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Friday 18 January 2013

f a t, flat but fully functional: Nakajima's Olympiette S12

I'm not sure why I've kept this typewriter all these years. Perhaps nobody wanted to take it off my hands. It has never appealed to me aesthetically, and others have probably felt the same. After all, it's plastic, f a t (I'm no wide carriage fan; I like my paper to be portrait shape) and, given its width, it's disconcertingly flat. 
And it's a Nakajima. It was made by Nakajima ALL in Sakaki, Nagano, for Olympia International and distributed through Olympia USA Inc of Somerville, New Jersey. 
I would question the labelling on the back of this machine, which doesn't mention Nakajima and misleadingly has "Olympia Werke AG, Wilhelmshaven, West Germany" more prominently expressed than the words "Made in Japan", which are in tiny print at the bottom of the sticker. The fact it was handled in the US and not in Wilhelmshaven is equally obscured, with the small sticker underneath the machine. The impression allowed is that there is some tangle link with Olympia, Wilhelmshaven, when in reality there is not. This is NOT an Olympia typewriter, it's a Nakajima ALL typewriter.
Yet I can't fault the functionality of the Olympia Olympiette S12. It types wonderfully well.
I note that among fans of the S12 is Lebanon, Virginia, lawyer Gregory S.Hancock, who has a nice collection of modern typewriters here. Greg says on his typewriter webpage, "I really like this machine [the S12]. It is a sturdy, smooth type without 'double printing' or 'spacing ahead' problems. I write most of my correspondence on this one because it is the most comfortable machine I own." I wholeheartedly endorse Greg's comments about the S12's typeability.
The Olympiette S12 is an adaption of the Nakajima ALL 800 (of which the wide carriage version is the 8000), as well as other Nakajima-made Olympias, such as the Carina. In a post on the 800 in July last year, I remarked on how taken I was by its almost flawless typing. But like all Nakajimas, including the small portables, the mechanics are identical. Perhaps the larger, heavier plastic masks give more balance and produce a better typewritten result - quite the opposite effect to the Olivettis of the later 60s. The carriage running smoothly over a rail positioned at a 45 degree angle might well help the cause.
These S12s are readily available on eBay of Etsy, so don't let me hold you back. Don't be fooled by the labelling - it's not German, it's Japanese. But also be prepared to be surprised by how well it types (blame the juiced up worn ribbon for the unevenness of this typecast).


Richard P said...

I hadn't paid attention to this typewriter before. I kind of like the styling; looks like it would float. And the typing is nicely aligned.

Robert Messenger said...

Thanks, Richard. Re the alignment, I forgot to mention is has that "catch and pull" carriage lever mechanism, and I did make a mental note of how well it worked on this model.
It might well float. It's fairly light and the base is very secure, you'd need a special Allen (hex) key to get it off. Seems watertight!

Anonymous said...

I just found an old s12 my dad owned and was wondering if you know what year they were made and
what kind of value they have?

Robert Messenger said...

Hi Debi. If you read my last post, you will see I do not evaluate typewriters, I collect and write about them. It's not possible to evaluate them, as you will see. An Olympia machine made in Japan would date it to the early or mid 80s. I don't think there is any way of being more accurate than that, sorry.

Unknown said...

I just scored one of these in my local thrift shop for only $2.00! I love it, its in mint condition, cool sleek design and it types wonderfully, can't wait to get some use out of it!

Valiant said...

Hi. Like the previous poster I just found one of these machines at a local thrift shop. To me the designer appears to have been reaching for something futuristic; the machine wouldn't have looked completely out of place in Kubrick's '2001'. This week I also picked up an Olympia SM (9?). It is badged as made in Germany; I think from the 70's. The Olympiette provides a more satisfying typing experience in my opinion -- more responsive and better 'snap'. In general I have come to trust the reliability of German-made machines, but this Japanese-made machine is definitely a winner in my book.

Dale Raby said...

I have one of these, a model SEP with a cursive typeface. It has not been well-treated, but still works, though type seems to strike the platten a bit high, resulting in incomplete letter formation.

Richard P said...

One of these was just donated to WordPlay and I've fixed it up for sale. I have to say I like the peculiar '70s styling, and I agree with you that it's well made: the typing is neat and the carriage is smooth. The Nakajima construction is easily recognizable to me; it has much in common with my Grants 707 ( Too bad that the plastic inevitably accumulates little scratches.

Sean said...

I bought one on eBay and the carriage does not advance when the space bar is struck and does not advance when any alphanumeric key is struck.
The seller says I have to unlock the carriage lock. I have moved or adjusted every lever on the thing, nothing works.
Any suggestions?