A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical machine for writing
characters similar to those produced by printer's movable type.
Typically, a typewriter has an array of keys, each of which causes a
different single character to be produced on the paper by causing an
inked ribbon to be struck against the paper by a type element similar
to the sorts used in movable type letterpress printing. Commonly a
separate type element (called a typebar) corresponds to each key, but
the mechanism may also use a single type element (such as a typeball)
with a different portion of it used for each possible character. At
the end of the nineteenth century, the term typewriter was also
applied to a person who used a typing machine.
Video on the history of typewriters and how they operate
The first commercial typewriters were introduced in 1874, but did
not become common in offices until after the mid-1880s. The
typewriter quickly became an indispensable tool for practically all
writing other than personal handwritten correspondence. It was widely
used by professional writers, in offices, and for business
correspondence in private homes.
Video showing the operation of a typewriter
Disassembled parts of an Adler Favorit mechanical typewriter
Notable typewriter manufacturers included E. Remington and Sons, IBM,
Imperial Typewriters, Oliver
Typewriter Company, Olivetti, Royal
Typewriter Company, Smith Corona, Underwood
Typewriter Company, Adler
Typewriter Company and Olympia Werke.[note 1]
1.1 Early innovations
1.1.2 Sholes and Glidden typewriter
1.1.3 Index typewriter
1.2.2 Shift key
1.2.3 Tab key
1.2.4 Character sizes
1.2.6 "Noiseless" designs
1.3 Electric designs
1.3.1 Early electric models
1.3.3 Later electric models
1.4 Typewriter/printer hybrids
1.4.1 Electronic typewriters
1.5 End of an era
2 Correction technologies
2.3 Erasable bond
2.4 Correction fluid
2.5 Dry correction
3.1 Keyboard layouts
3.1.2 Other layouts
4 Early social effects
5 Authors and writers who had notable relationships with typewriters
5.1 Early adopters
5.3 Late users
6 Typewriters in popular culture
6.1 In music
7 Forensic examination
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Peter Mitterhofer's typewriter prototype (1864)
Although many modern typewriters have one of several similar designs,
their invention was incremental, developed by numerous inventors
working independently or in competition with each other over a series
of decades. As with the automobile, telephone, and telegraph, a number
of people contributed insights and inventions that eventually resulted
in ever more commercially successful instruments. Historians have
estimated that some form of typewriter was invented 52 times as
thinkers tried to come up with a workable design.
Some of the early typing instruments:
In 1575 an Italian printmaker, Francesco Rampazetto, invented the
scrittura tattile, a machine to impress letters in papers.[citation
Henry Mill obtained a patent in Britain for a machine that,
from the patent, appears to have been similar to a typewriter. The
patent shows that this machine was actually created: "[he] hath by his
great study and paines & expence invented and brought to
perfection an artificial machine or method for impressing or
transcribing of letters, one after another, as in writing, whereby all
writing whatsoever may be engrossed in paper or parchment so neat and
exact as not to be distinguished from print; that the said machine or
method may be of great use in settlements and public records, the
impression being deeper and more lasting than any other writing, and
not to be erased or counterfeited without manifest discovery."
In 1802 Italian Agostino Fantoni developed a particular typewriter to
enable his blind sister to write.
In 1808 Italian
Pellegrino Turri invented a typewriter. He also
invented carbon paper to provide the ink for his machine.[citation
In 1823 Italian Pietro Conti di Cilavegna invented a new model of
typewriter, the tachigrafo, also known as tachitipo.
John J. Pratt's "pterotype" (1865)
In 1829, American
William Austin Burt
William Austin Burt patented a machine called the
"Typographer" which, in common with many other early machines, is
listed as the "first typewriter". The Science Museum (London)
describes it merely as "the first writing mechanism whose invention
was documented," but even that claim may be excessive, since Turri's
invention pre-dates it. Even in the hands of its inventor, this
machine was slower than handwriting. Burt and his promoter John D.
Sheldon never found a buyer for the patent, so the invention was never
commercially produced. Because the typographer used a dial, rather
than keys, to select each character, it was called an "index
typewriter" rather than a "keyboard typewriter." Index typewriters of
that era resemble the squeeze-style embosser from the 1960s more than
they resemble the modern keyboard typewriter.
By the mid-19th century, the increasing pace of business communication
had created a need for mechanization of the writing process.
Stenographers and telegraphers could take down information at rates up
to 130 words per minute, whereas a writer with a pen was limited to a
maximum of 30 words per minute (the 1853 speed record).
From 1829 to 1870, many printing or typing machines were patented by
inventors in Europe and America, but none went into commercial
American Charles Thurber developed multiple patents, of which his
first in 1843 was developed as an aid to the blind, such as the 1845
In 1855, the Italian
Giuseppe Ravizza created a prototype typewriter
called Cembalo scrivano o macchina da scrivere a tasti ("Scribe
harpsichord, or machine for writing with keys"). It was an advanced
machine that let the user see the writing as it was typed.
In 1861, Father Francisco João de Azevedo, a Brazilian priest, made
his own typewriter with basic materials and tools, such as wood and
knives. In that same year the Brazilian emperor D. Pedro II, presented
a gold medal to Father Azevedo for this invention. Many Brazilian
people as well as the Brazilian federal government recognize Fr.
Azevedo as the inventor of the typewriter, a claim that has been the
subject of some controversy.
In 1865, John Pratt, of
Centre, Alabama (US), built a machine called
the Pterotype which appeared in an 1867 Scientific American
article. and inspired other inventors.
Between 1864 and 1867 Peter Mitterhofer (de), a carpenter from
South Tyrol (then part of Austria) developed several models and a
fully functioning prototype typewriter in 1867.
1895 saw brief production of the Ford typewriter, which featured the
first typewriter with aluminum construction and forward-thrust key
Main article: Hansen
Writing Ball was the first typewriter manufactured commercially
In 1865, Rev.
Rasmus Malling-Hansen of
Denmark invented the Hansen
Writing Ball, which went into commercial production in 1870 and was
the first commercially sold typewriter. It was a success in Europe and
was reported as being used in offices in London as late as
1909. Malling-Hansen used a solenoid escapement to return the
carriage on some of his models which makes him a candidate for the
title of inventor of the first "electric" typewriter.
According to the book Hvem er skrivekuglens opfinder? (English: Who is
the inventor of the
Writing Ball?), written by Malling-Hansen's
daughter, Johanne Agerskov, in 1865, Malling-Hansen made a porcelain
model of the keyboard of his writing ball and experimented with
different placements of the letters to achieve the fastest writing
speed. Malling-Hansen placed the letters on short pistons that went
directly through the ball and down to the paper. This, together with
the placement of the letters so that the fastest writing fingers
struck the most frequently used letters, made the Hansen
the first typewriter to produce text substantially faster than a
person could write by hand.
Writing Ball was produced with only upper-case characters.
Writing Ball was used as a template for inventor Frank Haven Hall
to create a derivative that would produce letter prints cheaper and
Malling-Hansen developed his typewriter further through the 1870s and
1880s and made many improvements, but the writing head remained the
same. On the first model of the writing ball from 1870, the paper was
attached to a cylinder inside a wooden box. In 1874, the cylinder was
replaced by a carriage, moving beneath the writing head. Then, in
1875, the well-known "tall model" was patented, which was the first of
the writing balls that worked without electricity. Malling-Hansen
attended the world exhibitions in
Vienna in 1873 and Paris in 1878 and
he received the first-prize for his invention at both
Sholes and Glidden typewriter
Main article: Sholes and Glidden typewriter
Prototype of the Sholes and Glidden typewriter, the first commercially
successful typewriter, and the first with a
QWERTY keyboard (1873)
The first typewriter to be commercially successful was invented in
1868 by Americans Christopher Latham Sholes, Frank Haven Hall, Carlos
Samuel W. Soule
Samuel W. Soule in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, although Sholes
soon disowned the machine and refused to use, or even to recommend it.
It looked "like something like a cross between a piano and a kitchen
table." The working prototype was made by the machinist Matthias
Schwalbach. The patent (US 79,265) was sold for $12,000 to
Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons
(then famous as a manufacturer of sewing machines) to commercialize
the machine as the Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer.
This was the origin of the term typewriter. Remington began production
of its first typewriter on March 1, 1873, in Ilion, New York. It had a
QWERTY keyboard layout, which because of the machine's success, was
slowly adopted by other typewriter manufacturers. As with most other
early typewriters, because the typebars strike upwards, the typist
could not see the characters as they were typed.
A Mignon Model 4 index typewriter from 1924
Coming into the market in the early 1880s, the index typewriter
uses a pointer or stylus to choose a letter from an index. The pointer
is mechanically linked so that the letter chosen could then be
printed, most often by the activation of a lever.
The index typewriter was briefly popular in niche markets. Although
they were slower than keyboard type machines they were mechanically
simpler and lighter, they were therefore marketed as being
suitable for travellers, and because they could be produced more
cheaply than keyboard machines, as budget machines for users who
needed to produce small quantities of typed correspondence. The
index typewriter's niche appeal however soon disappeared, as on the
one hand new keyboard typewriters became lighter and more portable and
on the other refurbished second hand machines began to become
available. The last widely available western index machine was the
Mignon typewriter produced by
AEG which was produced until 1934.
Considered one of the very best of the index typewriters, part of the
Mignon's popularity was that it featured both interchangeable indexes
and type, allowing the use of different fonts and character
sets, something very few keyboard machines allowed and only at
considerable added cost.
Although pushed out of the market in most of the world by keyboard
machines, successful Japanese and Chinese typewriters are of the index
type albeit with a very much larger index and number of type elements.
By about 1910, the "manual" or "mechanical" typewriter had reached a
somewhat standardized design. There were minor variations from one
manufacturer to another, but most typewriters followed the concept
that each key was attached to a typebar that had the corresponding
letter molded, in reverse, into its striking head. When a key was
struck briskly and firmly, the typebar hit a ribbon (usually made of
inked fabric), making a printed mark on the paper wrapped around a
The platen was mounted on a carriage that moved left or right,
automatically advancing the typing position horizontally after each
character was typed. The paper, rolled around the typewriter's platen,
was then advanced vertically by the "carriage return" lever (at the
far left, or on the far right for left handed typewriters) into
position for each new line of text. A small bell was struck a few
characters before the right hand margin was reached to warn the
operator to complete the word and then use the side lever to shift the
paper back to the beginning of the next line.
In most of the early typewriters, the typebars struck upward against
the paper, pressed against the bottom of the platen, so the typist
could not see the text as it was typed. What was typed was not visible
until a carriage return caused it to scroll into view. The difficulty
with any other arrangement was ensuring the typebars fell back into
place reliably when the key was released. This was eventually achieved
with various ingenious mechanical designs and so-called "visible
typewriters" which used frontstriking, in which the typebars struck
forward against the front side of the platen, became standard.
One of the first was the Daugherty Visible, introduced in 1893, which
also introduced the four-bank keyboard that became standard, although
the Underwood which came out two years later was the first major
typewriter with these features. However, older "nonvisible"
models continued in production to as late as 1915.
Comparison of full-keyboard, single-shift, and double-shift
typewriters in 1911
A significant innovation was the shift key, introduced with the
Remington No. 2 in 1878. This key physically "shifted" either the
basket of typebars, in which case the typewriter is described as
"basket shift", or the paper-holding carriage, in which case the
typewriter is described as "carriage shift". Either mechanism caused a
different portion of the typebar to come in contact with the
ribbon/platen. The result is that each typebar could type two
different characters, cutting the number of keys and typebars in half
(and simplifying the internal mechanisms considerably). The obvious
use for this was to allow letter keys to type both upper and lower
case, but normally the number keys were also duplexed, allowing access
to special symbols such as percent (%) and ampersand (&).
Before the shift key, typewriters had to have a separate key and
typebar for upper-case letters; in essence, the typewriter had two
keyboards, one above the other. With the shift key, manufacturing
costs (and therefore purchase price) were greatly reduced, and typist
operation was simplified; both factors contributed greatly to mass
adoption of the technology. Certain models, such as the Barlet, had a
double shift so that each key performed three functions. These little
three-row machines were portable and could be used by journalists.
However, because the shift key required more force to push (its
mechanism was moving a much larger mass than other keys), and was
operated by the little finger (normally the weakest finger on the
hand), it was difficult to hold the shift down for more than two or
three consecutive strokes. The "shift lock" key (the precursor to the
modern caps lock) allowed the shift operation to be maintained
To facilitate typewriter use in business settings, a tab (tabulator)
key was added in the late nineteenth century. Before using the key,
the operator had to set mechanical "tab stops", pre-designated
locations to which the carriage would advance when the tab key was
pressed. This facilitated the typing of columns of numbers, freeing
the operator from the need to manually position the carriage. The
first models had one tab stop and one tab key; later ones allowed as
many stops as desired, and sometimes had multiple tab keys, each of
which moved the carriage a different number of spaces ahead of the
decimal point (the tab stop), to facilitate the typing of columns with
numbers of different length ($1.00, $10.00, $100.00, etc.)
In English-speaking countries, ordinary typewriters printing
fixed-width characters were standardized to print six horizontal lines
per vertical inch, and had either of two variants of character width,
called "pica" for ten characters per horizontal inch and "elite" for
twelve. This differed from the use of these terms in printing, where
"pica" is a linear unit (approximately 1⁄6 of an inch) used for any
measurement, the most common one being the height of a type face.
Some typewriters were designed to print extra large type (commonly
double height, double width) for labelling purposes. Classification
numbers on books in libraries could be done this way.
Some ribbons were inked in black and red stripes, each being half the
width and running the entire length of the ribbon. A lever on most
machines allowed switching between colors, which was useful for
bookkeeping entries where negative amounts were highlighted in red.
The red color was also used on some selected characters in running
text, for emphasis. When a typewriter had this facility, it could
still be fitted with a solid black ribbon; the lever was then used to
switch to fresh ribbon when the first stripe ran out of ink. Some
typewriters also had a third position which stopped the ribbon being
struck at all. This enabled the keys to hit the paper unobstructed,
and was used for cutting stencils for stencil duplicators (aka
In the early part of the 20th century, a typewriter was marketed under
the name "Noiseless" and advertised as "silent." It was developed by
Wellington Parker Kidder and the first model was marketed by the
Typewriter Company in 1917. An agreement with Remington in
1924 saw production transferred to Remington, and a further agreement
in 1929 allowed Underwood to produce it as well. Noiseless
portables sold well in the 1930s and 1940s, and noiseless standards
continued to be manufactured until the 1960s.
In a conventional typewriter the typebar reaches the end of its travel
simply by striking the ribbon and paper. A "noiseless" typewriter has
a complex lever mechanism that decelerates the typebar mechanically
before pressing it against the ribbon and paper in an attempt to
dampen the noise. It certainly reduced the high-frequency content of
the sound, rendering it more of a "clunk" than a "clack" and arguably
less intrusive, but such advertising claims as "A machine that can be
operated a few feet away from your desk — And not be heard" were not
Although electric typewriters would not achieve widespread popularity
until nearly a century later, the basic groundwork for the electric
typewriter was laid by the Universal Stock Ticker, invented by Thomas
Edison in 1870. This device remotely printed letters and numbers on a
stream of paper tape from input generated by a specially designed
typewriter at the other end of a telegraph line.
Early electric models
Some electric typewriters were patented in the 19th century, but the
first machine known to be produced in series is the Cahill of
Another electric typewriter was produced by the Blickensderfer
Manufacturing Company, of Stamford, Connecticut, in 1902. Like the
manual Blickensderfer typewriters, it used a cylindrical typewheel
rather than individual typebars. The machine was produced in several
variants but apparently it was not a commercial success, for reasons
that are unclear.
The next step in the development of the electric typewriter came in
1910, when Charles and Howard Krum filed a patent for the first
practical teletypewriter. The Krums' machine, named the Morkrum
Printing Telegraph, used a typewheel rather than individual typebars.
This machine was used for the first commercial teletypewriter system
Telegraph Company lines between
New York City
New York City in
James Fields Smathers of Kansas City invented what is considered the
first practical power-operated typewriter in 1914. In 1920, after
returning from Army service, he produced a successful model and in
1923 turned it over to the Northeast Electric Company of Rochester for
development. Northeast was interested in finding new markets for their
electric motors and developed Smathers's design so that it could be
marketed to typewriter manufacturers, and from 1925 Remington Electric
typewriters were produced powered by Northeast's motors.
After some 2,500 electric typewriters had been produced, Northeast
asked Remington for a firm contract for the next batch. However,
Remington was engaged in merger talks which would eventually result in
the creation of
Remington Rand and no executives were willing to
commit to a firm order. Northeast instead decided to enter the
typewriter business for itself, and in 1929 produced the first
In 1928, Delco, a division of General Motors, purchased Northeast
Electric, and the typewriter business was spun off as Electromatic
Typewriters, Inc. In 1933, Electromatic was acquired by IBM, which
then spent 1 million
USD on a redesign of the Electromatic Typewriter,
Typewriter Model 01 in 1935. By 1958
IBM was deriving 8% of its revenue from the sale of electric
In 1931, an electric typewriter was introduced by Varityper
Corporation. It was called the Varityper, because a narrow
cylinder-like wheel could be replaced to change the font.
Electrical typewriter designs removed the direct mechanical connection
between the keys and the element that struck the paper. Not to be
confused with later electronic typewriters, electric typewriters
contained only a single electrical component: the motor. Where the
keystroke had previously moved a typebar directly, now it engaged
mechanical linkages that directed mechanical power from the motor into
IBM announced the Electromatic Model 04 electric typewriter,
featuring the revolutionary concept of proportional spacing. By
assigning varied rather than uniform spacing to different sized
characters, the Type 4 recreated the appearance of a printed page, an
effect that was further enhanced by including the 1937 innovation of
carbon-film ribbons that produced clearer, sharper words on the
page. The proportional spacing feature became a staple of the IBM
Executive series typewriters.
IBM Selectric typewriter
IBM Selectric II (dual Latin/Hebrew typeball and keyboard)
Selectric II dual Latin/Hebrew Hadar typeball
IBM typeballs with clip, €2 coin for scale
Remington Rand electric typewriters were the leading models
IBM introduced the
IBM Selectric typewriter in 1961, which
replaced the typebars with a spherical element (or typeball) slightly
smaller than a golf ball, with reverse-image letters molded into its
surface. The Selectric used a system of latches, metal tapes, and
pulleys driven by an electric motor to rotate the ball into the
correct position and then strike it against the ribbon and platen. The
typeball moved laterally in front of the paper, instead of the
previous designs using a platen-carrying carriage moving the paper
across a stationary print position.
Due to the physical similarity, the typeball was sometimes referred to
as a "golfball". The typeball design had many advantages, especially
the elimination of "jams" (when more than one key was struck at once
and the typebars became entangled) and in the ability to change the
typeball, allowing multiple fonts to be used in a single document.
IBM Selectric became a commercial success, dominating the office
typewriter market for at least two decades.
gained an advantage by marketing more heavily to schools than did
Remington, with the idea that students who learned to type on a
Selectric would later choose
IBM typewriters over the competition in
the workplace as businesses replaced their old manual models.[citation
needed] By the 1970s,
IBM had succeeded in establishing the Selectric
as the de facto standard typewriter in mid- to high-end office
environments, replacing the raucous "clack" of older typebar machines
with the quieter sound of gyrating typeballs.
Later models of
IBM Executives and Selectrics replaced inked fabric
ribbons with "carbon film" ribbons that had a dry black or colored
powder on a clear plastic tape. These could be used only once, but
later models used a cartridge that was simple to replace. A side
effect of this technology was that the text typed on the machine could
be easily read from the used ribbon, raising issues where the machines
were used for preparing classified documents (ribbons had to be
accounted for to ensure that typists did not carry them from the
Composer output showing Roman, Bold and Italic fonts available by
changing the type ball
A variation known as "Correcting Selectrics" introduced a correction
feature, where a sticky tape in front of the carbon film ribbon could
remove the black-powdered image of a typed character, eliminating the
need for little bottles of white dab-on correction fluid and for hard
erasers that could tear the paper. These machines also introduced
selectable "pitch" so that the typewriter could be switched between
pica type (10 characters per inch) and elite type (12 per inch), even
within one document. Even so, all Selectrics were monospaced—each
character and letterspace was allotted the same width on the page,
from a capital "W" to a period. Although
IBM had produced a successful
typebar-based machine with five levels of proportional spacing, called
IBM Executive, proportional spacing was not provided with the
Selectric typewriter or its successors the Selectric II and Selectric
The only fully electromechanical Selectric
Typewriter with fully
proportional spacing and which used a Selectric type element was the
expensive Selectric Composer, which was capable of right-margin
justification and was considered a typesetting machine rather than a
In addition to its electronic successors, the Magnetic Tape Selectric
Composer (MT/SC), the Mag Card Selectric Composer, and the Electronic
IBM also made electronic typewriters with
proportional spacing using the Selectric element that were considered
typewriters or word processors instead of typesetting machines.
The first of these was the relatively obscure Mag Card Executive,
which used 88-character elements. Later, some of the same typestyles
used for it were used on the 96-character elements used on the IBM
Typewriter 50 and the later models 65 and 85.
By 1970, as offset printing began to replace letterpress printing, the
Composer would be adapted as the output unit for a typesetting system.
The system included a computer-driven input station to capture the key
strokes on magnetic tape and insert the operator's format commands,
and a Composer unit to read the tape and produce the formatted text
for photo reproduction.
reasonably fast, jam-free, and reliable
relatively quiet, and more importantly, free of major vibrations
could produce high quality lower- and upper-case output, compared to
competitors such as Teletype machines
could be activated by a short, low-force mechanical action, allowing
easier interfacing to electronic controls
did not require the movement of a heavy "type basket" to shift between
lower- and upper-case, allowing higher speed without heavy impacts
did not require the platen roller assembly to move from side to side
(a problem with continuous-feed paper used for automated printing)
IBM 2741 terminal was a popular example of a Selectric-based
computer terminal, and similar mechanisms were employed as the console
devices for many
IBM System/360 computers. These mechanisms used
"ruggedized" designs compared to those in standard office typewriters.
Later electric models
Smith-Corona Prestige Auto 12 being tapped
A recording of the sound of typing on a
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Some of IBM's advances were later adopted in less expensive machines
from competitors. For example,
Smith-Corona electric typewriters
introduced in 1973 switched to interchangeable Coronamatic
(SCM-patented) ribbon cartridges, including fabric, film, erasing,
and two-color versions. At about the same time, the advent of
photocopying meant that carbon copies and erasers were less and less
necessary; only the original need be typed, and photocopies made from
Towards the end of the commercial popularity of typewriters in the
1970s, a number of hybrid designs combining features of printers were
introduced. These often incorporated keyboards from existing models of
typewriters and printing mechanisms of dot-matrix printers. The
generation of teleprinters with impact pin-based printing engines was
not adequate for the demanding quality required for typed output, and
alternative thermal transfer technologies used in thermal label
printers had become technically feasible for typewriters.
IBM produced a series of typewriters called Thermotronic with
letter-quality output and correcting tape along with printers tagged
Quietwriter. Brother extended the life of their typewriter product
line with similar products. The development of these proprietary
printing engines provided the vendors with exclusive markets in
consumable ribbons and the ability to use standardized printing
engines with varying degrees of electronic and software sophistication
to develop product lines. Although these changes reduced prices—and
greatly increased the convenience—of typewriters, the technological
disruption posed by word processors left these improvements with only
a short-term low-end market. To extend the life of these products,
many examples were provided with communication ports to connect them
to computers as printers.
The final major development of the typewriter was the electronic
typewriter. Most of these replaced the typeball with a plastic or
metal daisy wheel mechanism (a disk with the letters molded on the
outside edge of the "petals"). The daisy wheel concept first emerged
in printers developed by
Diablo Systems in the 1970s. In 1981, Xerox
Corporation, who by then had bought Diablo Systems, introduced a line
of electronic typewriters incorporating this technology (the
Memorywriter product line). For a time, these products were quite
successful as their daisy-wheel mechanism was much simpler and cheaper
than either typebar or Selectric mechanisms, and their electronic
memory and display allowed the user to easily see errors and correct
them before they were actually printed. One problem with the plastic
daisy wheel was that they were not always durable. To solve this
problem, more durable metal daisy wheels were made available (but at a
slightly higher price).
These and similar electronic typewriters were in essence dedicated
word processors with either single-line
LCD displays or multi-line CRT
displays, built-in line editors in ROM, a spelling and grammar
checker, a few kilobytes of internal
RAM and optional cartridge,
magnetic card or diskette external memory-storage devices for storing
text and even document formats. Text could be entered a line or
paragraph at a time and edited using the display and built-in software
tools before being committed to paper.
Unlike the Selectrics and earlier models, these really were
"electronic" and relied on integrated circuits and multiple
electromechanical components. These typewriters were sometimes called
display typewriters, dedicated word processors or word-processing
typewriters, though the latter term was also frequently applied to
less sophisticated machines that featured only a tiny, sometimes just
single-row display. Sophisticated models were also called word
processors, though today that term almost always denotes a type of
software program. Manufacturers of such machines included Brother
(Brother WP1 and WP500 etc., where WP stood for word processor), Canon
Smith-Corona (PWP, i.e. Personal Word Processor line)
Electronic typewriter – the final stage in typewriter development. A
1989 Canon Typestar 110
The Brother WP1, an electronic typewriter complete with a small screen
and a floppy disk reader
End of an era
The 1970s and early 1980s were a time of transition for typewriters
and word processors. At one point in time, most small-business offices
would be completely 'old-style', while large corporations and
government departments would already be 'new-style'; other offices
would have a mixture. The pace of change was so rapid that it was
common for clerical staff to have to learn several new systems, one
after the other, in just a few years. While such rapid change is
commonplace today, and is taken for granted, this was not always so;
in fact, typewriting technology changed very little in its first 80 or
Due to falling sales,
IBM sold its typewriter division in 1991 to
Lexmark, completely exiting from a market it once dominated.
The increasing dominance of personal computers, desktop publishing,
the introduction of low-cost, truly high-quality laser and inkjet
printer technologies, and the pervasive use of web publishing, e-mail
and other electronic communication techniques have largely replaced
typewriters in the United States. Still, as of 2009[update],
typewriters continued to be used by a number of government agencies
and other institutions in the US, where they are primarily used to
fill preprinted forms. According to a
Boston typewriter repairman
quoted by The
Boston Globe, "Every maternity ward has a typewriter, as
well as funeral homes". A fairly major typewriter user is the City
of New York, which in 2008 purchased several thousand typewriters,
mostly for use by the New York Police Department, at the total cost of
$982,269. Another $99,570 was spent in 2009 for the maintenance of the
existing typewriters. New York police officers would use the machines
to type property and evidence vouchers on carbon paper forms.
A rather specialized market for typewriters exists due to the
regulations of many correctional systems in the US, where prisoners
are prohibited from having computers or telecommunication equipment,
but are allowed to own typewriters. The Swintec corporation
(headquartered in Moonachie, New Jersey), which, as of 2011, still
produced typewriters at its overseas factories (in Japan, Indonesia,
and/or Malaysia), manufactures a variety of typewriters for use in
prisons, made of clear plastic (to make it harder for prisoners to
hide prohibited items inside it). As of 2011, the company had
contracts with prisons in 43 US states.
In April 2011, Godrej and Boyce, a Mumbai-based manufacturer of
mechanical typewriters, closed its doors, leading to a flurry of
erroneous news reports that the "world's last typewriter factory" had
shut down. The reports were quickly debunked.
In November 2012, Brother's UK factory manufactured what it claimed to
be the last typewriter ever made in the UK; the typewriter was donated
to the London Science Museum.
Russian typewriters use Cyrillic, which has made the ongoing
Azerbaijani reconversion from Cyrillic to
Latin alphabet more
difficult. In 1997, the government of
Turkey offered to donate western
typewriters to the
Republic of Azerbaijan
Republic of Azerbaijan in exchange for more zealous
and exclusive promotion of the
Latin alphabet for the Azerbaijani
language; this offer, however, was declined.
In Latin America and Africa, mechanical typewriters are still common
because they can be used without electrical power. In Latin America,
the typewriters used are most often Brazilian models – Brazil
continues to produce mechanical (Facit) and electronic (Olivetti)
typewriters to the present day.
The 21st century has seen a revival of interest in typewriters among
certain subcultures, including makers, steampunks, hipsters, and
An Elliott-Fisher book typewriter on display at the Historic Archive
and Museum of Mining in Pachuca, Mexico
According to the standards taught in secretarial schools in the
mid-20th century, a business letter was supposed to have no mistakes
and no visible corrections. Accuracy was prized as
much as speed. Indeed, typing speeds, as scored in proficiency tests
and typewriting speed competitions, included a deduction of ten words
for every mistake. Corrections were, of course, necessary, and many
methods were developed.
In practice, several methods would often be combined. For example, if
six extra copies of a letter were needed, the fluid-corrected original
would be photocopied, but only for the two recipients getting "c.c."s;
the other four copies, the less-important file copies that stayed in
various departments at the office, would be cheaper, hand-erased,
less-distinct bond paper copies or even "flimsies" of different colors
(tissue papers interleaved with black carbon paper) that were all
typed as a "carbon pack" at the same time as the original.
In informal applications such as personal letters where low priority
was placed on the appearance of the document, or conversely in highly
formal applications in which it was important that any corrections be
obvious, the backspace key could be used to back up over the error and
then overstrike it with hyphens, slashes, Xs, or the like.
Triumph typewriter eraser (1960)
The traditional erasing method involved the use of a special
typewriter eraser made of hard rubber that contained an abrasive
material. Some were thin, flat disks, pink or gray, approximately 2
inches (51 mm) in diameter by ⅛ inch (3.2 mm) thick, with
a brush attached from the center, while others looked like pink
pencils, with a sharpenable eraser at the "lead" end and a stiff nylon
brush at the other end. Either way, these tools made possible erasure
of individual typed letters. Business letters were typed on
heavyweight, high-rag-content bond paper, not merely to provide a
luxurious appearance, but also to stand up to erasure.
Typewriter eraser brushes were necessary for clearing eraser crumbs
and paper dust, and using the brush properly was an important element
of typewriting skill; if erasure detritus fell into the typewriter, a
small buildup could cause the typebars to jam in their narrow
Erasing a set of carbon copies was particularly difficult, and called
for the use of a device called an eraser shield (a thin
stainless-steel rectangle about 2 by 3 inches (51 by 76 mm) with
several tiny holes in it) to prevent the pressure of erasing on the
upper copies from producing carbon smudges on the lower copies. To
correct copies, typists had to go from carbon copy to carbon copy,
trying not to get their fingers dirty as they leafed through the
carbon papers, and moving and repositioning the eraser shield and
eraser for each copy.
Paper companies produced a special form of typewriter paper called
erasable bond (for example, Eaton's Corrasable Bond). This
incorporated a thin layer of material that prevented ink from
penetrating and was relatively soft and easy to remove from the page.
An ordinary soft pencil eraser could quickly produce perfect erasures
on this kind of paper. However, the same characteristics that made the
paper erasable made the characters subject to smudging due to ordinary
friction and deliberate alteration after the fact, making it
unacceptable for business correspondence, contracts, or any archival
Main article: Correction fluid
In the 1950s and 1960s, correction fluid made its appearance, under
brand names such as Liquid Paper,
Wite-Out and Tipp-Ex; it was
invented by Bette Nesmith Graham.
Correction fluid was a kind of
opaque, white, fast-drying paint that produced a fresh white surface
onto which, when dry, a correction could be retyped. However, when
held to the light, the covered-up characters were visible, as was the
patch of dry correction fluid (which was never perfectly flat, and
frequently not a perfect match for the color, texture, and luster of
the surrounding paper). The standard trick for solving this problem
was photocopying the corrected page, but this was possible only with
high quality photocopiers.
A different fluid was available for correcting stencils. It sealed up
the stencil ready for retyping but did not attempt to color match.
Dry correction products (such as correction paper) under brand names
such as "Ko-Rec-Type" were introduced in the 1970s and functioned like
white carbon paper. A strip of the product was placed over the letters
needing correction, and the incorrect letters were retyped, causing
the black character to be overstruck with a white overcoat. Similar
material was soon incorporated in carbon-film electric typewriter
ribbons; like the traditional two-color black-and-red inked ribbon
common on manual typewriters, a black and white correcting ribbon
became commonplace on electric typewriters. But the black or white
coating could be partly rubbed off with handling, so such corrections
were generally not acceptable in legal documents.
The pinnacle of this kind of technology was the
Typewriter series. These machines, and similar products from other
manufacturers, used a separate correction ribbon and a character
memory. With a single keystroke, the typewriter was capable of
automatically backspacing and then overstriking the previous
characters with minimal marring of the paper. White cover-up ribbons
were used with fabric ink ribbons, or an alternate premium design
featured plastic lift-off correction ribbons which were used with
carbon film typing ribbons. This latter technology actually lifted the
carbon film forming a typed letter, leaving nothing more than a
flattened depression in the surface of the paper, with the advantage
that no color matching of the paper was needed.
The "QWERTY" layout of typewriter keys became a de facto standard and
continues to be used long after the reasons for its adoption
(including reduction of key/lever entanglements) have ceased to apply.
The 1874 Sholes & Glidden typewriters established the "QWERTY"
layout for the letter keys. During the period in which Sholes and his
colleagues were experimenting with this invention, other keyboard
arrangements were apparently tried, but these are poorly
QWERTY layout of keys has become the de facto
standard for English-language typewriter and computer keyboards. Other
languages written in the
Latin alphabet sometimes use variants of the
QWERTY layouts, such as the French AZERTY, the Italian
QZERTY and the
QWERTY layout is not the most efficient layout possible for the
English language, since it requires a touch-typist to move his or her
fingers between rows to type the most common letters. Although the
QWERTY keyboard was the most commonly used layout in typewriters, a
better, less strenuous keyboard was being searched for throughout the
One popular but unverified explanation for the
is that it was designed to reduce the likelihood of internal clashing
of typebars by placing commonly used combinations of letters farther
from each other inside the machine.
Another story is that the
QWERTY layout allowed early typewriter
salesmen to impress their customers by being able to easily type out
the example word "typewriter" without having learned the full keyboard
layout, because "typewriter" can be spelled purely on
the top row of the keyboard. However, there is no evidence to support
A number of radically different layouts such as Dvorak have been
proposed to reduce the perceived inefficiencies of QWERTY, but none
have been able to displace the
QWERTY layout; their proponents claim
considerable advantages, but so far none has been widely used. The
Blickensderfer typewriter with its
DHIATENSOR layout may have possibly
been the first attempt at optimizing the keyboard layout for
Many non-Latin alphabets have keyboard layouts that have nothing to do
with QWERTY. The Russian layout, for instance, puts the common
trigrams ыва, про, and ить on adjacent keys so that they can
be typed by rolling the fingers. The Greek layout, on the other hand,
is a variant of QWERTY.
Typewriters were also made for
East Asian languages with thousands of
characters, such as Chinese or Japanese. They were not easy to
operate, but professional typists used them for a long time until the
development of electronic word processors and laser printers in the
On modern keyboards, the exclamation point is the shifted character on
the 1 key, a direct result of the historical fact that these were the
last characters to become "standard" on keyboards. Holding the
spacebar pressed down usually suspended the carriage advance mechanism
(a so-called "dead key" feature), allowing one to superimpose multiple
keystrikes on a single location. The ¢ symbol (meaning cents) was
located above the number 6 on electric typewriters, while ASCII
computer keyboards have ^ instead.
This typed page uses a number of typographic conventions stemming from
the mechanical limitations of the typewriter: two hyphens in place of
an em dash, double sentence spacing, straight quotation marks, tab
indents for paragraphs, and double carriage returns between paragraphs
A number of typographical conventions originate from the widespread
use of the typewriter, based on the characteristics and limitations of
the typewriter itself. For example, the
QWERTY keyboard typewriter did
not include keys for the en dash and the em dash. To overcome this
limitation, users typically typed more than one adjacent hyphen to
approximate these symbols. This typewriter convention is still
sometimes used today, even though modern computer word processing
applications can input the correct en and em dashes for each font
Other examples of typewriter practices that are sometimes still used
in desktop publishing systems include inserting a double space at the
end of a sentence, and the use of straight quotes (or "dumb
quotes") as quotation marks and prime marks. The practice of
underlining text in place of italics and the use of all capitals to
provide emphasis are additional examples of typographical conventions
that derived from the limitations of the typewriter keyboard that
still carry on today.
Many older typewriters did not include a separate key for the numeral
1 or the exclamation point, and some even older ones also lacked the
numeral zero. Typists who trained on these machines learned the habit
of using the lowercase letter l ("ell") for the digit 1, and the
uppercase O for the zero. A cents symbol (¢) was created by combining
(over-striking) a lower case 'c' with a slash character (typing 'c',
then backspace, then '/').
Similarly, the exclamation point was created by combining an
apostrophe and a period. These characters were omitted to simplify
design and reduce manufacturing and maintenance costs; they were
chosen specifically because they were "redundant" and could be
recreated using other keys.
Some terminology from the typewriter age has survived into the
personal computer era. Examples include:
backspace (BS) – a keystroke that moved the cursor backwards one
position (on a physical platen, this is the exact opposite of the
space key), for the purpose of overtyping a character. This could be
for combining characters (e.g. an apostrophe, backspace, and period
make an exclamation point—a character missing on some early
typewriters), or for correction such as with the correcting tape that
carriage return (CR) – return to the first column of text and, in
some systems, switch to the next line.
cursor – a marker used to indicate where the next character will be
printed. The cursor, however, was originally a term to describe the
clear slider on a slide rule.
cut and paste – taking text, a numerical table, or an image and
pasting it into a document. The term originated when such compound
documents were created using manual paste up techniques for
typographic page layout. Actual brushes and paste were later replaced
by hot-wax machines equipped with cylinders that applied melted
adhesive wax to developed prints of "typeset" copy. This copy was then
cut out with knives and rulers, and slid into position on layout
sheets on slanting layout tables. After the "copy" had been correctly
positioned and squared up using a T-square and set square, it was
pressed down with a brayer, or roller. The whole point of the exercise
was to create so-called "camera-ready copy" which existed only to be
photographed and then printed, usually by offset lithography.
dead key – describes a key that when typed, does not advance the
typing position, thus allowing another character to be overstruck on
top of the original character. This was typically used to combine
diacritical marks with letters they modified (e.g. è can be generated
by first pressing ` and then e). The dead key feature was often
implemented mechanically by having the typist press and hold the space
bar while typing the characters to be superimposed.
line feed (LF), also called "newline" – moving the cursor to the
next on-screen line of text in a word processor document.
shift – a modifier key used to type capital letters and other
alternate "upper case" characters; when pressed and held down, would
shift a typewriter's mechanism to allow a different typebar impression
(such as 'D' instead of 'd') to press into the ribbon and print on a
page. The concept of a shift key or modifier key was later extended to
Ctrl, Alt, and Super ("Windows" or "Apple") keys on modern computer
keyboards. The generalized concept of a shift key reached its
apotheosis in the
MIT space-cadet keyboard.
tab (HT), shortened from "horizontal tab" or "tabulator stop" –
caused the print position to advance horizontally to the next pre-set
"tab stop." This was used for typing lists and tables with vertical
columns of numbers or words. The related term "vertical tab" (VT)
never came into widespread use.
tty, short for teletypewriter – used in
Unix-like operating systems
to designate a given "terminal".
In the above listing, the two-letter codes in parentheses are
abbreviations for the
ASCII characters derived from typewriter usage.
Early social effects
Humorous "Get out! Can't you see I'm busy" postcard (1900s)
When Remington started marketing typewriters, the company assumed the
machine would not be used for composing but for transcribing
dictation, and that the person typing would be a woman. The 1800s
Sholes and Glidden typewriter
Sholes and Glidden typewriter had floral ornamentation on the
During World War I and II, increasing numbers of women were entering
the workforce. In the United States, women often started in the
professional workplace as typists. Questions about morals made a
salacious businessman making sexual advances to a female typist into a
cliché of office life, appearing in vaudeville and movies. Being a
typist was considered the right choice for a "good girl" meaning women
who present themselves as being chaste and having good conduct.
According to the 1900 census, 94.9 percent of stenographers and
typists were unmarried women.
The "Tijuana bibles" — adult comic books produced in
Mexico for the
American market, starting in the 1930s — often featured women
typists. In one panel, a businessman in a three-piece suit, ogling his
secretary’s thigh, says, "Miss Higby, are you ready
Authors and writers who had notable relationships with
Henry James dictated to a typist.
Mark Twain claimed in his autobiography that he was the first
important writer to present a publisher with a typewritten manuscript,
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Research showed that Twain's
memory was incorrect and that the first book submitted in typed form
Life on the Mississippi
Life on the Mississippi (1883, also by Twain).
William Faulkner's Underwood Universal Portable sits in his office at
Rowan Oak, which is now maintained by the
University of Mississippi
University of Mississippi in
Oxford as a museum.
William S. Burroughs
William S. Burroughs wrote in some of his novels—and possibly
believed—that "a machine he called the 'Soft Typewriter' was writing
our lives, and our books, into existence," according to a book review
in The New Yorker. And, in the film adaptation of his novel Naked
Lunch, his typewriter is a living, insect-like entity (voiced by North
American actor Peter Boretski) and actually dictates the book to
Writer Zack Helm and director Mark Forster explored the potential
mechanics of the "Soft Typewriter" philosophy in the movie Stranger
than Fiction, in which the very act of typing up her handwritten notes
gives a fiction writer the power to kill or otherwise manipulate her
main character in real life.
Ernest Hemingway used to write his books standing up in front of a
Royal typewriter suitably placed on a tall bookshelf. This typewriter,
still on its bookshelf, is kept in Finca Vigia, Hemingway's Havana
house (now a museum) where he lived until 1960, the year before his
J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien was likewise accustomed to typing from awkward
positions: "balancing his typewriter on his attic bed, because there
was no room on his desk". In his Foreword to The Lord of the
Rings, Tolkien stated that "the whole story ... had to be typed, and
re-typed: by me; the cost of professional typing by the ten-fingered
was beyond my means."
Jack Kerouac, a fast typist at 100 words per minute, typed On the Road
on a roll of paper so he would not be interrupted by having to change
the paper. Within two weeks of starting to write On the Road, Kerouac
had one single-spaced paragraph, 120 feet long. Some scholars say the
scroll was shelf paper; others contend it was a Thermo-fax roll;
another theory is that the roll consisted of sheets of architect’s
paper taped together. His rapid work earned the famous rebuke from
Truman Capote, "That's not writing, it's typing."
Another fast typist of the
Beat Generation was Richard Brautigan, who
said that he thought out the plots of his books in detail beforehand,
then typed them out at speeds approaching 90 to 100 words a
Tom Robbins waxed philosophical about the Remington SL3, a typewriter
that he bought to write Still Life with Woodpecker. He eventually did
away with it because it is too complicated and inhuman for the writing
After completing the novel Beautiful Losers,
Leonard Cohen is said to
have flung his typewriter into the Aegean Sea.
Don Marquis purposely used the limitations of a typewriter (or more
precisely, a particular typist) in his archy and mehitabel series of
newspaper columns, which were later compiled into a series of books.
According to his literary conceit, a cockroach named "Archy" was a
reincarnated free-verse poet, who would type articles overnight by
jumping onto the keys of a manual typewriter. The writings were typed
completely in lower case, because of the cockroach's inability to
generate the heavy force needed to operate the shift key. The lone
exception is the poem "CAPITALS AT LAST" from archys life of
mehitabel, written in 1933.
Ray Bradbury used a typewriter for rent at the library to write
his work known as "Fahrenheit 451", which was published in 1953.
Andy Rooney and
William F. Buckley Jr.
William F. Buckley Jr. (1982) were among many writers
who were very reluctant to switch from typewriters to computers.
David McCullough bought a second-hand Royal typewriter in 1965 and has
used it to compose every book he has published.
Hunter S. Thompson
Hunter S. Thompson kept a typewriter in his kitchen and is believed to
have written his "Hey, Rube!" column for ESPN.com on a typewriter. He
used a typewriter until his suicide in 2005.
Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, wrote his manifesto as well as his
letters on a manual typewriter.
David Sedaris used a typewriter to write his essay collections through
Me Talk Pretty One Day at least.
Richard Polt, a philosophy professor at
Xavier University in
Cincinnati who collects typewriters, edits ETCetera, a quarterly
magazine about historic writing machines, and is the author of the
The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for the 21st
William Gibson used a Hermes 2000 model manual typewriter to write
Neuromancer and half of
Count Zero before a mechanical failure and
lack of replacement parts forced him to upgrade to an Apple IIc
Harlan Ellison has used typewriters for his entire career, and when he
was no longer able to have them repaired, learned to do it himself; he
has repeatedly stated his belief that computers are bad for writing,
maintaining, "Art is not supposed to be easier!"
Cormac McCarthy continues to write his novels on an Olivetti
Lettera 32 typewriter to the present day. In 2009, the Lettera he
obtained from a pawn shop in 1963, on which nearly all his novels and
screenplays have been written, was auctioned for charity at Christie's
for $254,500 USD; McCarthy obtained an identical replacement for
$20 to continue writing on.
Will Self explains why he uses a manual typewriter: "I think the
computer user does their thinking on the screen, and the non-computer
user is compelled, because he or she has to retype a whole text, to do
a lot more thinking in the head."
Typewriters in popular culture
Pablo Sorozábal includes in a scene of his zarzuela La
eterna canción (1945) a typewriter, accompanied by an orchestra and
vocal soloists: the scene is in a police station, where a policeman is
deposing witnesses, and is singing while he types the report.
Leroy Anderson wrote
The Typewriter (1950) for orchestra
and typewriter, and it has since been used as the theme for numerous
radio programs. The solo instrument is a real typewriter played by a
percussionist. The piece was later made famous by comedian Jerry Lewis
as part of his regular routine both on screen and stage, most notably
in the 1963 film Who's Minding the Store?.
The clacking of typewriter keys can be heard at the beginning of Dolly
Parton's song 9 to 5. Parton has said in interviews that when writing
the song, to mimic the typing keys sound, she would run her acrylic
fingernails back and forth against each other.
The song "Embassy Lament" from the 1986 Musical Chess mimics the sound
of typing in the bridge.
A typewriter provides the percussive backing for Stereo Total's
"Dactylo Rock" – the first song from their debut album (1995)
A suite of songs entitled "Green Typewriters" is on The Olivia Tremor
Dusk At Cubist Castle
Dusk At Cubist Castle (1996), and the sounds of
typewriters can be heard in a few of the sections.
Guster's 1999 song Barrel of a Gun features a typewriter as
Marian Call accompanies herself on a
typewriter on "Nerd Anthem" (c. 1998)
American musician Beck's 2005 music video for "Black Tambourine"
features typewriter characters to animate Beck's moving and playing
The title track of Heernt's 2006 album Locked in a Basement
prominently features the typewriter as a percussion instrument.
Typewriter Orchestra (BTO) has performed at numerous art
festivals, clubs, and parties since 2004. The group consists
of a half-dozen performers who use typewriters as percussive musical
instruments, under the slogan, "The revolution will be typewritten".
South Korean improviser Ryu Hankil frequently performs typewriters,
most prominently in his 2009 album"Becoming Typewriter".
Lead singer and songwriter Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam types many of the
band's lyrics on vintage typewriters.
In the film The History of the
Typewriter recited by Michael Winslow,
voice sound effect performer
Michael Winslow recreates the sounds of
32 typewriters from history.
The word "typewriter" is often cited as the longest English word that
can be typed using only one row of keys of a
QWERTY keyboard. This is
untrue, since "rupturewort" (a kind of flowering plant) has 11
letters, while "typewriter" has only 10. Taber's Cyclopedic Medical
Dictionary defines "uropyoureter" (12 letters).
A sentence which uses every letter of the alphabet (a pangram), "A
quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" can be used to check
Resident Evil video games used a typewriter as the save
feature, and used one ink ribbon per save.
The opening title sequence of
Murder She Wrote
Murder She Wrote prominently features
Jessica Fletcher touch-typing a manuscript with a 1940s Royal KMM
Manual Typewriter. Although in one episode Fletcher rejects a
character's offer to sell her a computer to replace the old Royal
(which he calls a "dinosaur"), towards the series end, she, too begins
using a computer and word-processing typewriter.
Rome the Altare della Patria, National Monument to King Victor
Emmanuel II, used to be nicknamed "the typewriter" (la macchina per
scrivere in Italian) because of its strange shape and popular dislike
The 2012 French comedy movie Populaire, starring Romain Duris and
Déborah François, centers around a young secretary in the 1950s
striving to win typewriting speed competitions.
2012 AU Education Research claimed that proper typing position and
distance to the screen are the main factors of typing faster.[citation
Typewritten documents may be examined by forensic document examiners.
This is done primarily to determine 1) the make and/or model of the
typewriter used to produce a document, or 2) whether or not a
particular suspect typewriter might have been used to produce a
document. In some situations, an ink or correction ribbon may also
The determination of a make and/or model of typewriter is a
'classification' problem and several systems have been developed for
this purpose. These include the original Haas
(Pica version) and (Non-Pica version) and the TYPE system
developed by Dr. Philip Bouffard, the Royal Canadian Mounted
Typewriter classification system, and the
Typewriter classification system, among others.
Because of the tolerances of the mechanical parts, slight variation in
the alignment of the letters and their uneven wear, each typewriter
has an individual "signature" or "fingerprint", which may permit a
typewritten document to be traced back to the typewriter on which it
was produced. For devices utilizing replaceable components, such as a
typeball element, any association may be restricted to a specific
element, rather than to the typewriter as a whole.
The earliest reference in fictional literature to the potential
identification of a typewriter as having produced a document was by
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote "A Case of Identity" in 1891. In
non-fiction, the first document examiner to describe how a
typewriter might be identified was William E. Hagan who wrote, in
1894, "All typewriter machines, even when using the same kind of type,
become more or less peculiar by use as to the work done by them".
Other early discussions of the topic were provided by A. S. Osborn in
his 1908 treatise, Typewriting as Evidence, and again in his 1929
textbook, Questioned Documents. A modern description of the
examination procedure is laid out in ASTM Standard E2494-08 (Standard
Guide for Examination of Typewritten Items).
Typewriter examination was used in the
Leopold and Loeb
Leopold and Loeb and Alger Hiss
cases. In the Eastern Bloc, typewriters (together with printing
presses, copy machines, and later computer printers) were a controlled
technology, with secret police in charge of maintaining files of the
typewriters and their owners. In the Soviet Union, the First
Department of each organization sent data on organization's
typewriters to the KGB. This posed a significant risk for dissidents
and samizdat authors. In Romania, according to State Council Decree
No. 98 of March 28, 1983, owning a typewriter, both by businesses or
by private persons, was subject to an approval given by the local
police authorities. People previously convicted of any crime or
those who because of their behaviour were considered to be "a danger
to public order or to the security of the state" were refused
approval. In addition, once a year, typewriter owners had to take
the typewriter to the local police station, where they would be asked
to type down a sample of all the typewriter's characters. It was
also forbidden to borrow, lend, or repair typewriters other than at
the places that had been authorized by the police.
The ribbon can be read vertically, although only if it has not been
typed over more than once. This can be very hard to do as it does not
include spaces, but can be done, giving every typewriter a "memory".
Peter Mitterhofer 1864 typewriter
Writing Ball, invented in 1865 (1870 model)
1868 patent drawing for the Sholes, Glidden, and Soule typewriter
Hammond 1B typewriter, invented 1870s, manufactured 1881
Hammond 1B, as used by a newspaper office in
Saskatoon around 1910
Typebars in a 1920s typewriter
Chinese typewriter produced by Shuangge, with 2,450 characters
Japanese typewriter SH-280, a small machine with 2,268 characters
Hermes 3000 typewriter
1920s Underwood typewriter with Swedish layout
Chinese typewriter at Deutsches Technikmuseum
Teletype Model 33
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^ Mares, G. C. (1909). The History of the Typewriter. London.
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^ Larson, Erik (2004). The Devil in the White City: A Saga of Magic
and Murder at the Fair that Changed America. Knopf Doubleday
Publishing Group. p. 291. ISBN 978-1-4000-7631-4.
^ Hendrickson, Walter B. (1956). "The Three Lives of Frank H. Hall"
(PDF). Journal of Illinois State Historical Society. University of
Illinois Press. 49 (3). Archived from the original (PDF) on
^ Anonymous (24 April 2011). "Hall Braille Writer". American Printing
House for the Blind, Inc. Archived from the original on 27 April 2012.
Retrieved 29 February 2012.
^ Otto Burghagen (1898). Die Schreibmaschine. Illustrierte
Beschreibung aller gangbaren Schreibmaschinen nebst gründlicher
Anleitung zum Arbeiten auf sämtlichen Systemen.
^ Dieter Eberwein,. Nietzsches Schreibkugel. Ein Blick auf Nietzsches
Schreibmaschinenzeit durch die Restauration der Schreibkugel.
Eberwein-Typoskriptverlag. Schauenburg 2005.
^ Johanne Agerskov (1925). Hvem er Skrivekuglens Opfinder?.
^ Jocher, Katharine. "
The Typewriter and the Men Who Made It (Book
Review)." Social Forces. 33.1 (1954): 197–198. HeinOnline. Web. 12
^ The History of the
Typewriter - Smart Beard
^ Schwalbach Tower Clocks, Vintagecatalogs.com
^ Wisconsin Historical Commission, Waymarking.com
^ a b c d e "Antique Index Typewriters". Early Office Museum.
Retrieved 13 March 2017.
^ a b c "The Mignon 2". The Virtual
Typewriter Museum. Retrieved 13
^ "The Remington Type-
Writing Machine" (PDF). Nature. 14 (14.342):
43–44. 1876. Bibcode:1876Natur..14...43.. doi:10.1038/014043a0.
(Subscription required (help)).
^ Robert, Paul. "Daugherty". Collection. The Virtual Typewriter
Museum. Retrieved July 5, 2012. External link in publisher=
^ Seaver, Alan (2011). "Daugherty Visible". Machines of Loving Grace
website. Alan Seaver. Archived from the original on May 11, 2013.
Retrieved July 5, 2012. External link in work= (help)
^ "How to prepare a mimeograph stencil by using a typewriter".
LinguaLinks Library. SIL International. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
^ a b OOcities.com Reproduction of advertisement for Noiseless
typewriters, with list of models and diagram of typebar mechanism
^ a b c d Newyorker.com Acocella, Joan, "The
Typing Life: How writers
used to write", The New Yorker, April 9, 2007, a review of The Iron
Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting (Cornell) 2007, by Darren
^ "Bert Kerschbaumer, "The Cahill Electrical Typewriters," ETCetera
No. 100 (December 2012)" (PDF).
^ "P. Robert Aubert, "The Last Service Call," ETCetera No. 33(December
^ "U.S. Patent 1,286,351 filed in May, 1910, and issued in December,
1918". Retrieved 2011-09-16.
^ Colin Hempstead, William E. Worthington (2005). Encyclopedia of 20th
Century Technology. Routledge. p. 605.
Typewriter Model 01". 03.ibm.com. Retrieved
^ "Changing the Type of
Typewriter Made Easy". Popular Mechanics.
Hearst Magazines: 83. July 1931.
^ Ellen, David (2005). Scientific Examination of Documents. CRC Press.
pp. 106–107. ISBN 0-8493-3925-1.
^ Wershler-Henry, Darren (2005). The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History
of Typewriting. Ithica and London: Cornell University Press.
p. 254. ISBN 978-0-8014-4586-6.
^ US patent 4620808, "Display typewriter", issued 1986-11-04
^ "Smith-Corona". Mindmachine.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-09-12.
^ Keene, Cindy Atoji (2009-02-01). "Typewriters ring on in the
^ Typewrite & Wrong: NYPD 'Wastes' $1M on Relics, By Jeremy
Olshan, New York Post, July 13, 2009
^ "The death of the typewriter? Don't write it off yet". Radio
Netherlands Worldwide. 2011-04-27. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
^ "Texas inmates have clear choice in typewriters".
Fixed-mobile-convergence.tmcnet.com. 2011-06-15. Retrieved
^ CBC News (April 26, 2011). "World's last typewriter plant stops
production". Retrieved April 27, 2011. A previous version of this
story did not clearly state that Godrej & Boyce appears to be the
world's last maker of mechanical typewriters, which operate solely on
human power. Numerous other manufacturers continue to make several
types of electric typewriters.
^ "Wite Out? World's 'last typewriter factory' apparently isn't".
Content.usatoday.com. 2011-04-26. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
^ Romenesko, Jim (2011-04-26). "Reports of typewriter's death are
premature". Poynter.org. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
^ Memmott, Mark (2011-04-26). "Has The Last
Typewriter Factory Closed?
Not Really". Npr.org. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
^ Rohrlich, Justin (2011-04-25). "Contrary to Reports, Typewriter
Industry "Far From Dead"".
^ "UK's 'last typewriter' produced". BBC. 2012-11-20. Retrieved
^ "Ainda se fabricam máquinas de escrever? (''Are typewriters still
manufactured?'')". Mundoestranho.abril.com.br. Retrieved
^ Richard Polt,
The Typewriter Revolution: A Typist's Companion for
the 21st Century (Woodstock, VT: Countryman Press, 2015)
^ "How to correct a mimeograph stencil". LinguaLinks Library. SIL
International. Retrieved 2011-05-10.
^ Liebowitz, S. J.; Stephen E. Margolis (1990). "The Fable of the
Keys". Journal of Law & Economics. The University of Chicago.
XXXIII (April 1990): 1. doi:10.1086/467198. Retrieved 2008-06-18. This
article examines the history, economics, and ergonomics of the
typewriter keyboard. We show that David's version of the history of
the market's rejection of Dvorak does not report the true history, and
we present evidence that the continued use of Qwerty is efficient
given the current understanding of keyboard design.
^ Kroemer, Karl H.E (2014), "Keyboards and keying an annotated
bibliography of the literature from 1878 to 1999", Universal Access in
the Information Society, 1 (2): 99–160,
^ Fact of Fiction? The Legend of the
QWERTY Keyboard Arts &
^ David, P.A. (1986): Understanding the Economics of QWERTY: the
Necessity of History. In: Parker, William N.: Economic History and the
Modern Economist. Basil Blackwell, New York and Oxford.
^ "Consider QWERTY". Archived from the original on May 15, 2008.
Retrieved 2008-06-18. QWERTY's effect, by reducing those annoying
clashes, was to speed up typing rather than slow it down.
^ "Instructions for Using the Blickensderfer Typewriter". Retrieved
^ Upper and Lower Case Magazine. "U&lc Online Issue 41.1.1: Top
Ten Type Crimes". Retrieved 23 March 2010.
^ Williams, Robin (2003). The Mac is not a typewriter: A style manual
for creating professional-level type on your Macintosh (2nd ed.).
Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press. ISBN 0-201-78263-4.
^ Felici, James (2003). The Complete Manual of Typography: A Guide to
Setting Perfect Type. Berkeley, CA: Peachpit Press. p. 80.
^ Rosendorf, Theodore (2009). The Typographic Desk Reference (1st
ed.). New Castle, Delaware. ISBN 978-1-58456-231-3. ; Upper
and Lower Case Magazine. "U&lc Online Issue 41.1.1: Top Ten Type
Crimes". Retrieved 23 March 2010. ; Strizver, Ilene (2010). Type
Rules: The Designer's Guide to Professional Typography (3rd ed.). New
Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. p. 199.
ISBN 978-0-470-54251-4. . Strizver states that "When
available, true primes should be used for measurements, but typewriter
quotes (not smart quotes) have become the accepted practice in digital
^ Regents of the University of Minnesota (18 July 2007). "University
of Minnesota Style Manual". University of Minnesota. Regents of the
University of Minnesota. Archived from the original on January 17,
2009. Retrieved 12 May 2010. This topic is discussed under
"Creating Professional-looking Text."; Williams 2003. pps. 31, 33.
Another example of the limitation of the typewriter in regard to
underlining, was the necessity to underline the titles of books and
stand-alone works in Bibliographies—works that would otherwise have
been italicized, if that capability existed on the typewriter.
^ Truss, Lynn (2004). Eats, Shoot & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance
Approach to Punctuation. New York: Gotham Books. p. 135.
^ "1876 Sholes, Gidden, Soule invention". Retrieved 29 December
^ Boyer, Kate, and Kim England. "Gender, Work and Technology in the
Information Workplace: From Typewriters to ATMs." Social &
Cultural Geography 9.3 (2008): 241–56. Web.
^ Waller, Robert A. "WOMEN AND THE TYPEWRITER DURING THE FIRST FIFTY
YEARS, 1873–1923". Studies in Popular Culture 9.1 (1986): 39–50.
^ "The First Typewriter". Rehr, Darryl. Archived from the original on
2009-02-01. Retrieved 2009-02-16.
^ Carpenter, Humphrey (1978). J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, Unwin
Paperbacks p.207. ISBN 0 04 928039 2
^ Foster, Edward H., Richard Brautigan, Twayne 1983.
^ A Bruin Birthday Tribute To
Ray Bradbury Tweet (August 22, 2010).
Ray Bradbury Turns 90; The Universe and UCLA Academy
Celebrate". Spotlight.ucla.edu. Retrieved September 30, 2011.
^ "Blog archive".
Harlan Ellison Webderland: Interview". Harlanellison.com. Retrieved
^ Kennedy, Randy (2009-12-04). "Cormac McCarthy's
$254,500 at Auction - ArtsBeat Blog - NYTimes.com".
Artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2010-01-11.
^ Patricia Cohen (November 30, 2009). "No Country for Old Typewriters:
A Well-Used One Heads to Auction". New York Times.
^ "Why typewriters beat computers". BBC News. 2008-05-30.
^ Hurley, Sean. "
Boston Orchestra Makes Typewriters Sing". NPR Music.
National Public Radio. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
Typewriter Orchestra". The
Wordpress. Retrieved 2012-03-16.
^ "Becoming Typewriter : Ryu Hankil : Free Download &
Streaming : Internet Archive". Archive.org. 2001-03-10. Retrieved
^ "Populaire Bande Annonce Officielle". YouTube. Retrieved
^ a b c Kelly, Mary W. (2006). "Typewriters". Scientific Examination
of Questioned Documents, Second Edition (Forensic and Police Science
Series) (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. pp. 177–189.
^ Haas, Josef. (1972), "ATLAS der Schreibmaschinenschrift, PICA".
^ Haas, Josef and Bernhard Haas. (1985), "ATLAS der
^ Bouffard, P.D. (1992), A PC-Based
Classification System Standard, presented at the American Academy of
Forensic Sciences meeting, New Orleans, LA.
^ Hodgins, Cpl. J.H. (January 1963). "A Punchcard System for
Identification of Typescript". Journal of Forensic Science. 8 (1):
Interpol (1969) "System for Identification of
Typewriter Makes Using
the Card Index", ICPO-Interpol
^ a b Crown, David A. (March 1967). "Landmarks in Typewriting
Identification". Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology and Police
Sciences. 58 (1): 105–111. JSTOR 1141378. The earliest known
reference to the identification potential of typewriting, curiously
enough, appears in 'A Case of Identity', a Sherlock Holmes story by
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle...
^ Hagan, William E. (1894). "Chapter VIII". Disputed Handwriting.
Albany, NY: Banks & Brothers. p. 203
^ Osborn, Albert S. (1908). "Typewriting as Evidence". Rochester, NY:
The Genesee Press: 23
^ Osborn, Albert S. (1973) . "Questioned Typewriting".
Questioned Documents (2nd ed.). Montclair, NJ: Patterson Smith.
p. 1042. ISBN 0-87585-207-6
^ ASTM International, These guides are under the jurisdiction of ASTM
Committee E30 on Forensic Sciences and the direct responsibility of
Subcommittee E30.02 on Questioned Documents. Copies of ASTM Standards
can be obtained directly from ASTM International.
^ a b c d Betea, Lavinia (February 13, 2009). "La Miliţie cu maşina
de scris" (in Romanian). jurnalul.ro. Retrieved August 24, 2014.
US79265 – Improvement in Type-
Writing Machines (the patent that laid
the basis for the Sholes & Glidden Type Writer)
US349026 – typewriter ribbon, by George K. Anderson of Memphis,
Adler, M.H. (1973). The
Writing Machine: A History of the Typewriter.
Allen and Unwin.
Beeching, Wilfred A. (1974). Century of the Typewriter. St. Martin's
Press. pp. 276 Beeching was the Director of the British
Look up typewriter in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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