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Brother EP-20 Dot-Matrix Portable Typewriter – Welcome to 1983!

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I think this kind of typewriter is the portable of the future…
– Martin Goldshine, executive vice president of Silver Reed America Inc. (1983)

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1983 Brother EP-20 vs. 1980 Brother JP-1. The EP-20 is a *tiny* machine.

1983 Brother EP-20 vs. 1980 Brother JP-1. The EP-20 is a *tiny* machine.

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The platen is made of a very dense foam rubber rather than hard rubber. it's very squishy.

The platen is made of a very dense foam rubber rather than hard rubber. it’s very squishy.

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Two spare ribbon carriers in the lid. You'd have needed them. I don't expect a ribbon lasted much longer than 5 or 6 pages worth of typing, they're so small.

Two spare ribbon carriers in the lid. You’d have needed them. I don’t expect a ribbon lasted much longer than 5 or 6 pages worth of typing, they’re so small.

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NEW TYPEWRITERS JOIN THE COMPUTER AGE (NY Times, September 1983)

Updated: November 20, 2015 — 12:28 pm

15 Comments

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  1. That looks like an awful lot of fun in a teeny package – it’s too bad the print quality isn’t so good. I had a friend whose very indulgent parents bought her one of these in the 80s. At the time, I was blown away by the line editing feature – the future had arrived.

  2. A laptop ahead of its time, but let down by the dot matrix print quality as you say. Would make a nice prop in a low-budget remake of The Matrix!

  3. Gawd, that is ugly typing. But otherwise, I agree, this is a cute and innovative little gadget. It would indeed be fun to use it on a plane. And these things need to be preserved as a part of typewriter history that is now generally ignored.

  4. I had a similar machine in ’83, which came with the option of using thermal paper to achieve the impression rather than the small and expensive ribbons. Unfortunately, I used the typewriter for journal entries and many of them were lost — they literally faded away.

    1. Hmmn, of course – it’s a thermal print head, so with the ribbon removed, it should be able to print on thermal fax paper. Off to the thrifts I go to get some! (:

      1. I’ve got some thermal label stock if you want to try it.

        Identical to UPS labels. Also some prescription label blank spots.

        1. Already tried it – picked up a roll of thermal fax paper at a thrift, and a second baby wedge, since it was half-price day. (:

          About 4 feet of typing into that roll so far..

  5. I still own one of these little Brother EP typewriters. I’ve always kept it as a “backup” typewriter, but haven’t taken it out of the closet in at least a decade. I remember being amazed by the editing feature when I first got it and used it for school work back in the day.

    Mine has a dual holder for cassette ribbons and a nice cover that keeps the keyboard clean. The keyboard is surprisingly comfortable to write on.

    It had not occured to me that I probably can’t find ribbons for it any longer. What a bummer!

    Thanks for the review and my trip down memory lane. :)

  6. Some fax machines use wide (8.5″) fax ribbons for bond output. Maybe you can find a partial ribbon, and cut it into 8.5 x 11 sheets. Overlay over plain paper and it would work something like carbon paper, but you would have to be very careful to avoid smudging your original.

  7. I loved using my SEARS Model 268.53900 with Batteries when going researching in Museums and cemeteries…What I didn’t like was losing the cord. I found and bought at a thrift store a Brother EP 20 that had the cord that worked for both, it didn’t have the manual but that was ok, because I still have the one for my Sears brand. The typewriters are exactly alike even to the brown-toned color.
    It’s been many years and NOW my problem is I’m not sure I have that cord. Does anyone have the cord number [typed on back of plug, I think]?
    If responding by email, PLEASE put >Brother EP 20< in Subject line.

  8. Good Evening,
    Just posting this from the UK.
    I found your posting about the EP20 very interesting since I collect Brother typewriters. My first one was a Brother portable in 1965 when I learned touch typing. Then later it was a Brother 3600 electric typewriter which I purchased from Swan and Edgar Department store in London in about 1983/4. Unfortunately I got rid of the original one but have bought two others, just for old times sake.

    The EP20 strikes me as having very smart keyboards and have seen a couple on Ebay for sale. Am disappointed to hear that the ribbons do not last very long thought I can see why judging for the photo you put up of the ribbon itself.

    Thanks for doing the piece. Good luck with your typing!
    Brian.

    1. You don’t actually need a ribbon, I found out you can take the ribbon out and use plain thermal fax paper.

  9. http://www.aroundtheoffice.com/

    I just ordered an EP-20 ribbon from this outfit. $22 and $3.50 shipping. Needed to find out how many pages I get out of the machine, which I bought at Value village this afternoon for $3.99.

    I’ve got a couple of DANAs, which are keyboard extentions of the old Palm Pilot software. Useful for coffee shops and Amtrak, and if I ever sell that novel, maybe I can afford a new laptop!

    Is that example of the EP’s printing because you’re re-using the old ribbon?

    1. yeah – any ribbons you’re going to find are near 30+ years old and fossilized, they won’t print very well. I just use thermal fax paper in mine – works great (:

  10. Interestingly, I own one of these as well, and the print quality is much better than what you’ve got pictured here. Also ribbons and thermal paper are available for it, but the ribbons I’m finding are in the $20+ dollar range, so quite expensive. thermal paper is about $12 per 100 sheets though, so that’s a little easier to handle. I could get cheaper / better printing, but this little thing is just too fun. :)

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