A request from an American sales company
leads to a new challenge and a new product
"We want you to develop this product, since it has potentially high market value" - a request to manufacture a portable typewriter was made in 1956 by Max Hugel, the CEO of the Brother International Corporation (US).
At that time, a typewriter was a necessity for offices in the US. Portable typewriters were even imported from Europe. Masayoshi Yasui (CEO of Brother in 1958) was determined to develop a portable typewriter, inspired by Hugel's enthusiasm to enter the market.
Though typewriters were new to Brother's manufacturing business, their product would need to be more functional than the typewriters of the time in order to compete with them. The technology department launched a project team and investigated the products manufactured by several US companies. As a result, they judged that manufacturing type writers was not a big challenge since they were able to apply the technology, which they had developed for sewing machines and knitting machines.
Brother's first typewriter,
and the challenges they encountered on their way to success
Attractive typeset define the quality of a typewriter. Printed types, 0.04mm being the finest, needed especially precise components. Masayoshi Yasui chose to stay with in-house developed typewriters. He applied the technology known as "coining press", and continued making progress, but was not able to print text with fine edges.
One day, Jitsuichi Yasui (the vice president) was inspired by hinamochi, a traditional Japanese snack made of rice powder mixed with water and shaped by pressing it into a wooden form. Since forcing the mochi into the shaper did not fill the corners, physical pressure, applied by hand, was necessary.
By applying the method of making hinamochi, it became possible to realize the sharp edges of the texts printed. In May 1961, Brother's first alphabet portable typewriter [JP1] was released, boasting typeset second to none.
Establishing Brother as the go-to name for office machines,
and the acceleration of growth into foreign markets
The in-house developed typewriter "JP1" was sold for 50 dollars, while American products with the same functions were sold for 70 dollars. After the release of this product in the US, its high reputation led to a great increase in orders.
After the JP1 had become a great hit in the US, the product also began to be exported to Europe. Brother was able to establish itself as "Brother, for office machines" in the US market.
Ten years after the release of JP1, Brother's typewriter was exported to more than 100 countries using 20 different languages. Furthermore, the shift from regular to electric typewriters made it possible to change typeset, of which Brother also offered many varieties.
In this way, Brother developed its position in the typewriter market. As the times changed, the typewriter gave way to printers and word processors, and in May 2016, Brother no longer produced typewriters.
From typewriters to laser printers
Continuing the drive towards printed text
The fonts developed for the typewriter were mostly developed in-house. These fonts are brought back to life by applying the technology to other Brother products as well.
In 1987, Brother created it first laser printer [HL-8]. The quick operation was well received in the market, and was elected as the "Editors' Choice" in PC Magazine. Some of the fonts installed in this product was originally developed for typewriters, but was refined to be applied to laser printers.
At that time, when printing from a computer, only the letter size, character string and other such details were sent and processed. The printer was installed with the data of different fonts since the printer operated separately and on its own.
Label writer, sewing machines, karaoke…
The obsession with fonts still lives on in a variety of products
Brother's fonts were not only for the western alphabet, but also for Japanese characters (holding close to 8,000 different characters) as well. The fonts were applied to label printers, embroidery machines, and more.
JOYSOUND CROSSO, a commercial-use karaoke machine developed in 2009, was installed with Brother's original font, leading to a more pleasing way of displaying lyrics on the screen. The practical use then expanded to touch panels, All-in-Ones printers and sewing machines.
The typeset for typewriters developed from the dedication to in-house development. It still lives on in many products, though typewriters themselves are no longer part of the line-up.