Alpina DT33



A beast. The return lever is among the beefiest I’ve seen. The DT33, which has a decimal tabulator, exudes brute strength:  Norbert Schwarz, an authority on Alpinas,  points out that they are “small office machines.” Even my beloved Olympia SM3 feels like a toy compared to this DT33. The platen is rock hard, which was a bit off-putting at first, but two backup sheets improved the type.  I’ve noticed that my German portables of this time period have unusually hard platens.

An acquaintance remarked that it looks like a Buick, which, judging by his tone, wasn’t a AlpinaDT33bcompliment. I find it a beautiful machine, and think it has a distinct flair. I like its rounded features and turret-like cover. The keys are spacious, though not outsized, and it’s easy to settle into a good clip.

Will Davis ( notes an important feature: “One notable feature of Alpina machines is that, while they employ carriage shift, only the platen actually moves when the shift keys are depressed.  This makes shifting rather easy considering the size and weight of these machines —- these are among the very biggest and heaviest portables in the post-1958 enlarged overall size.”

It’s a portable that feels like an upright.






Cole Steel Model 2


This one took me by surprise. I almost passed on it because it seemed flimsy at first glance: I was woefully wrong about that. Although it has plastic keys, the body is metal. One may be tempted to classify it as an ultraportable, but it has more heft than a Hermes Rocket or Adler Tippa. Closer inspection revealed that it was barely used, aside from small chips in the paint. The type slugs gleam, and the pica typeface is astoundingly crisp. The backup sheet barely shows indentations.

I’ve been using a Remington Rand 17 upright, but on some days my fingers don’t jiveColeSteel2 with the smaller keys. On those days, I often turn to this Cole, which has ample keys and a nicely spaced keyboard. I like the paper gauge on the right carriage knob: one aligns the red window on it with the red arrow painted on the body. The ribbon selector eluded me at first: it’s under the knob, and I mistook it for a carriage lock, which is on the other side. Seems like an afterthought.

This one was manufactured in Western Germany. To my understanding, Cole Steel had them made there for some time. If I were going on a long trip and portability was an issue, and reliability of the essence, this one would be at the top of my list.