There is something so nostalgic about this vintage machine that started the popularity of dictating handwritten words through keyboard writing. The sound of that tap-tap-tapping away at the keys is a familiar sound we would hear in an office or newsroom. Now that vintage typewriters are basically retired, there are still many people who love the aesthetics and feel of a good old-fashioned typewriter. I wrote this article 9 years ago and in light of recent conversations about vintage typewriters with a few fellow writers, I decided to repost it again. Do you collect or still write with a vintage typewriter? Share your thoughts.
The Typewriter: Influencing Communications Technology
By Kym Gordon Moore
Without the invention of the typewriter would it have been possible for the computer to bask in its global popularity today? Would you be reading these words if it wasn’t for the invention of the keyboard? When you think about the ease of usage as you type compositions that appear on the screen of your computer monitor, we should never forget the celebrated invention of the typewriter.
Mastering the use of the typewriter comes with the tag team precision of eye, brain and hand coordination. During my tenure in high school, typing classes were taught as an elective. Typewriters were extremely popular at that time, due to a soaring demand in secretarial careers. Accuracy and the number of words typed per minute were primary requirements for secretarial positions.
The evolution of the typewriter dates back to around 1713. An English engineer, Henry Mill was granted the first English typewriter patent in 1714, but never got around to manufacturing it. The first American typewriter patent was granted to William A. Burt, an inventor from Detroit in 1829 who introduced the typographer. Burt’s method was designed for transcribing letters singularly and progressively, one after another on paper.
The first practical typewriter, called the “Sholes & Glidden Type Writer,” was conceived and invented by Christopher Latham Sholes, Samuel Soulé and Carlos Glidden. The Type Writer was marketed by gun manufacturers, E. Remington & Sons. The keyboard arrangement was considered notable enough to be included on Sholes’ patent, granted in 1878. The typewriter worked great for beginners, but for the professional, modifications had to be done. The problem arose when increased typing speed caused a problem with the keys sticking. Hence, this influenced the invention of the QWERTY typewriter by Christopher Latham Sholes. The letters “Q,W,E,R,T” and “Y” beginning with the first row of letters from the left on the keyboard, gave the layout its name. It was also called the “Universal” keyboard.
The transition from the development of the typewriter to the computer keyboard resulted from the introduction of the teletype machine that combined the technology of the typewriter with the mechanics of the telegraph. The first machines only typed capital letters. The home keys (where the typist’s fingers rest) are “ASDF” for the left fingers and “JKL;” for the right fingers.
It is noted that Mark Twain was the first author to submit a “typewritten” manuscript to his publisher. Clearly, through the evolution of writing machines, the typewriter made a major impact on professionals, students and anyone wanting to make a written impression in a tasteful and organized manner. It is evident that the nobility of the legendary typewriter canvasses its way throughout the evolution of writing machine history.