the ROOY portable
by Will Davis; original materials and information by courtesy of Francois Babillot and ANCMEC
At about the time of the end of the Second World War, an inventor from France by the name of Joseph Borel took out patents both in France and the United States for designs to be used in the production of a portable typewriter, deliberately engineered to be the smallest and lightest machine of its kind on the market.  The machine went into production in France in 1950, and was produced for about a decade; the survivors are among the most coveted portable typewriters.  Here is a brief look at these fascinating machines, in words and pictures.
Above, a late version of the ROOY PORTABLE
There are four known name variants of this machine.  The first and oldest mark is ROOY; later, the machines are labeled as MJ ROOY and also as ROXY.  The last may have been a name for export.  Seen at left is a machine with the name MASCOTTE.  This was applied for a French wholesale company by special request.  This picture is courtesy Francois Babillot.
Although the ROOY PORTABLE and its variants are highly sought and fondly remembered, the company that manufactured it cannot be considered among the success stories in the typewriter world.  Messrs. Rooy operated a factory in Tours, France, from 1943 to 1959, when production ended; the company, already in bankruptcy, was liquidated in 1963.  Little remembered today are the other ROOY machines, manufactured under license in an attempt to keep black ink in the books.  At left is a ROOY 40, which was an UNDERWOOD portable design. 
Reference & Archive Index
Thanks to Francois Babillot for the scans of original ROOY corporate materials and ROOY typewriter manuals.
to see more of the ROOY PORTABLE
J. L. A. Borel is one of those inventors who made a brief foray into typewriters, with no previous and no following record.  In his patent material, Borel states clearly that the arrangment of typewriter-in-case previously manufactured was clumsy and cumbersome, and thoroughly inconvenient.  His opinion of the next generation of portable typewriter enclosure, the snap-over lid (at this time being applied to the Hermes Baby and Corona Zephyr machines) was not much better; what do you do with the lid while you're typing?  Borel strove to keep the entire machine and its enclosure as one inseparable entity. 

As with most ideas of this kind, ideological purity led to manufacturing and design complexity, which naturally led to customer expense in excess of the actual benefit of convenience bestowed by the unusual design.  The machines were patented in the middle 1940's, but it was not until 1950 that Messrs. Rooy, of France (who were already acting as an Underwood licensee) decided to risk production of this design.
As we'll see on the second page, the production machine was not Borel's original case concept, although mechanically the machine was the same.  The lid and machine are attached via pins on the machine and slots in the case.  Of course, when enclosed, the machine is tiny.
The actual type-bar mechanism was patented by Borel, as was the distinctive shape of the outer type bars.  This was necessary to avoid having an angle to the semi-circular type basket, which would raise the type slugs, when at rest, above the level of the ribbon spools.
Although the machine is perfectly well protected when enclosed, there's no reason why it could not be slipped into something else; Borel mentioned that the machine should be placed in a desk drawer when not in use, and here we see the machine slipped into an attache case.  My ROOY portable is actually stored in what it arrived inside of, which is a cushioned mailing envelope.
The ROOY very clearly failed to make a significant impact in the market.  We know this several ways.  First, Mr. Babillot has told us that these are considered rare and desirable, even in France.  Next, we know from the same source that when production of the machine ceased, the tooling for building them, and the rights, were never sold.  Finally, Mike Brown sent a serial number listing for these machines, which is reproduced below.  Note that the average production is only about six or seven thousand machines per year, with about 9,000 peak.
10,000     1950
11,900     1951
20,000     1952
26,650     1953
31,550     1954
41,200     1955
47,400     1956
53,400     1957
59,500     1958
65,000     1959
70,500     1960
76,000     1961
Luckily for Rooy, the introduction of the Rooy Portable also roughly coincided with the beginning of the "seller's market" for portable typewriters, and this buoyed sales for a few years.  Production managed to remain relatively steady, later on, but by the end of this period, there was so much competition from small, conventional travelling typewriters that the complex ROOY portable could not have survived.
ROOY serial # 16758, mfd. 1951.  Will Davis Collection.
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