When you think of typing, you probably think of typing on a computer, right? But that's not the way it's always been. Before the computer was invented, people used a machine called the typewriter for writing.
Have you ever wondered why the keyboard doesn't just go in alphabetical order (A, B, C, and so on) or at least in an order that makes sense?
The first typewriters did have keyboards that were in alphabetical order
which made it easy to remember where the keys were. But this caused problems. Typewriters have letters that are on the end
of metal keys. When you typed the letter, the metal key would rise up and press down on an ink ribbon that would then touch the paper. When you typed too fast, the metal keys often jammed and got stuck together.
To fix this problem Christopher Sholes put together a list of the most
letters used in English. Then he rearranged the keyboard to put the most common pairs of letters far apart on the keyboard, so
that the keys wouldn't get stuck when you typed the letters next to
each other on the keyboard. This is called the QWERTY layout
of typewriter keys.
A lot of the early typewriters didn't work very well and were very hard to use. Some of them looked like pincushions with the keyboard in a circle in the middle. More than 50 inventors around the world tried to make prototype models of typewriters.
In 1808, Pellegrino Turri built the first typewriter that was proven to work.
It was for a friend of his who was blind. He thought it would be easier for her to communicate
using a typewriter than trying to write when she couldn't see.
However, it was in 1876 when the first really usable typewriter was invented. Christopher
Sholes, Carlos Gidden, and Samual W. Soule (all from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA) patented their first typewriter. For the most part, this typewriter looked a lot like a typewriter that you may see today. It was painted black and had gold flowers on it. Some people thought that it looked
like a cross between a small piano and a kitchen table. Others thought it looked like a sewing machine. The sewing machine idea
made sense, because the person who helped design it worked for the Remington
Sewing Machine Company. A great thing about this new typewriter was that it was the first to have a shift key, meaning that you could have both lower case and upper case letters when typing. Before this you could only type in all capital letters.
Unlike the telephone or the car, the typewriter didn't cause much excitement when it first came out. At first typewriters were only sold in the USA, and then only to businesses. One reason for the lack of sales was
that some employers thought that typing a letter to a customer might be considered
rude. They felt it wouldn't have the "personal" touch of a handwritten letter. In the first five years that the typewriter was being sold for home use, only 5,000 sold, with a price of $125.00 each. This was a lot of money in those days.
When people first started typing, they used the "hunt and peck" method, or two finger typing. In the year 1878, a man named Frank E. McGurrin taught himself how to type without looking at the keyboard. He did this by using all ten of his fingers. Frank entered a famous typing speed contest and won the title of World's Fastest Typist. After that, everyone started using his ten finger typing method and that's still the way typing is taught today.
Over the years, there have been many different kinds of typewriters. Although typewriters were useful
in the not too distant past, we usually don't use them today. Now, many people type on computers.
"A Brief History of Typewriters." The Classic Typewriter Page. December 2004
"Early Typewriter History."
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. December 2004
"Typewriter History at a Glance." myTypewriter.com. December 2004
Photographs of typewriter and
typist have been released into the public domain under
the terms of the GNU
Free Documentation License from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia.
Copyrighted clip art images from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1>
(October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art available only to licensed users for
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