Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Olympia SF De Luxe White Portable Typewriter (1960s)



The Olympia SF (Schreibmaschine Flach) is one of those ultra-portable machines that has received rave reviews from typewriter users. It sports all-metal construction, and the turquoise keys on this particular model make it a dead ringer for the classic early Olympia SM-9, albeit smaller. The SF is often mentioned in the same breath as the Smith Corona Skyriter and the Hermes Baby/ Rocket, as a typewriter that is both truly portable and pleasant to use.


The Olympia SF appears to be a direct descendant of the earlier small Olympia portables, which were labeled Splendid 33, Splendid 66, and Splendid 99 in Europe, and in the States was seen occasionally branded as the Olympia Socialite. The SF is boxier than those earlier models, and the rounded corners have been sharpened here. The side profile is also reminiscent of its larger sibling, the SM-9, especially with the combination of green, white, and dark gray colors. The Olympia SF is carriage-shifted (unfortunately), but this is pretty standard operating procedure for machines this size.


Between this and the Hermes Baby, I would still go for the Hermes, which is sparse and tight. The Olympia SF has a number of nice features, including the red margin indicators which are visible beneath a transparent plastic covering the ruler. However, this particular specimen has caused me some grief with the ribbon: it stretches so taut that I have to adjust it from time to time with my finger. I am due to receive another of these machines in the next few weeks, and I shall then be able to judge whether the problem is with all SFs, this one only (perhaps a missing spring?), or me (assuming there is some super special way of replacing the ribbon that I did not observe).


For all its faults, I find the fault on this SF rather charming. It is a huge 10 cpi that Olympia probably designated "Roman", but it reminds me most of the American Typewriter font that comes pre-installed on Macs. I remember when I first got a typewriter, I thought to myself that the font looked nothing like Apple's interpretation, but now I can see where they got their inspiration... dead ringer, really. The alignment is a little wonky, and the margins slip every so often, so some more tinkering is probably in order. Other than that, this is a nice little machine and I hold on to it in hopes that I might someday be inspired to wax lyrical about it as others have done before.

I'm still looking forward to trying out a full-size Olympia, probably the much-acclaimed SM-9, at some point. We spotted an SM-8 while out "hunting" some weeks ago, but passed it over because of the wide carriage, although the price was very reasonable. Here's a picture I took then:


Not bad, eh? I would, however, like an older model because I'm a sucker for the Olympia logo rendered in script font. I haven't seen this SM-8 since - like all the machines I leave behind, I hope it found a good home!

5 comments:

  1. we have just found an Olympia Splendid 33 in the loft when clearing out a deceased relative's house. My teenage kids have had great fun playing with the retro gadget, but none of us can work ou t what the key on the left with 4 balck dots on it is for. Can you enlighten us??

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  2. Hello esslady - the key with the four black dots is the "margin release" key. It allows you to type a few more letters if you hit the pre-set margin before you finish a word or sentence.

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  3. You don't know by chance where to find a user's manual for this do you? I've recently bought one second-hand, and the little wheel under the top left side (below the left-hand ribbon spool) not longer keeps tension (the string has become disconnected and I think it's the element that controls the cross movement of the paper reel as you type...in other words, the paper won't move across as you type). Any help would be much appreciated! It's my first typewriter and after greasing the keys, everything works fine now except that!) Cheers

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  4. I have an Olympia SF and i bought it with no ribbon so it needs a new one.. what ribbon would it take? and do you know where i could maybe find one?

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  5. I was just given an Olympia deluxe portable typewriter. For some reason the keys do not depress and therefore it does not type. Is there a lock of any kind on this model. (I've read nothing about this.) The machine is not new and has not been used in quite a while; could the keys have become "frozen" from not being used? Any explanation or suggestions would be welcome. Thanks.

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