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Sunday, 6 October 2013

The 'Master Class' of Portable Typewriters: The Erika Model M

Courtesy of Georg Sommeregger


Nick Beland said...

Such a beautiful machine, very high on my want list! Yours looks especially nice. The M is the only portable I know of that had a d o u b l e spacing option. Are you aware of any others?

Robert Messenger said...

Mo, Nick, I don't know of any other portables with that feature.

Toronto guy said...

According to the feature-spec sheet from Mr. Sommeregger, the Model M was designed to be what you could call a 'tween' machine: between a portable and a standard.

Other notable features mentioned are:

- reinforced carriage rail and levers
- ball-bearings for the carriage
- ' d o u b l e ' space writing
- when typing capital letters, only the platen is raised and not the entire carriage
- the outer shell is constructed out of one piece of sheet metal (to guarantee perfect rigidity and long-life as the marketing copy mentions)
- margin set is done via the keyboard (via the red-box left of the space bar, with the green-box key being margin-release)
- tab set is done with the red 'T' to the right of the space bar, whereas deletion of tabs is done with the green 'T' key (kind of a counterintuitive colour-scheme in my opinion)

What's also mentioned is that 'great care was taken to make this machine operate with a light and quick-response touch as well as making it capable of typing at high speed'. (That's my translation, others could word it differently.)

The Model M was available in all left-to-right carriage-movement languages. If you needed a right-to-left keyboard, such as Hebrew, Arabic or Persian, you had to get yourself a Model 5.

This machine weighs in at about 19lbs with case and accessories (14.5lbs without).

shordzi said...

My favourite, too.

Will Davis said...

Great article, Robert! I feel like I've seen it myself after having read the piece and seen the photos.

You might find the brochure I have at this blog page to be of some interest:

Richard P said...


I had a chance to try one of these, or a similar Erika, at California Typewriter in Berkeley. It just felt great, and the double spacing is a wonderful feature on a portable.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Nick, Toronto Guy, Georg, Will and Richard for your comment.
I still say it had all "mod cons". Not that I would get to use any of them. Thank you Will for that link, very interesting. My early Bijou four-bank remains one of my 2-3 favourite machines.

Filipa said...

I am very happy to know you are enjoying the Erika 9 I sold you, Robert. I also think these are the most enjoyable typewriters I have ever tried.
Just wanted to add that indeed an Erika 9 in black does exist. Here is one with glass keys that I sold (and I've also seen with plastic keys):
I am currently working on a Model 5, like your M, but it has an unusual burgundy color, with golden lines drawing its shape, and of course the same good old mechanics – I'm quite excited with it!

stonedeaf4ever said...

I once bought two portable typewriters for 5€ each at a flea-market. One was a red Olivetti Valentine and the other an unknown older one with the black lid locked. I took both machines home and managed to open the lid on the mysterious one. Under the cover was a pristine looking Seidel & Naumann Erika 8 with a small brush, a manual and an original Pelikan silk ribbon in a brown bakalite box. The platen looked brandnew as did the keys and everything. I just needed to insert a new nylon ribbon and paper and lightly oil the moving parts to get a stunning typing experience. I love the Erika`s font and the sound of the little bell at the end of each line. It is by far my favourite vintage portable typewriter and I use it daily. The Olivetti, on the other hand, is a primadonna with film star allures. It always has issues with screws rattling loose and moving parts getting stuck. So I can`t really recommend it to someone who needs a real workhorse. But the Erika I can recommend anytime.

Unknown said...

Hi Robert!

An interesting read. Especially because I just bought my first typewriter, and it's an Erika 9. Got it at Mauerpark flee-market in Berlin. It has even got the letter Æ-Ø-Å, which is great for me as a Norwegian.

It's fairly shabby, so now I'm in the process of cleaning it up and getting it back in shape. An I'm getting there!

Just a couple of questions though, seeing as I'm a total beginner. When I want to buy new ink ribbons, do I need a specific size or type? Most of the stuff I can find online says "Size 1, 13mm x 10m". Will these work for my Erika 9?
In addition, should I be using a special type of paper?

Thanks and all the best!
Vetle Støre

Rob said...

I enjoyed this post. I love the detail, the research and your enthusiasm.