The Super-Speed is lovely to type on, and the result is pretty good for a machine nearly 80 years old. Of all these machines, this is the one you’d put in a secluded office and use to write a great early 20th century novel.
The 17 is pretty good given how rusty it was, but it’s a slow typer with some sticky keys.
The SG3 stands out as both very even and more modulated, and with very strongly lining figures. Almost as regular as the Selectric, which is so sharp and precise and dry. Apart from the Selectric, this is the one you’d use in the office at the firm.
The Dora is also nice and even, if dull; at present the capitals sit a little high, so some adjustment is needed, I suppose, though I doubt I’ll bother.
Hermes 10 (electric) is a little like the SG3 — some modulation, and more rounded serifs. Also, both happen to have quite dark ribbons, which makes a difference too.
The 3912C is pretty regular — but it is an electric, so the darkness ought to be uniform! Letters fade a little at the top, so either it’s not striking in the right place or the platen is just too hard. The 700T is very good for clarity and regularity, but the position of the caps isn’t matching the lower-case letters too well — could be my weight on the shift key, though, since the T and D seem okay, it’s just the B. Seems to be exactly the same selection of characters and typeface as the 3912C.
The AX-10 is a daisy wheel machine and this wheel has a slyly stylish font. The wheel says Prestige 1012. Locations of symbols ($, # etc) are more similar to a computer keyboard, as might be expected for a relatively new machine. A good machine for kids to type on — clean type and not too much key pressure needed.
The other Brother, the EP-44, is a very different beast. It is a thermal dot matrix printer with a keyboard. It cannot do carbons, but can work as a serial text-only printer. Being electronic, it has a second shift key that gives access to a wider range of characters — hence the third line. The typeface looks a bit like a monospace Times. Not bad though looks a bit pixelated on close inspection and descenders are basically false. Can also do underlines.
The cw-16 probably looks more pixelated then the EP, but gives a very wide range of characters and the options of bold, 10 or 12 pitch, double width (in each pitch) and underlined. This example is, like the EP-44 example, printed on thermal paper, and again the descenders are very shallow, almost false.
SM-8 is very niceely aligned, and only slightly understruck right at the tops of the ascenders. A very nice and quite portable machine.
The Clipper looks pretty good for a machine its age and with an older ribbon. Sharp, well-aligned and even, except for the fractions — and I think I hit those a bit hard… and maybe they need a clean, too.
So my Hermes 10 had a little problem; the ribbon vibrator was not dropping down after lifting the ribbon into place. That meant my deathless prose was obscured. Given how many errors I make that may not be a bad thing, but still…
I tackled it two ways, both at once, so I don’t know which was more important.
First, I just very lightly lubricated the various bits of the mechanism, working from the ribbon position all the way back to the various lever arms and whatnot near the keyboard.
In doing this, I noticed that while there was a spring drawing the mechanism back (and the vibrator down) attached near the top-right of the keyboard, there was no such at the top-left.
Now, in most manual typewriters the vibrator is not symmetrical — it’s operated from one side or the other but not both, so such an arrangement would not be that much of a surprise. But on the 10 the mechanism is more symmetrical, with levers and rods on both sides and the ribbon holder moving perfectly vertically on a rail rather than being lifted up by a lever arm from one side. So it seemed reasonable that there should have been a spring on the left, especially since there was a little pin there with nothing to do but hold the end of the absent spring.
To cut a boring story a little short, I found a little spring in my parts bin (not matching, but that’s OK) and attached it, and an the problem went away.
The 10 is not a bad machine. It combines the evenness and regularity of an electric machine with the satisfying thwack of typebars on paper. Its gentle hum is not disturbing. It is a heavy beast — portable only in the sense it is not bolted down — and the key tops sit high due to the electrical paraphernalia underneath. But typing on it is effortless and the result is very tidy.
And now, thanks to my fiddling about, the ribbon vibrator gets out of the way and lets me see what’s going on.
Here are some more pictures.
It certainly isn’t the most invisible fix I’ve done, but it works and makes the machine much more user friendly, so worth doing indeed.
The Hermes 10 is a funky machine from that generation of electric typewriters that were powered versions of manual ones — they still use a basket and typebars, and the paper goes past on the carriage, unlike say a Selectric where the paper sits still and the print head moves.
This one was bought at auction for less than $20 and it came with a case and a dust cover. The case is enormous. It could carry quite a few changes of clothes were it a suitcase. Here it is pictured beneath an Olivetti Lettera 32 in its case; the Hermes is damn near twice as wide and maybe more than that high. It’s also very heavy. And of course it needs a power socket to work, so the case is really for moving it from office to office. You’re not going to use this machine in Starbucks…
It is big and heavy. It hums and smells a little like ozone — probably burning dust. It seems to work pretty well. The ribbon vibrator does not drop down as quickly as it should; I think it was over-oiled at some point (which is to say oiled at all). It seems to be in nice condition. The visible margins work, everything seems present and accounted for.
One of the good things about this old design is that they do not take custom ribbon cartridges — they take conventional nylon ribbons on spools. That means unlike, say, to pick a completely random example, a CasioWriter cw-16, there’s no problem with getting ribbons even though the company behind the product is long gone, or at least long-left the industry.
Touch is … odd. A bit like a big calculator. Pretty easy to get used to, though. Hitting return and watching the whole carriage zip back and the paper feed through is pretty nifty.
The arrangement of keys will be familiar to anyone who knows a Hermes 3000, though the backspace is where us computer users expect it to be — top-right rather than top-left as it is in the 3000. Here is the character set — one lonely accented ‘e’.
Quite useful. Not as many fractions as older machines, but cents, at, pound and dollar.
The x, =, – and _ characters can repeat (for crossing out and drawing lines), though the _ and – cut lines through the paper; possibly an adjustment is needed or the platen is too hard. It’s a small enough issue and not enough to make me do major works on the machine.
Ser. no. 2052425 (http://typewriterdatabase.com/hermes.82.typewriter-serial-number-database), which places it in 1971.