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25-5-2020 14:06:11  #1

A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

Although in someway related to "repairing typewriters", I don't have a specific machine to repair. However this can be considered as a magnificent opportunity to share your thoughts and admiration for the marvellous ingenuity of the IBM typewriters.

I have come to the conclusion that the current life expectancy of a typewriter depends in how easy, or complex, is to repair, the compatibility of pieces with other models (same manufacturer most of the times), how common was the model (therefore a higher chance to cannibalise a ruined machine), and how robust was the design. Considering the aforementioned, there is a typewriter model I would like your opinion in how well built were they, how easy or accesible are they to repair, and if spare parts are easy to find. 

The machine I am interested is the IBM model D. My comparison point is my IBM Selectric III. 
As we all know, there is plenty of documentation and spare parts for the different Selectric iterations, however they are also well know for the myriad of problems they can get, some require frequent attention or adjustments, some problems are terminal, some require the replacement of pieces, and others may require knowledge and tooling way more specialised than most of the users possess(I am looking at you, clutch pulley... among other parts).

How does the Model D compares to the Selectric in these aspects? Is built to last, or is it also known for requiring frequent attention, adjustments or replacement of parts?, in case a replacement is needed, is it a procedure complex enough that would have to resort to professional help? 

Thank you in advance

No, I don't know how to change the clutch pulley of a Selectric, nor I would dare to do so, for the time being. 


26-5-2020 13:19:48  #2

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

Argio wrote:

How does the Model D compares to the Selectric in these aspects? Is built to last...

When it comes to standard electric typewriters I'd suggest that they were all built to last. Some models may have done better than others in that regard, but given they all were designed to be used in a professional environment, and were expected to endure the rigours of such use, they had to be durable or the company (IBM in this case) would have had a difficult time selling subsequent models to the same customer.

Argio wrote: it also known for requiring frequent attention, adjustments or replacement of parts?

Tom (thetypewriterman) is likely the only person here who could provide the first-hand knowledge required to answer that question. Current collectors and those who service machines today wouldn't have the necessary exposure to enough Model Ds to answer the question. In other words, you would need to ask someone who used to repair such machines during their service lifetime.

Argio wrote: case a replacement (part) is needed, is it a procedure complex enough that would have to resort to professional help?

It would depend on the part in question. Like all typewriters, some parts are more easily replaced than others, and if the easier-to-replace parts are the ones that are more likely to break, then professional help wouldn't be required as often. 

My guess is that if you're proficient in working on a standard electric models from other manufacturers, the Model D would fall into your capabilitities. One thing I've learned about repairing typewriters is that each manufacturer had a long list of specialty tools designed for working on its machines. If you had (have) those tools your life is much easier. Without them an otherwise simple repair can become very complex. IBM was no different in this regard.


26-5-2020 16:22:14  #3

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

Well, in my biased opinion, in the 1970's (most office electric typewriters finished production around 1979 as IBM's patents began to expire and other manufacturers started making golfball typewriters instead) there were only three office electric typewriters worth having.  The Olympia SGE50 (based on the Olympia SG3), The Adler 131d (designed from the outset as an electric typewriter), and the IBM Model D (again designed from the outset as an electric typewriter and from the company with the longest experience of making such machines)  Leaving the other two to one side for the moment, the IBM would be very hard to find parts for these days, even second hand ones.  Having said that, there would be much more scope for keeping one of those going by improvisation than an IBM golfball.  The main part which might give trouble would be the rotating rubber power roll, which drives the typebars up via cams (sometimes called snatch pawls)  These used to be re-covered by the same firms that re-covered platens, but of course it would be involve a lot of trial and error these days to find the correct kind of soft, sticky rubber.  To give you some idea of how rare a Model D must be nowadays, the last time I worked on one must have been at least 35 years ago.  Remember that these were replaced first by golfball typewriters of all makes, and then shortly afterwards by electronic machines.  With the demise of Nakajima, even those are now obsolete !


26-5-2020 22:15:21  #4

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

Thank you for your insight Tom, it is most useful and appreciated. If the opportunity ever comes, I will try to get a working IBM Model D, even tho it sounds like a compromise due it's rarity, it also seems to be more easygoing than a Selectric. Of course, a plan for the future. 

Meanwhile I will be reading the AMES manuals of the 70's, for both standards and electrics. It is so nice to find the specific tools required by typewriter brand, handy without a doubt.

     Thread Starter

27-5-2020 13:56:24  #5

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

On the question of Model D "rarity", it's very much a regional consideration. I have a Model D, and in the past have passed on a number that were available in my area (one was enough for me), so they are around. 

I certainly wouldn't want to ship one - or rather - take the risk of having one shipped to me.

It was interesting to read Tom's recommendations for standard electric models; I don't have the Adler 131d, but do own a 21d, which I really like. I do have the SGE50, and it's also a nice machine. Both were non-functional when I bought them and found them fairly straightforward to repair. 


27-5-2020 16:05:30  #6

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

Those machines look sturdy, I would take only a minimised controlled risk, being with someone that could transport it safely or a seller that could provide a safe shipping (I am aware it could be a bit expensive), but this only if I buy online. 

I have seen some old IBM model C machines laying around at my faculty, I would not be surprised to find a Model D if I ask in the right places or to the right people.  

I must agree about the recommendations, specially the Olympia in my case (but that is just because I really like the SG3 aesthetic).  Also, it is somewhat a relief that your experience repairing your machines was straightforward. Definitively I will consider the Olympia SGE50 and the mentioned Adlers as immediate options, just in case acquiring an IBM becomes way too hard.

     Thread Starter

27-5-2020 16:39:03  #7

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

Uwe - The Adler 131d is just an updated 21c or 21d, so all you are missing really is a squared off plastic outer casing !

Argio - If you are looking for an Olympia SGE50, and have the opportunity to examine it personally before buying, check the operation of the shift cam.  These tend to wear, and if it has a wobbly motion in use, it will fail soon.  Needless to say, there are no new spare parts !  The IBM 'C' is mechanically very similar to the 'D', so a good consolation prize if you can get one !


28-5-2020 19:07:23  #8

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

I was also considering also an IBM model C if I cant find the model D, then I would consider the Olympia, and then an Adler. Thank you for the advice about the Olympia, I will have it pressent if I ever come across with the opportunity to acquire one.

     Thread Starter

29-5-2020 16:03:03  #9

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

Hi Argio,

today I stumbled upon this post, maybe it is of interest to you:



30-5-2020 18:26:44  #10

Re: A comparative (question) about the IBM Model D

Thank you for the article, proportional spacing sounds like a very interesting feature for a typewriter, speaking for the executive ones of course. Reading a good opinion about the touch and other features is also helpful.  

     Thread Starter

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