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Saturday 14 January 2012

The Curious Case of the Citizen Typewriter

This isn’t one of those F.Scott Fitzgerald stories about a typewriter that was born very old but the older it got in age the younger it got in typeability. Although one supposes just such a story could so easily be told about many a grand old typewriter – especially some of the ones I have been using to typecast with in the past few weeks.
Nor is this about the Citizen X3’s case, which is a most basic and unprepossessing structure: dull yellow, heavy plastic, and because the stiff clasps have no moving parts, nigh on impossible to open (I had to prize mine open by using a screwdriver for leverage).
No, this is about a very curious typewriter – next to nothing has previously been written about it. To the best of my knowledge, Citizen only ever made this one, a smaller portable based on an Antares design, and an electric typewriter (designed by the same man who designed this model).
It is a very young typewriter, made in a very old country, Japan, which travelled to another very old country, Denmark. There it was sold and taken to two very young countries - though one, Australia, is geologically very old. The thing is, before coming to Australia, it went from old Zealand, which is in Denmark, to New Zealand.
I can’t exactly say when all this happened, but my guess is that it was made within the last 40 years.
The typewriter was designed by Matsakatsu Yotsukura, of Narashino, Chiba, Japan, for the Citizen Watch Company in 1970 and patented in the US the following year.
If can you see similarities between this Citizen X3 typewriter and certain models of Olivetti and Olivetti-made Underwoods, you are right. Indeed, the great Mario Bellini used this Yotsukura design for his Olivetti Lettera 41 in 1980, the same year IBM used it for an update of Eliot NoyesSelectric typewriter.
The Citizen also looks markedly like other later model Olivettis, as well as the Underwood 450, which was made by Olivetti from an independent, non-standard Olivetti design.
This particular Citizen X3 typewriter was imported into Denmark from Japan and then sold by Dansk Papirforsyning AS in Næstved. Now, see that æ in Næstved: this typewriter can type that, as well as a few other odd characters.
Dansk Papirforsyning AS is, in the English language, the Danish Paper Supply Company, founded in 1940 by Erhard Gerner Larsen. Næstved is a town on the island of Zealand,about one hour's travel from Copenhagen.
As for the Citizen typewriter, Will Davis tell us that in 1964 the Citizen Watch Company ventured into the office machine market by establishing Citizen Business Machines. In 1969 an arm of the company was established in the US, CBM America Corporation, and Citizen filed a trademark in the US for, among other things, typewriters.
Will looks at a Citizen portable typewriter called a Columbia XL, also known as a Konryu. To me, this looks very closely related to that family of plastic Antares Capri-Mercedes typewriters with which I am less than impressed. Indeed, I think it is the same basic design. Will mentions the Seville 3000, made by Citizen, which I have featured in a post on this very ordinary family. One of these dark days I will get out my Mercedes from this range, which came in an Olivetti-style vinyl case, and try to typecast with it. That’s if I haven’t already managed to offload it.
Anyway, back to the Citizen X3:


Bill M said...

Nice typewriter with a beautiful typeface! I've seen a few Citizen typewriters here in the U.S.. I never used one. They and Brother typewriters were quite popular in the 1970s because they were so affordable. Thenak you for the very informative post. Adwoa has a nice grey Citizen with blue keys on her blog from her Italian museum visit.

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Bill. Thanks for that. I just had a look at Adwoa's blog - yes, that's exactly the same model Citizen as this one, the only difference being those beautiful blue keys.

Richard P said...

I do like the typeface, and the way the keyboard area is set off by the gray color ... What's wrong with me, am I starting to like '70s design??

Adwoa said...

Talk about thinking alike! What a lovely coincidence.

Thank you for the detailed information about the Citizen; I had been wondering about it and was immediately drawn to it when I saw it on the shelf. I wasn't sure whether it was a wholly original design or derivative of another, but of course now that you have pointed out the similarity to the Studio 45, I can see it. There can't be too many of these around...

Unknown said...

Hi !

i have already one of father bought this typewriter in the 70' in Italy ( near Milan where we live)

Unknown said...

I have just acquired a Citizen X3 from a charity shop but it needs a new ribbon. Any idea where i can find one that fits this model ?

Typewriterguy said...

Say, do you have any info on citizen f2 typewriters?