Monday, September 27, 2010

Olivetti Dora Light Gray Techno Pica Typewriter (1960s)

And so it goes, from script/ cursive to techno pica in the form of this Olivetti Dora. What this is, actually, is the Lettera 32 mechanism with different keytops in a plastic shell. If you look carefully, you might remember where else you might have seen these square black keytops in an Olivetti: the (in)famous Valentine.

We got this from Spain because of the QWERTY keyboard, and it joined the collection sometime in July. While the case is plastic, Beeching's "Century of the Typewriter" confirms that this was made in the mid-sixties together with the Lettera 32. Like the Valentine, the Dora was designed by Ettore Sottsass, and sports simple clean lines (some will find it rather boxy, though).

The plastic is very solid and polishes up to a high gloss. In fact, it takes some careful scrutiny to realize that it isn't metal - it's very well done. This quality declines in the 70s and 80s -the plastic Underwood 319 that we used to have was made of a porous plastic that attracted and retained unsightly stains. And don't get me started on the plastic Tippas! We had a bright orange Contessa de Luxe that reached us with little bits of plastic rattling about the box where the mechanism had proven too heavy for the shell and shattered it. Every collector's worst nightmare.

The Dora was manufactured in Olivetti's Barcelona plant, which would later manufacture most of the Valentine typewriters. Just a cursory glance at the carriage placement and design reveals that Olivetti retained the same basic elements in pretty much every typewriter they made. This includes a basket shift, of course.

Another view of the logo and Spanish characters - upside-down question mark, anyone?

In keeping with its futuristic look and feel, this Dora has a techno pica typeface that completes the theme nicely, don't you think?


  1. Adwoa, I never noticed the smaller details of this interesting keyboard before! Thanks for posting such good close-ups of the keyboard and also of the typing test.
    The keyboard is in fact a sort of Iberian combo of some sort, as the cedilla (the hook-shaped diacritical mark placed under the c - "ç") is absent from modern Spanish, but still common in Portuguese and Catalan. It even includes the circumflex mark, which, again, does not occur in Spanish, but in Portuguese, for stressed vowels.
    However, strangely enough, the tilde is only included as the tilded n (Spanish letter "ñ"), and not as an isolated graphem - which is how it would be really practical for typing in Portuguese (eg. "mão", "cão", "razão", "multidão", etc) - thus limiting the usefulness of the keyboard for Portuguese speakers. Weird!!

  2. how is the Dora to type on? How does it compare to other small portables and small Olivettis?

  3. @notagain - The Dora is the exact same mechanism Olivetti used in the Lettera 32, Valentine, etc. So it is basket-shifted and rather pleasant to write on. This is a "budget" typewriter of sorts - there is no paper support, and no tabulator mechanism. Other than that, your typical Lettera! If it's in good condition, it will type just fine.

  4. excellent machine! what's the serial number?

  5. It's so "square" looking and angular that it makes me smile. What a design statement! :-)) I really like it because it is deliberate.

  6. I have just been given one of these. Could you advise the best way of cleaning it?

  7. Hi! Adwoa, how do I find the serial number for Olivetti Dora. I can't find it - need help, please. Thanks and a great post indeed!

  8. Those characters that belong to Catalan and Portuguese are due to the fact that Olivetti produced their typewriters in Barcelona (located within Catalonia).

  9. The serial number will be under the bodywork, below where the carriage passes the right hand chassis rails.


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