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Saturday, 27 September 2014

The Hermes 305 Portable Typewriter and its Olympia, Japy and Nakajima Siblings

Yes, you spotted it. It's a Nakajima identical twin sister for Nick Beland's Olympia B12 - with, I suspect, all the same drawbacks, including the serious plastic mask discolouring. The original colour was pure white, as can be clearly seen where I have stripped off the trader's sticker on the front of the Hermes 305. See Nick's blog post in his B12 here. His observations about the B12 and comments from other Typospherians on his post matched my experience in typing with the Hermes 305. Not great.
I'd go so far as to say the Hermes 305 marks the spot where Nakajima started to go off the rails as a manual portable typewriter manufacturer. The little tin machines are a pleasure to work with compared to this. It rattles but it doesn't hum.
These Hermes-Olympia siblings came about because of a 1978 "co-operation" between the two companies to have Nakajima make manual portables and an electric typewriter, the 505-505C (see brochure cover below). It was all part of a doomed bid to ward off Olympia's impending collapse.
You want 10 typewriters? That should save a few jobs! 
On February 2, 1979, German national weekly Die Zeit reported AEG (Olympia) chief executive officer Walter Cipa as saying the "Swiss Hermes Precisa International SA presents ... as potential partners in order to facilitate the increasingly urgent rehabilitation of Olympia". Technical glitches in electronic typewriter development had cost AEG money and reputation. AEG's entry into "a market dominated by IBM golfball typewriters [had] succeeded only after a collaboration with the Swiss Hermes Precisa". 
Japanese-made Olympia Electronic Compact
Olympia ES200
Cipa had "long been seeking a buyer for the sliding of Olympia works" but had been unsuccessful. A deal with Litton (Triumph-Adler) had failed because of the opposition of the German Federal Cartel Office. Siemens had baulked because it was "not interested in the typewriter market and the few electronic devices from Wilhelmshaven did not fit into its program" (plus it didn't want the responsibility of 15,000 jobs at risk). But there was speculation about a deal between AEG, CII Honeywell Bull and Hermes Precisa, with "at least 51 per cent" of Olympia capital and "at least 25 per cent" to a Swiss bank group representing the interests of Hermes Precisa
As things turned out, AEG was taken over by Daimler-Benz in 1985. Olympia typewriter production ceased at the end of 1992, but on July 1, 1994, Computer Business Review reported Daimler had sold Olympia to Yong Ling Liu's Elite Group in Hong Kong, including a factory in Mexico and the one in Wilhelmshaven. Elite already had factories in China, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.
This shows the 305's original colour. See manual at the bottom of this post.
The Hermes 305 is also the big sister of the Hermes Baby S and the Japy Baby, which use an earlier Nakajima carriage design inside a plastic nask very similar to the 305's:
This badge, on the back of a Hermes Baby S, is identical to the one on the back of the Hermes 305. Below, the back of an Olympia B12:
The Hermes 305 and the Olympia B12 are the same mechanically and in the carriage area as the Nakajima ALL 800, which uses a far superior and much simpler, more conventional mask and is an infinitely better typer than the 305 (can't speak for the B12). The mask on the 305 is three-piece (front, spools cover and base), overly complicated and, like that on the Valentine, simply doesn't suit the mechanical design.
Nakajima redesigned its small, standard portable's mechanics in 1973, although the new repeat spacer device remained strongly influenced by the Brother innovation. In order to accommodate the new mechanical design, while retaining a reasonably flat-profile machine, Nakajima came up with completely new, tight-fitting mask designs. The automatic repeat spacing mechanism was designed for Nakajima ALL by Takemi Ikeda, Toshikatsu Terashima and Tokushige Hasegawa:
Underneath the Hermes 305
Above is the earlier Nakajima mechanical design, without a repeat spacer. Quite apart from the spacer, you can see how different it is from the Hermes 305. Among many other things, this model retains the tiered aluminium dowelling block to guide and hold in place the type rods in automated assembly. The Hermes 305 has done away with this and has an arrangement that is much more akin to a Brother or an Olivetti, a flat or slightly sloped metal section.
 Above, the Hermes 305. Below, the earlier Nakajima design.
Compare this with a Brother, below:
Interestingly, above is a slightly different arrangement again, the Olympia Traveller C, now the Scrittore II. I have used both Scrittore models (the II at WordPlay in Cincinnati) and found the II an improvement on the I, but not by much!
 Above, a Wilhelmshaven Olympia and, below, a Nakajima Olympia. The major difference is the comb - one was designed for automated mass production, the other was not. There was far more of the human touch and quality control at Wilhelmshaven.
See below the underneath of a Chinese (Royal Scrittore I) machine, which is clearly based on the Brother design. 
 Below is a Brother without repeat spacer.
Jean Salisbury and the Hermes 305
 A then 90-year-old Jean, right, showed she still had her typing skills, while trying out an Olivetti Lettera 32 at the opening of the CMAG typewriter exhibition in 2012.
A dear friend, Jean Salisbury OAM (Medal of the Order of Australia), passed away on September 15. Jean, who had turned 92 on January 5, was still living on her own and driving a car up until a few months ago. She was an amazingly alert, active, interesting and interested old lady. She attended all of my typewriter presentations at the Canberra Museum and Gallery in 2012, as well as a few others, and always found time to ask intelligent questions and offer stories about typewriters.
Jean, second from right, attends one of the typewriter presentations at CMAG. Beside her is her daughter, Barbara Coe, who has often contributed valuable research for this blog.
Jean left me her three typewriters, which included the Hermes 305 portable and a Facit 9401 (sold by Remington Australia as a Remstar) which had belonged to her late husband, Alan. 
Jean and Alan met when Alan was working in the War Cabinet Secretariat - Jean was the daughter of Ray Nicholson, a member of the Air Board. After working in the typing pool, Jean became the personal stenographer of Sir Frederick Shedden, secretary of Australia's Department of Defence from 1937 to 1956. But, under the prevailing Public Service regulations, Jean had to leave the Defence Department upon marrying Alan in May 1945. After settling in Canberra in 1959, Jean was for many years keeper of the records at the famous St John the Baptist Anglican Church in Reid:
My eyes popped when Jean's son-in-law, Bruce Coe, opened the case of the Hermes 305. When I first saw the case in the boot of Bruce's car, I recognised it as Japanese in origin, and was intrigued, since Bruce had said there was a Hermes inside. I had had no idea Nakajima made a Hermes, and was totally unaware of the Hermes 305 model.
Fortunately, Jean and Alan Salisbury were meticulous people, and kept every bit of paperwork associated with their typewriters. Jean bought the Hermes 305 on July 8, 1981, from Kevin McQueen, manager of the Canberra branch of Dataprint Pty Ltd, on Maryborough Street, Fyshwick. Dataprint was headquartered in Prahran, Melbourne. Jean traded in her Remington Eleven portable (serial number HRE 127840) for the Hermes, and in exchange for the Remington was given $35 off the huge price of $225 for the Hermes.
I cannot say how happy she was with the deal, but within three months of buying the Hermes, Jean had to have a line space lever broken link repaired. And three months after that, more repairs, this time on the carriage lever! What I can tell you is that the Hermes line spacer and carriage lever remain a problem to this day. The fault, I believe, is in this 1975 Toshikatsu Terashima design:
You need to be very careful when assembling this knob, with just the right amount of tension, otherwise it won't work, it jams up the platen. Believe me, I took the Hermes 305 completely apart and put it back together again. It's not something I would recommend. The mask itself is near impossible to get off and back on again. All in all, it's a poor design.
I feel sad that Jean was sold such an expensive lemon (which was white and turned lemon). It would seem she soon gave up on the Hermes 305 and bought a Panasonic R305 electronic typewriter instead. Can't say I blame her.
Manual for Hermes 305 and Olympia B12:


shordzi said...

How interesting! I am happy to inform that the Sommeregger Typewriter Foundation received, on the title of an eternal lease, a HERMES (no model number given) portable, serial number 80756152 (serial number printed on a sticker which fortunately has stood the test of time), and which resembles the Hermes Baby S you show. Automatic space key is on the right side, the lid is different shape. You can see this machine on . The 1970s and 80s were troubled times for typewriter companies, and now for us to research!

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Georg. Yes, that's a Nakajima, most familiar here as a Royal or an Imperial. They are very common in Australia as a Royal or Imperial. I didn't realise they also appeared as a Hermes. The guts of this model, without the spacer, is shown here as the "earlier Nakajima". As well, there is another Hermes among Tilman's collection that is a late model Consul. The serial number on my Hermes 305 is 30000693.