|TypeTest: Harris Visible No. 4|
|The machine used for this test is from the David B. Davis collection, and is a conventional Harris Visible No. 4 which is in excellent, and fully operational condition and which has serial number 22925.
The Harris is one of the most unconventional machines scheduled for testing in this website series of real-world tests done on machines in prime condition. It is different from the others in the respects of being a three-bank double-shift keyboard machine, and in having a right-hand carriage return lever. These two factors necessitated a slightly different set of testing criteria, as neither myself nor my father are familiar enough with the three-bank layout to achieve anything like the speed possible on a conventional four-bank machine. Practice was performed for a period prior to attempting tests relating to touch, to speed capability, to facility of controls and appurtenances, and finally to direct copy of printed matter as an exercise.
|The paper handling of the Harris is potentially troublesome for those not used to machines without paper bail, but the paper seemed to feed fairly easily -- although it was difficult to keep straight. This machine does have worn feed rollers, though, and this is to be expected. The keyboard layout is conventional in letter arrangement but is awkward in that there is no real place for the little finger of the right hand. Keytops and keytop spacing are acceptable.
The machine operated flawlessly when only "two finger" typing was used. It did not skip or jam at the maximum speed I was able to type using this method. Touch typing with ten fingers revealed the fact that the touch or key resistance was somewhat heavy when compared with many other machines but responded well to crisp blows. Our impression was that the machine could be operated at a fairly fast speed, but only with hard blows on the keys in staccato style.
The shifting arrangement does lead to complication if the typist forgets to lock out the shift lock feature on the right-side shift keys. This is done by depressing the release key and locking it down with a small latch. Failure to do this will result in shift lock each time the right-side shift keys are used. Once this feature is locked out, operation is conventional. The right-hand carriage return, with its vertical lever, is not the most convenient style, but we did note that the only fair speed achievable on the machine in actual typing does not make one inclined to attempt to throw the carriage when returning.
Our impression was that the machine was capable of quite decent work. Rebuilding by Your Typewriter & Computer (of North Olmsted, Ohio) put the machine in top alignment and lubrication conditions, and the text produced was both clear in all respects and well aligned. The machine would have been worth its original price when new, which was only from one-third to just more than one-half that of conventional four-bank single-shift machines. Its three-bank keyboard and omission of some features found on larger more expensive machines seems to indicate that it would have been a good choice as an "auxiliary" office machine in larger offices, in this vein somewhat like the (unrelated) Molle No. 3 or Orga Privat, but better than both of these in sturdiness and typing feel. We were quite pleased to find the machine to be as workable as it was; my extensive research on the Harris line led me to perform quite serious testing in order to avoid prejudice on my part. Overall, the machine receives an ACCEPTABLE grade.