In 1955, Heinrich Trenzinger of Hannover, West Germany applied for a patent describing modifications to typewriters and business machines which allowed for the rapid removal and change of carriages. His designs were applied to an actual machine two years later; this machine was the Combina, manufactured in East Germany by VEB Groma Buromaschinen, Markersdorf. The machine was a modified version of the older Groma desk model portable.
|At left, we see our first view of the heart of the design; the circular opening you see in the carriage rail is over / around the right end carriage rail support post. Just to the right of this post, you can see a slim silver object; this is actually the finger operator to remove the hold down latch. One is located on each side; the latch is pressed in to release.|
|On the right, the carriage has been removed and laid back-down on the table behind the machine. The main spring is visible (labeled in yellow) and which obviously is removed with the carriage assembly. The left end carriage post is labeled in black; the escapement is labeled in red. The large circular object on the right is actually the bell. Various operating linkages mate up when the carriage is installed in a rather ingenious way.|
|Here we see the right end of the keyboard. The operating controls are somewhat novel; dial type operators are used to select ribbon color (this side) and touch regulator (opposite side.) The key nearest the camera, with a "+" on its top and a "-" on its front is the tab stop set / clear button. It presses straight down to set a stop, and pushes in an arc up and forward (toward the rear) to clear.
Other features of the machine include basket shift and highly variable line spacing, in addition to the obvious wide carriage (platen width on this machine is 12.75 inches.)
|by Will Davis|
|The mechanical details of the machine are obvious, since we now have one to examine. The historical details are obscure, and curious. For starters, it is odd that the patent holder was from West Germany, but that the machine was built in East Germany; it is known that some were sold in both places. Trenzinger himself was the owner of his own business supply company, Heinrich Trenzinger GmbH, in Hannover, which was founded around 1927 and remained in business until recently when, having been declared insolvent, it was essentially replaced by a new company which included many former managers from Trenzinger. This new firm is called Office360 GmbH.|
|According to serial number records, the Combina was built only 1957 - 1960, with around 25,000 units completed. (This is very low compared to most everything else.) The machine won the iF Product Design Award in 1957, which was credited to Trenzinger. It seems, at least initially, that the machine was thought to have a bright future. One online account by a priest (which appears to be now-unavailable) states that he was given money by his superiors to go into town (East Berlin) and buy a typewriter in 1958. He went to a local department store, and saw what he recalled as several models of various machines, but was directed to the Combina by the counter sales representative as it combined "all of the advantages of the usual makes in one, as a new development." They also noted the use of basket shift, instead of carriage shift as in other models available there. He paid 485 Marks for the machine, but upon arriving back was asked by a colleague why he didn't just buy an Erika. He notes that the machine was susceptible to failures, and each time he took it in for repair, both he and it were met with a grumble or a groan. He eventually replaced it with an Erika, and gave the Combina away in 1990.|
|That's what we know about this attractive and apparently fairly rare machine. If the account given is to be believed, then one might also assume that attrition over the years for this model would have been high, making operable examples (as this one is) much harder to find today. We're looking further into this machine from several angles (literally and figuratively) and will post results if and when found.|