Electric Ladyland: The Olivetti Praxis Experience

I got it into my head that I really should bring home an electric or electronic typewriter.  I suppose the hysteria of Baby Wedge Week got to me, but what really tipped me over the edge was the family blender repair.

Our Osterizer gave up the ghost a couple weeks ago after 20+ years of hard service and instead of chucking it and picking up a new blender, my husband and I decided to repair it. A coupling attached to the motor had broken in two, so we ordered a new one and installed it.


Watch your fingers.

All fixed and cleaner than it has been in years :


This past week I spotted a broken Olivetti Praxis 48 electric typewriter on Craig’s List for $10. I thought, “This will be sort of like the blender, right?”

I just love the look of the Olivetti Praxis 48 – the touchable fungal key tops, the mod cantilevered keyboard, bright green accents, and the corrugated side panels – it’s all good. The only problem / great thing is that this Praxis 48 doesn’t work.

I picked up the Praxis in San Francisco. The seller was a super nice guy. He’d had it for a while, but he never was able to get the machine to turn on.  He thought perhaps it had a motor problem.


I brought the machine home and took a good look at it. The serial number is located underneath the machine by the left front foot: #5060685. It appears to be a 196X Olivetti Praxis 48.


The machine was made by Olivetti Underwood Limited at Don Mills in Canada:


It’s a very cool looking 60s time machine.  It takes me to days of future passed.


Oh, those wonderful, weird, squishy keys:



The Fallingwater of typewriters


The guy I bought it from said that it just wouldn’t turn on.  The motor switch felt strangely loose.  I popped the hood and saw a broken piece of plastic:


I manually flipped the switch inside the machine and plugged her in. Hallelujah! The motor started. I will repair the plastic switch with a patch of JB-Weld epoxy. At least the motor works.

Unfortunately, the carriage wouldn’t move.  It was stuck in the dead center of the machine. It moved a single space backward or forward, but that was all.  The carriage release buttons wouldn’t free it.

All the keys worked and the platen rotated when I hit the carriage return button.

I removed the shell from the machine so I could clean and get a better look.  I removed four screws from the bottom:


I then tried to lift off the shell. No good. I then removed a couple screws from the sliding ribbon cover that seemed to be holding the shell on:


There are hex-headed screws that hold the ribbon cover on each side. I used a small wrench.

Not yet. I loosened a couple screws under the keyboard and and slid the keyboard cover off.


It had foam padding that disintegrated into a fine dust when touched lightly:


I removed two screws in front that held the ribbon cover on and took off the ribbon cover:


I was then able to lift the machine guts out of the shell.


I plugged it in to make sure everything still worked. Even in this basic nonfunctional state, I sort of love this thing already.  The motor is very quiet and the keys are so sweetly responsive. I love the *splack* *splack* *splack-splack-splack* electric typing sound.

The carriage was stuck in dead center and the carriage release buttons were not freeing it.  I carefully blew out the insides of the machine. There was plenty of disintegrated foam padding debris and dust inside, but it cleaned up nicely.

Around back, I poked and prodded as I depressed the carriage release button. I jiggled the plastic piece noted below and suddenly the carriage was free:


I do not know the name of this piece, but jiggling it freed the carriage. Lucky.

I had a new problem, though, once the carriage was able to move:


This piece of cord attached to a spring seems to be part of a very elaborate draw string set up – it’s probably all tangled up under the carriage.  I need to figure out how to get the carriage housing off so I can get a better look.

I feel like I made good progress today. If I can straighten out the spring + cord situation, I think I might have a completely functional Praxis 48.


6 thoughts on “Electric Ladyland: The Olivetti Praxis Experience

  1. Tyler Anderson says:

    I almost feel like they designed it and nearly started production when someone finally decided to ask… “Isn’t this box supposed to have a keyboard?”, and the engineers just sat there, staring at their beautiful box, considering if they REALLY needed to put a keyboard on it or not. “I guess.” One said, sighing and throwing his hands in the air, “but were just gonna throw it on, and its gonna like… sit above the table half a foot or something.” He said, walking away. “That’ll teach people to want keyboards on box-writers” He muttered.


  2. Todd says:

    I have five of these still in factory box never been opened. They were in an old office building that a family member owns. Trying to find someone to sell them to.


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