The Birth, Life, and Death of Typewriters

Posted by By Justin at 23 May, at 05 : 58 AM Print


The typewriter as we know it today was originally invented by a man by the name of C. Latham Sholes. The original typewriter employed a very complex mechanical design that typed upside down, which did not allow you to see what you were typing. Fortunately for all of us, the later typewriters employed a design in which the hammers fell straight down, allowing you to see exactly what you were typing. The typewriter began to take off, and Mr. Sholes’ layout, known as the QWERTY layout, began growing in popularity. His layout was designed, not for efficiency, but to make you type as slow as humanly possible. This was done to avoid creating mechanical jams in early mechanical typewriters. Unfortunately, this layout also became the international standard keyboard layout which is still in use today.

Due to the slow and inefficient design of Mr. Sholes keyboard layout, another man by the name of August Dvorak created a new keyboard layout known as the Dvorak layout. His layout was designed to be as fast, efficient, simple,, and easy to use as possible, all the while making it very easy to learn how to type.

Unfortunately, because of the market success of Mr. Sholes’ designs, Mr. Dvorak had a very very hard time getting his layout to be adopted by the rest of the world. It is because of this difficulty that the entire world is now stuck using Mr. Sholes’ backward and slow keyboard layout. To this day, there are thousands and thousands of journalists, writers, novelists, programmers, and typing enthusiasts all over the world who use Mr. Dvorak’s layout. They use his way out because it gives them tremendous increases in speed, efficiency, and ease-of-use in their typing. It also eliminates things such as repetitive stress injury and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. These injuries and syndromes are caused largely by the excessive hand strain caused by using the original Sholes keyboard layout.

Typewriters, despite all of their inefficiencies and problems, began to take off. Before you knew it, everyone was using typewriters, and they became the international standard way of inputting text for journalists, writers, and novelists all over the world. It is because of these rapid advancements in typing that modern-day journalism came to exist as we now know it. To this day, we owe Mr. Scholes and the typewriter a tremendous debt of gratitude for improving human communication, journalism, news reporting, and writing.

As time passed and the 1970s and 80s came upon us, the typewriter find itself being replaced by newer and newer inventions. Things such as the word processor and personal computer began to replace the typewriters in the offices of journalists and writers all over the world. Before you knew it, typewriters were being replaced globally and sliding off the scene nearly as fast as they had come onto the scene. Today, the last typewriter factory in the world has recently closed its doors.

Typing is not gone, however, and to this day millions of people enjoy typing, writing, and using keyboards in their daily work. There has arisen a large group of typing enthusiasts on the internet, who to this day enjoy finding keyboards that give them the most high-quality typing experience possible. Websites and forums such as geekhack.org have been built to service the needs of these typing enthusiasts. On these websites, you’ll find people with massive collections of high quality keyboards — sometimes paying as much as $100 or more for keyboards more than 20 years old. These keyboards are cherished by these hobbyists because of their very high quality keyswitch design. You see, modern-day keyboards are made with mushy, nasty keyswitches designed and built in China and other parts of Asia. These keyboards that come with most modern computers are designed, not for quality, not for lifespan, but for low cost. Because of this, they are very low-quality and afford a very bad typing experience.

To combat this, there has arisen a new niche in keyboard manufacturing to cater to people who value craftsmanship and quality in keyboard design and construction. Das Keyboard, The Happy Hacking Keyboard, the Matias Tactile Pro, and others all exist solely to serve the needs of these keyboard connoseurs.

You may also be surprised to know that there is a large group of writers and journalists who enjoy typing on old-fashioned typewriters because of their nostalgic and sentimental value. Many of these writers use typewriters built in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s because they really enjoy listening to the sound of the keys and the sound of the hammers striking their papers. They also enjoy the fact that each letter seems to have an intrinsic value to it which is not present when typing on a computer.

The next time you type, take a moment to think about all of the rich history that has gone into the production and advancement of typing The next time you type, take a moment to think about all of the rich history that has gone into the production and advancement of typing technology, and all the hard work that has been put in by men and women all over the world to get us to where we are today.

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2 Comments

  1. Nate, 3 years ago Reply

    The qwerty system is not designed to type as slow as humanly possible, it’s design primarily functions to alternate the areas in which the keys strike the paper so that jams don’t occur. Also, the qwerty system has little to do with the phenomenon of carpal tunnel syndrome which appears to be more of a mass hysteria at the dawn of the computer age than medical fact. Luddites creating panic, or so it would seem. For the celebration of the machine that brought about journalism, this article seems to need some decent fact checking before it reports such nonsense.

    • Justin, 3 years ago Reply

      The research is sound, checked, double checked and cross-referenced. The placement of the keys on QWERTY boards does indeed slow typists down by over 70%, and causes a 20-fold increase in hand movement. These are readily available statistics, well documented in numerous studies.

      Likewise, switching to a more efficient layout, such as Dvorak, is medically proven to reduce repetitive stress injuries. This is likewise well documented in readily available studies.

      I hope that helps clarify things a bit. Thanks for reading! :)


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