There’s a sound we all know, even if we don’t quite recall it. It’s the mechanical clatter of a typewriter in action. It is reminiscent in the soulless tapping of keys on modern keyboards and recalled in the sounds of the elite of the keyboard world, the mechanical keyboard. But none of them quite reach the splendor and grandeur of a typewriter in action. Typewriter Day celebrates this humble device and the amazing pieces of literature it’s brought to us over the decades.
- Typewriters were originally conceived of in 1575 by an Italian printmaker, though it never saw production (and to be fair it wasn’t QUITE a typewriter, but the vestiges were there).
- In 1714 we have patents in Britain from a Mr. Henry Mill that seems to be a typewriter from the design and was explicitly described as being intended for that purpose. It appears that at some point the device was actually made, though it never went into production and no examples of it exist today.
- Another example was designed in 1802 by Agostino Fantoni to help his blind sister write, while Pietro Conti di Vilavegna invented yet another.
- Other early typewriters include inventions by Pelligino Turri, an Italian, in 1808 who also invented carbon paper.
- William Austin Burt, an American who is most commonly credited for the invention of the typewriter, in 1829.
- But it wasn’t until 1895 that a model went into actual production with the Ford Typewriter. From there the world has never looked back, and typewriters started finding their way into private homes and places of business alike.
- Thomas Edison invented the first electric style typewriter in 1870, which used an electrical input to type remotely, however the technology was not widely used until decades later.
- The typically used English QWERTY keyboard layout on typewriters, known as the ‘Sholes’ or ‘Universal’ keyboard, were originally arranged by Sholes & Glidden typewriters in 1874, and are said to be laid out so that the most commonly used keys were separated to decrease the likelihood of jamming from fast typing.
- Most typewriters were replaced by word processors and computers by the late 1980s, although they are still in use in developing countries, as well as in prisons due to the ban of computers.
- Fast typists can type around 100 words a minute on a manual typewriter, although records have been set for more than 150 words a minute.
- The word ‘typewriter’ is generally considered the longest English word (10 letters), that only uses one row of the QWERTY keyboard layout, although a flower, ‘rupturewort’ can beat that record (11 letters).
- The longest word that could be typed on a typewriter with only the left hand is stewardesses.
- Skepticism is the longest typed word on the typewriter in which you alternate hands every letter.
- It Wasn’t Always QWERTY…Because the original arrangement led to jams, a competing inventor, James Densmore, tried placing the keys in locations that were less likely to jam the machine, ultimately ending up with the key arrangement universal among devices today; QWERTY.
- Women weren’t a part of much of the workforce at the time that typewriters were invented. As the turn of the century rolled around, the typewriter wasn’t used to compose so much as transcribe information. So, the role of a typewriter — one who uses a typewriter to transcribe — was to listen to those who wanted information typed and put it down. This role was designated to women. While the reasons for the position being designated to women were sexist, and genuine social change didn’t come about quickly, the role provided a foot in the doorway for modern feminism.
- Roughly 80 percent of early typewriters were women, and it provided a normalized way to break into the working world.
- Mark Twain Wrote the First Typewritten Novel. Some people claim that Tom Sawyer was the first novel written on a typewriter, but Mark Twain swore off of using the machines half-way through writing Tom Sawyer. In reality, Twain had Life on the Mississippi transcribed to a typewriter. It is said to be the first ever book that was submitted to a publisher after being typed on a typewriter.