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Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Flying Fish and Other Chinese Portable Typewriters - 飞鱼和中国其他便携式打字机

Bored stupid with looking at funky and atomic typewriters on Australian eBay, and wanting to celebrate 100,000 pageviews with something different in the way of portables, I went looking elsewhere.
And guess what I found?
The Flying Fish portable typewriter!
It’s available in the Yangpu district of Shanghai for a mere $13, plus postage, of course.
And it looks such a nice, non-funky, non-atomic machine, too.
It’s described, however, as “almost new, for a long period available for purchase.” I gather it was used when the kids were at primary school, but that was a while ago, maybe 20 years.
There appears to be a “new sky Flying Fish typing machine” available on the Chinese taobao (a sort of Asian eBay, I think?), for about $70 (460 yuan).
Given my recent appeal for help in finding out whether manual portable typewriters are still being made in China, I was pleased to rediscover the Shanghai Weilv Mechanism Company’s website.
It seems that, yes, this company is still making typewriters – but of that awful Rover variety (although the Olympia Traveller C appears to be still on the market).
Shanghai Weilv describes itself as ”one of the leading manufacturers of manual typewriter in China”. “We have a history of making typewriters of more than 10 years. For all the key parts, we imported from foreign countries to ensure the quality and endurance of our products. That is why we are one of the top three suppliers of manual-mechanical typewriters in China.”
Shanghai Weilv is located at No 8, Lvxiang Industrial Zone, Jinshan District, south-west of Shanghai City. But it seems it only deals with distributors, not individual buyers such as myself, so it is difficult to get a price on a single item. The website is at http://chinatypewriter.en.alibaba.com/
There's a little video on the site, which I can't embed, unfortunately.
Shanghai Weilv’s markets are in North and South America, Europe, South-east and Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Middle East. More than 90 per cent of its typewriters are exported. The 44-key typewriters are sold in Spanish, Philippine, French, English languages.
It turns out the Rover models are numbered thus: 1000 – single ribbon colour, 2000 – ribbon colour selector, 3000 – ribbon colour selector and tabulation, 5000 – all of the above plus automatic spacer.
If you are not in the market for a Rover-style typewriter, and I certainly wouldn’t want any more, then it appears there is another brand being made in China, one of which I was not previously aware.

This is the Songsheng “loose sound card typewriter”.
It is made by the China Shantou Songsheng Technology Co Ltd of the Longxiang Commercial Building in Danyang Gardon, Changping Road, Shantou City, Guangdong Province, which is between Shanghai and Hong Kong.
This company has, or has had, some dealings with Panasonic and also with Nakajima, though there do not appear to be Nakajima manual typewriters available any longer.
The Japanese-made Kofa appears popular in China. Here are some models listed for sale on various sites, presumably all second-hand:
Then, of course, there are the metal "mock" typewriters flogged by DinoDirect:
It's probably not politically correct to mention this in a post about Chinese typewriters, but I'm a Dalai Lama supporter, so here goes, anyway (I'll probably never be invited to inspect a Chinese typewriter factory now) -
The caption for this photograph simply says, "'Om mane padme hum' written in English on a typewriter was the most valued gift of all.":
Tibetan Buddhists believe that saying the mantra (prayer), Om Mani Padme Hum, out loud or silently to oneself invokes the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion. Viewing the written form of the mantra is said to have the same effect - it is often carved into stones and placed where people can see them.


10 comments:

maschinengeschrieben said...

The Kofa 200 and 600 must be Tippas.

Adwoa said...

I came here to say the same thing Florian did - definitely recognizing the Tippa lineage in a couple of these!

That said, the mock metal typewriter is nothing short of an eyesore... I must revisit Richard's Senta to scrub it out of my memory!

notagain said...

"Flying Fish" is either a hugely diversified conglomerate or the "Acme" brand of China. The name appears on other products, such as slide rules (one model is reputed to have the most scales ever crammed on a rule - fish scales?).
Interesting post, as always. I didn't like my Rover. I gave it away.

Miguel Ángel Chávez Silva said...

Very interesting post as always. And congratulations on your first 100,000+ visits!

Duffy Moon said...

My Kofa model 100 is indeed a Tippa machine, with the carriage from an Olympia SF. This, naturally, I learned from Will Davis's great site.

Peeling off the shell, you can see that it's identical in pretty much every respect to the Tippa. Since I don't have an SF to compare the carriage, I'm taking Will's word for it (pretty safe bet, in general).

Great write-up! The fella I bought the KOFA from later had a Flying Fish for sale, and I'm kinda kicking myself that I didn't buy that, too.

Scott K said...

Nice analysis.

The reason you probably can't find anything other than wholesale is that these manufacturers only produce to job allocation. I.e., they aren't a typewriter factory per-se, but have the tool capacity to produce these when orders are placed.

As was previously posted, flying fish are a brand that's all over the place. They also exhibit at numerous trade shoes in Hong Kong, So what you can do is get the catalogue for a particular trade show they are at, and you'll often see the production numbers listed.

Depending on the complexity of the product, and how many of these are produced for other buyers, you can possibly by allotments of 1000 units.

I'm willing to bet that as these are being sold to developing countries, you will be able to pick some up. You may even be able to acquire a 'sample' unit at a trade show. Know anyone in HK?

Scott K said...

Might be worth a look.

http://total1.en.ecplaza.net/36.asp

Scott K said...

And... the list continues.
http://detail.en.china.cn/provide/detail,1001904172.html

http://detail.en.china.cn/provide/detail,1001904170.html

http://detail.en.china.cn/provide/detail,1001851392.html

http://detail.en.china.cn/provide/detail,1001904176.html

http://detail.en.china.cn/provide/detail,1001904168.html

Rob Bowker said...

...and by the way, 100K! Who'd have thought it? I hope there was a cake with candles, or at least a glass of something sparkling.

Richard P said...

"Loose sound card typewriter"? I think something must have been lost in translation!

Thank you for this update. Poor as the typewriters are, it does warm my heart a bit to think that manual typewriters are still being made. Now if only they were making a really good design!