The Simplex Typewriter
by Don Bell
Simplex Typewriter Number 300
Does anyone remember the Simplex Typewriter? It was around 1956 that I relentlessly badgered my parents to give me one for Christmas. It is mostly made of painted tinplate with a stiff cardboard bottom, and the outer rim of the wheel containing the "keys" is made of a soft rubber. The lower mock keyboard is merely for appearance.
The typewriter's dimensions are 24.5 cm wide x 20.5 cm deep x 10 cm high. It is identified as Number 300 (its model number). Design Patent No. 154345. These machines were manufactured in various models since the 1890s by the Simplex Typewriter Co. Inc., New York City.
The complete alphabet in both upper and lower case letters is provided on the rotating wheel, including numbers and basic punctuation, and you simply dial the letter you wish to type and press down on the rubber key with your finger to print it, thereby advancing the type wheel one space. After clicking your way across a line of text, you must carefully lift and slide the type wheel back to the left again and use the two wooden side knobs to roll the paper up a line.
Two small felt pads positioned with spring clips beneath the rim of the wheel held the printer's ink topped up by using a cotton swab dipped in the little bottle of blue ink supplied with the machine.
At best, the ingenious little typewriter can only accommodate a 19 cm (7 inch) wide sheet of writing paper, not a standard-sized sheet, though it can handle a small envelope nicely. The cardboard carton it arrived in serves as its carrying case.
I amused myself with the Simplex Typewriter for several years. It's remarkable what can be accomplished using what's now classed as a toy typewriter, though they were originally invented as serious writing machines, but I do recall the tip of my index finger getting sore now and then from all the rubber key pressing. Many a page was typed on that little typewriter.
Little did I dream back then that I'd be sitting here typing on my iMac computer today. The Simplex Typewriter currently rests atop the filing cabinet in my home office as a fond memento of my childhood.