The Ghastly Beast

This typewriter was a mistake. I bought it not realizing the difference between an Ultrasonic I and III. The III has the nifty feature of supporting 10, 12, and 15 cpi. And seeing as I happened to have a Type A daisy wheel that was not compatible with my SL 480, I bought an Ultrasonic III. However, it was not as described–it didn’t work–so I was left with an exciting Micro 15 daisy wheel with no machine with which to use it. An Ultrasonic came up on shopgoodwill.com, so I was all over it… and the only bidder.

Well, let me tell you the difference between an Ultrasonic I and III. The I only supports 10 cpi. Not even 12! Fortunately, the I does work. Sure, it throws in the occasional space and the keys are very rattly. But it works. So before kicking the III to the curb–literally–I took this wonderful daisy wheel and a practically new ribbon out of it.

For those unfamiliar with the Ultrasonic family, they are beastly standards–perhaps the equivalent to an IBM Selectric–and feature a ghastly beige, brown, and black color scheme. The highlight of the design is a thick plastic paper support that is a transparent, smoky brown. It folds down to completely cover the platen and inner workings. Leaving it on a desk with no other cover would be perfectly acceptable. And trust me, you don’t want to be lugging this thing around. Not even the case can handle it. Both the I and III came with cases missing the handles.

I’m taking the opportunity to type on 9″ x 12″ newsprint–well, because I can. This machine supports up to an 11″ width.

Now, I shall leave you with a typing sample of the daisy wheels.

Author: Gregory

4 thoughts on “The Ghastly Beast

  1. One very unique feature of the Ultrasonics: the keyboards aren’t switches or anything like you’ve ever encountered – they were a weird experiment by SCM to utilize *sound* to determine what key was pressed. The keys impact tuned rods which sensors determine the note from to figure out what key was pressed. This invention didn’t last long, and the Ultrasonics are the only keyboards that use it.

    1. Interesting! It tempts me to grab the III that’s still sitting on the curb to take a look. Several of the keys didn’t work, and I only got as far as taking off a key cap and spraying a little contact cleaner. I wonder how easy they would be to fix. My guess is impossible for an amateur such as myself. Thanks for the info. Now the name actually makes sense!

    2. Typetronics were the first (1980) with Ultrasonics being the “portable” version of a Typetronic (circa 1982). They had a big problem due to electrical interference causing the typewriters to start typing on their own. “Contact-free” is all the rage these days of course ;D

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