Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Mid-Atlantic 77

Back in July, I shared photos of three typewriters which cost very little money. All eBay. All fell in the "nothing to lose" price bracket:

  • First, a British-made Corona-Empire. Approx £9. Works fine. I don't like it - not sure I'd want to inflict it on someone else, so probably won't sell it. I may give it away. Then again, I might just need more time to get used to its ways. At least it doesn't take up much room.
  • Another Brit. This time Hull's finest Imperial Good Companion Model 5. £0.99p. Despite pristine paint and innards, this typewriter had been dropped and the soft case didn't offer much protection. I spent a long time fixing the space bar and it will work properly... one day. I can't complain, the seller rescued it form a skip. Right now, it is a 'work in progress'.
  • Finally, an Underwood Noiseless 77. £15. I just picked this up from its half-way house where it has languished for the last three months. I already had a brace of earlier Remington Noiseless Portables and their awkward cousin, the Remington Rand Model 1. Three heavier, less quiet machines you'll never find. And of course the Remington Noiseless was an Underwood Noiseless made under licence. You have to love it when something is made and sold with such hope and promise, despite falling so short on most counts. It is not really a Remington, nor is it Noiseless in any generally accepted sense of the word, and Portable? Put it this way, I wouldn't like to have to run for a train with it! Surely, this explains why a genuine Underwood-badged 77 seemed such a good idea.

First impressions: surprise! Pretty much like a Remington. Solid and crisp controls for everything except typing, which hesitance of touch is an acquired taste - that's the famous 'silent' treatment at work - it is pretty amazing how it works.  This post-war model has the finger-friendly plastic key tops and stealth matt paint job. Compared to the Remington incarnation, the return lever has the élan of a fencepost. And the bobbin-tops are plastic too. But this WAS 1947, even in the USA - post-war austerity and all that. Still, it is built like a tank and to an impressively high standard. I'd do a typecast to show how it types, but it is late and it would make too much noise.

Two anomalies: the $ key produces a £ sign, and the cent key produces the slashed c it promises. Obviously there was some confusion in the final assembly about which side of the Atlantic this one was headed for - so the assembler compromised. Or was it a cunning US imperialist plot to assert a new currency on an unsuspecting British public. 64 years later and we still aren't ready to part with our £.


  1. spiffy! I like the look and feel of the "noiseless" machines, but just can't type on 'em. At least not so they produce clean copy, anyway. Not really sure why. In any case, that's a good lookin' typer, and a nice price!

  2. I have a higher opinion of the noiseless portables myself, but understand why some people don't like them.

    As far as I know, it was Remington that developed and made them. Remington bought the Noiseless Typewriter Company and developed its office and portable typewriters into four-bank machines. The "Underwood" noiseless typewriters were, I believe, all made in the Remington factory under an agreement with Underwood.

  3. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a fantastic and ingenious machine but the action takes some getting used to. My son thought there was a problem with irregular spacing. Hardly seemed to fair to say he was typing the wrong way.... but he was.

  4. "Compared to the Remington incarnation, the return lever has the élan of a fencepost."

    This made me smile; an excellent turn of phrase.

    As I become a more experienced collector, I notice that the ACTION is of primary importance.

    My Remington Model 17 (1941) has a rather sluggish action, while the Remington Quiet-Riter (1950) is slightly more snappy. My most recent thrift store acquisition of a Remington Quiet-Riter Eleven (made in the '60s or '70s?) may promise to be the snappiest one of the lot, once I clean it up.

  5. I agree with Dr. Polt-the Noiseless company was bought by Remington and then Underwood bought rebadged ones under license. Like typing into a sponge is the best description a dealer gave me fifty years ago. Richard K/Texas

  6. Cameron, I wasn't 100% sure about élan, but went with it anyway. Its just that the flip-up Remington solution is one of my favourite things on any typewriter. That reminds me, I made a video of it in action.

  7. Richard K: Good description! The whole who did what and when sort of illustrates the point about the labeling. It is only the differences in condition which separate the actual typing experience Underwood from the Remington. It would be interesting to do a blind test and then strip each down to find any significant differences between them. Begs the question why put different brands on te same machines coming out of the same factory?

  8. Richard P: I stand corrected. Thanks. Whatever the idiosyncrasies of the feel when typing, they do produce good results!

  9. I have one of these, a Remington Noiseless 7. I was rather taken with it until the escapement started skipping spaces - now I find it rather frustrating to type with. Still, the Noiseless mechanism is innovative and I like all the thoughtful nifty details - bending back the paper tray for the margin stops, for instance.

  10. Hmmm... I have been eying Noiseless machines for awhile in hopes of finding something quiet enough for night typing. My family generally goes to bed hours before I do.

    Can anyone comment on how the Noiseless compares to a Hermes 3000/Media 3? That is my default night typer and that in small doses.

    Thanks for the informative writeup on this machine.

  11. The fact that so may people complain about the skipping problem leads me to conclude this was a design flaw. Mine skips as well, and if it were not such a beautiful machine, I'd replace it with a different typewriter (it's the only typewriter I own, and I really can't afford the money or the space for more than one).

    1. Anon: Thanks for the comment. It might be a bit unfair to find too many faults on a 64 year-old model. Try a new one before giving up on them completely. And I do think the skipping just happens until you settle in to the rhythm. I have no problems at all with it.