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I like the Sprite in you

Royal Sprite

The Royal Sprite is one of my favorite typewriters. Designed to look like a stereo component, it was marketed to the young and hip. Unmistakably, it is a product of the 1970s, a modern typewriter with stereophonic styling and futuristic ambitions. It’s a “fun” typer.

The Sprite is light and durable. Made of high-impact plastic, one Sprite reportedly survived a tornado — I don’t find this hard to believe, as mine was bounced around too, and it still works. That “space-age” plastic certainly does the trick.

The Sprite reportedly came in two styles: with an AM radio and without. I’ve never seen a radio Sprite, neither in the wild nor on the Internet, but a nearly identical model, called the Swinger, always appears with the radio — the radio snaps into the case’s lid. Still another identical machine, the Marksman, does not appear to have included a radio.

Update: Only the Swinger and Fleetwood included an AM radio. The Sprite, Astronaut and Marksman — otherwise identical machines — did not. This design of typewriter was also sold under the Imperial label. The Imperial Gemini touted a built-in radio like the Swinger (see Etsy listing here).

Regarding three four names for essentially the same typewriter, my impression is that Royal marketed the same machine under different names to reach a broader audience. “Sprite” is cute; “Marksman” cool; “Astronaut” is space-age; and, “Swinger,” well, enough said. Note, the Fleetwood is the same machine, but with a faux, wood-grain design.

Advertisement for the Royal Sprite in the Milwaukee Journal, Dec. 11, 1973.

Advertisement for the Royal Sprite in the Milwaukee Journal, Dec. 11, 1973.

Though a Royal, the Sprite was manufactured by Silver-Seiko in Japan (source).

I find this machine strangely appealing. Yes, it’s boxy. Yes, the color combination is odd — red nobs and blue frame. But it is entirely representative of the seventies, a decade that tried so hard to anticipate the 21st century. More often than not, the seventies overshot the goal. Nevertheless, the Sprite has aesthetic charm.

Non-radio versions of the Sprite can be had cheaply. I paid $20 (maybe less) for mine, and one lad apparently paid a buck (see here). The Swinger commands a higher price.

This set of Royals, in some sense, are the first “multi-media” devices I can number. What’s your take?

One last note, when I gave my Sprite a good cleaning, bits of eraser clung to every part of the machine. I gather this typewriter was popular among students (and revisionists).


© 2013 – 2014, Mark Adams. All rights reserved.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • T. Munk August 30, 2013, 3:02 pm

    Ahh yes, the tornado-tossed Sprite – These things sure are sturdy. I’ve also played a bit with a Swinger (with AM Radio) and was very satisfied with it also. Certainly one of the weirder looking machines, but a good performer. (:

  • T. Munk September 25, 2013, 7:27 am

    I just picked up the “Family Heirloom” Royal Sprite, and scanned in the ephemera and user’s manual:

    It was given to my mother’s Grandmother for her birthday on Aug 3, 1971 and the list of service centers is dated 12/69, so I can pin down the manufacture date to between about Jan 1970 and July 1971. Ser # NM 1113791

    what’s the serial number on this one?

  • Mark Adams September 25, 2013, 6:32 pm

    Mine has NM 8612462. I suppose that places mine a bit later, perhaps around the time of the advertisement (above).

    Thanks for posting the manual, etc. A typewriter never seems really complete without such material.

  • T. Munk September 25, 2013, 8:32 pm

    Well, that certainly tells us that “NM” is probably a model code, and not a date code. Depending on whether they started the serial number sequence at 1,000,000 or not and how many were made, we might be able to come up with some range for dating if a few more examples with dated documentation show up (:

  • Josey March 8, 2016, 2:06 am

    I just picked up a Marksman and it is the nicest looking typewriter I have ever seen and/or owned. I am super excited to type around on it.

  • JP April 3, 2022, 12:01 pm

    The Sprite with radio got me through high school, college and a brief stint at NSF. The radio with Red Sox games on it were a major inspiration. I picked up an Astronaut model a few years back. Some ribbon rescue and all is well. It is the most compelling piece of gear to my students in my very techy office.

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