10 March 2012

The Remington Portable

The other reason I was excited has been realised! The already stated reason was the Corona 3, the representative of mine from the first portable typewriter design.

Now, I have a working representative of the first portable which had a full keyboard like the standard typewriters. Remington is noted for being the first company to have a commercially successful typewriter. This start, after many dead end starts, to the typewriter as a distinct device which is used by people who are trained and skilled in their use is what started all this. The effects of it are evident in our daily lives, most notably in the QWERTY keyboard and the design of the manual typewriter keyboard. The latest touch screen smart phones have on screen keyboards which have the same layout and even the same staggered keys as what E. Remington and Sons released to the public on July 1, 1874. That large machine, large by any personal writing device standards, was refined and copied and led to standard typewriter designs which may be more reasonable in the amount of space they consume. However, typewriters which could be carried around were later in coming (although there were models which were light, such as the Blickensderfer) and further later were typewriters designed to be carried around. WWI, the Great War, saw the use of the Corona Folding Typewriter in the field.

But, even to that day, portable typewriters were different from standards. They had a three bank keyboard, usually double shifted. I can personally testify that a touch typist on a four bank keyboard cannot touch type reliably on a three bank out of the box. One can do pretty well, but when it comes to automatic finger placement (the three bank has the right pinky hang off), one is prone to many errors, and of course double shifting can cause issues because the novel placement of the numbers and most symbols, and the extra travel of the second shift makes it slower to use. Corona Typewriter Company started with such a typewriter. It was successful and very good. It still is and they type very well by all standards but for the keyboard size issue.

But what of the people who typed professionally? Were portables toys and stripped down devices to be used only in the field? The Underwood and Coronas were great, but they were not the same as the standards. Companies did well selling such portables.

But then Remington acted. Remington (and some others probably) went straight for the four bank keyboard, a keyboard just like a normal typewriter. A keyboard which made no sacrifices. It was small, light, robust (but for the many rubber rollers...but I doubt Remington was thinking long-term in this design), and a great design. They worked on this new typewriter and the progression of features and changes has many stages which makes for many typewriters with the same name ("Remington Portable"), but many small differences. Remington did not really name these distinctly until they made a major change. The one I have is what is normally now called a "Remington Portable No. 2", as it has the shifting mechanism and typebar guards of later designs, but it also has the body (with the red Remington badge) of the first designs. So this typewriter is in between the more distinct stages of the Remington Portable history. It is a little bit of both.

But like the Corona Folding Typewriter, it had issues being compact. The typebars fold up for typing, and fold down for storage. With them up, they are literally up in the air. Compared to later designs, in "typing mode", this typewriter is very vulnerable. Everything is exposed (so it is very audible compared to a more enclosed design like the Corona Silent or Smith-Corona Skyriter)), but it has a great touch and is very portable by all standards.

As you can see, its output is also extremely attractive and clean. I was so excited I brought it to work and typed that blog post there and I had no error correction methods with me. But that sort of clarity in type is rare in typewriters.

Typebars folded down:

Remington Portable Typewriter

Typebars folded up:

Remington Portable Typewriter

A few notes about it:

  • The carriage return lever is very primitive.

  • There is no automatic ribbon reverse.

  • It does use a bicolour ribbon...I did not expect that.

  • Its keyboard is complete. Nothing is lacking despite it being a portable design. Given the success of the Corona Folding and the Underwood 3-Bank, this must have been a priority in the design as the entire design is built around a full keyboard and a small overall size.

  • It types very evenly and smoothly. The type, both in action and final results, is fantastic.

The only defect is that the carriage return is not straightforward, as the typebars are somewhat in the way of direct access and the carriage return lever is only useful for advancing paper. I have taken to using my thumb to advance the paper and using my hand to push the carriage from the side. This seems to be the best way to quickly return the carriage.

But, as I stated, it is a great typewriter and very portable. The keyboard is complete and has convex glass keys. I shall use this for actual writing (in shorter texts, due to the carriage return) not just because of my affection for it, but because it is actually a great typewriter by any standard.

A note about the repairs: I did have it repaired by someone else I found online. He was a guru beyond compare and very helpful. He did more than I asked and charged a very low price (I bought the Corona 3 with the money I had expected to be spending on repairs). However, he is selective about what jobs he takes and he also has a full time job, so I do not want to publicly identify him. But thanks for fixing my typewriter when all hope was almost forsaken!


  1. That is a very nice typewriter. I like the way the type bars stand when ready for use, like a row of soldiers ready for battle.

  2. very nice machine. I'm envious!

  3. You wouldn't happen to know the physical dimensions of a Remington 5T portable, would you?

    1. I do not know what a Remington 5T portable is, and I do not have any Remingtons now.

      The typewriter which was the subject of this post is about 12" square and 4" high.

  4. I have a Model 1, which I think came just before yours. I wonder if you've done much taking apart of it. The rubber paper pressure rollers on mine are quite deformed, and I'd happily replace them if I could figure out how to remove them. Have you ever done that? Thanks!

    1. Greetings.

      I do not generally take my typewriters apart. I sent this one to another to fix.

      You can post in the Yahoo! TYPEWRITERS group about this to get repair information and references probably. Many on that group have done things like that.

  5. I have the same model, scored it on craigslist for $30 and it works like a champ. Any idea how you would type a "1" as there is no 1 key?

    1. That was a very good deal! Usually, the rubber is so degraded you cannot feed paper through.

      Like most typewriters, a lowercase "L" is the "1" key.

      Also, an apostrophe (') backspace, and a period (.) is an exclamation mark.