“Live by the typewriter, die by the typewriter!”
I’m old enough to remember DOS, but too young to have used punch cards. Growing up my mother was a keypunch operator; working in a room filled with mostly women typing on keypunch machines. The first time I visited her job, I decided what I wanted to do for a living. Type.
The typewriter led the way to the modern PC. There were no spell checks, auto corrections or built-in thesauruses. Before you began typing, you had to plan, prepare and edit your content in advance. Extreme focus was required while typing, as correcting mistakes was not as simple as hitting the backspace key (or worse; allowing the “machine” to auto-correct the error).
By the time I started my professional career, computers had infiltrated all aspects of business from word processing to managing and reporting data using spreadsheets and databases. Prior to the commercial success of the PC, many businesses relied on typewriters. The last time I saw a typewriter was as a student in a junior high school typing class. I was a teenager before I learned how to type. My nine year old has been typing since she could read.
Computers were a logical next step, allowing improved productivity by minimizing mechanical issues and increasing worker productivity. However, the typewriter is the invention that paved the way for modern business communication. While I didn’t exactly become a typist, typing plays a critical role in my productivity.
There are more peopled trained to use a typewriter than any other device on Earth. Here are a few fun facts about typewriters.
- In 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes, with assistance from Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule, patented what is considered the first useful typewriter.
- Scholes, Soule and Glidden sold the design for $12,000. The design was later licensed to gun makers Remington & Sons, whose first typewriter was produced in New York in 1873. By 1881, Remington was selling 1,200 machines a year.
- In 1872, Thomas Alva Edison built first electric typewriter. The electric typewriter, while conceived very early, did not take off until the early 1930s when electricity was more common.
- In 1946, The fastest typing speed ever recorded was achieved by a typist Stella Pajunas, at 216 words per minute.
- In 1959, IBM developed the first typewriter capable of line justification and differential spacing.
- In 1978, the Olivetti Company and the Casio Company developed the electronic typewriter capable of storing text in “memory”.
- The keyboard layout most used today is known as the QWERTY system, which was designed specifically for early Scholes typewriters.
- Typewriters are still used today, mostly in areas without electrical supplies.
“The machine has several virtues. I believe it will print faster than I can write. One may lean back in his chair & work it. It piles an awful stack of words on one page. It don’t muss [mess] things or scatter ink blots around. Of course it saves paper.” ~ Mark Twain in a letter to his brother (1875)