Saturday, June 23, 2012

Typewriter Tales

Happy Birthday Mr. Type-writer! It was 144 years ago today, on June 23, 1868 when the first patent was given to Christopher Latham Sholes, Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soule for the mechanical type-writer. It was designed to apply the relative efficiency of moveable type to the individual office worker. Although a much earlier patent was issued to William Burt of Detroit, for his "typographer" which had rotating characters, it proved to be unreliable and often took much longer to type than writing in longhand. Soon after Sholes' type-writer invention, he licensed his patent to the American gun maker, Remington & Sons in New York who were responsible for the manufacturing of many of the armaments during the Civil War. Remington later released the first commercial typewriter called the "Remington Model 1" in 1874.

The evolution of Sholes' typewriter is a remarkable history. It is credited as being one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century as it changed the world and helped to usher in the industrial revolution. When I first saw the illustration of Sholes' patented type-writer, I was immediately struck by the uncanny resemblance of another word processor; the first Apple computer which was invented by Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs and Ronald Wayne in 1976, just 108 years later. Although light years apart, they are each nearly the same size wooden box with a keyboard. Sholes' keyboard resembled a toy piano, while Apple's borrowed from the typewriter's Qwerty keyboard. Who could have predicted how these two inventions for the advancement of moveable type would transform our world? It just blows my mind.  

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