You have to be careful to keep the force that you use to press the keys fairly consistent, as otherwise you get some characters that are light and others that are too bold. There is an adjustable switch under the cover that supposedly lets you adjust the force, but in my experience it seems to make little difference – you have to press quite hard and sharp whatever position it is in.

            Some typed text

In addition to removing the blobs of correction fluid, I also had to clean quite a lot of residual dried ink off the hammers. This presumably just builds up over time with usage, and was quite difficult to remove. I had good luck with a couple of cocktail sticks that were just about small enough to get the dirt out the middle of the “e”. Doing this greatly improved the evenness and overall legibility of the text.

Page last updated by 5591dc6 - 5:03pm, 30/04/2022:

fix: publish date


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