Being a transcriptionist and offering professional transcription services means that you are typing a lot. And fast. And with Gary Oldman receiving his Best Actor’s Oscar for “Darkest Hour” I was reminded of just how much Lily James was typing away in that movie. On one of those old, mechanical typewriters. With ten fingers. And very fast. Oh, that lovely sound. The lovely ring to it, the rhythm.
And just how far have we come since? Now we switch on our computers, we open the Word Processor and voila, there we are. We can not only type, we can correct our mistakes easily and in fact, our computer does a lot of the correction for us automatically. We can edit and store thousands of documents there. We can change fonts and colours. We can change the size of things and even design whole posters and print them out conveniently. At home. How is that?
But, oh what happened to that lovely typewriter? That mechanical wonder? The first versions of typewriter-like machines were invented as early as 1575 in Italy and later in 1714 in Britain. In the mid-19th century stenographers and telegraphers could take down as much as 130 words per minute, while normal handwriting could only take up to 30 words per minute. The first actual typewriter invented was the “Sholes and Glidden Typewriter” in America in 1868. This already had a QWERTY key layout, which is designed as the best layout in relation to how often each key is used and to avoid the clash of letters on mechanical typewriters. Did you know that keyboard layouts slightly differ for some languages? The â€˜SHIFT’ key was already invented in 1878, to enable changing to a different set of keys and allowing a wider range of characters to be used, as well as symbols. First commercial typewriters were introduced in 1874, but did not become common in offices until after the mid-1880s.*
In the mid-century typewriters had their glory days and eventually evolved into electric ones. But soon the dawn of the computer age brought the end of the typewriter. Well, mostly. These days you can hardly see any typewriters around, but an interesting fact is that some US government agencies still use typewriters to fill in pre-printed forms, while the New York City Police Department purchased several thousand new ones as late as 2008, for its officers to type on. There is also still a market in the US for selling typewriters to prisons, where prisoners are not allowed computers but are allowed their own typewriters. They are transparent, so prisoners can’t easily hide things in them. These typewriters are manufactured overseas in Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia. Mechanical typewriters are still in use in Latin America and Africa, where electricity supply can be a problem.*
So next time you are typing a text message to your loved one on your phone, or that office document on your computer, spare a little thought for the beauty that was the typewriter. The sound it made and the warm, cosy feeling it gave. Ah, cuppa anyone?
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For more information about the typewriter, visit this useful website.