typewriter; educational toy; model

Made:
c. 1965

Child's red typewriter, Mettoy 'Prefect', ca. 1965. (Victoria & Albert Museum number B.203-1993).

This model is a Mettoy Prefect typewriter for a child. This was everything the real office machines of the 1950s were not - lightweight, colourful and above all, fun. The body is moulded red plastic, the keyboard black painted metal with the keys raised in the metal and painted blue and white, with the function keys red and white. The characters are held on the central disc at the top, which is supported by a black metal block hinged to the operating lever bar at the front edge of the machine. An arrow on a dial is turned to select a character. When the operating lever is depressed the disc and the block move back against the platen to print the letter.

The plate does not rotate, but the paper is turned by a metal rod which passes through it and has two rubber grips. In a twist of irony the toy concept became the real thing when veteran Italian designer Ettore Sottsass introduced his red Valentine typewriter, put into production by Olivetti in 1969. The idea was to turn out a machine that had nothing in common with the huge grey gunmetal tyrants that ruled the office at the time, but which would, as Sottsass put it, 'keep amateur poets company on quiet Sunday mornings in the country, or provide a highly coloured object on a table in a studio apartment'.

On display

Science Museum: Making the Modern World Gallery

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Details

Category:
Domestic Appliances
Materials:
black, blue, metal, plastic, red and white
Identifier:
L2000-4432
type:
typewriter
credit:
Victoria and Albert Museum

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