Tuesday, June 23, 2009

One Hundred and Forty-One Years of the Typewriter

[I especially like the shout-out to linotype.] June 23, 1868: Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap, Tap … Ding! | This Day In Tech | Wired.com:

Christopher Latham Sholes’ machine was not the first typewriter. It wasn’t even the first typewriter to receive a patent. But it was the first typewriter to have actual practical value for the individual, so it became the first machine to be mass-produced.

With the help of two partners, Sholes, a printer-publisher from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, perfected his typewriter in 1867. After receiving his patent, Sholes licensed it to Remington & Sons, the famous gunmaker. The first commercial typewriter, the Remington Model 1, hit the shelves in 1873.

The idea was based on the principle of Gutenberg’s movable-type printing press, arguably the most important invention in the history of mass communications. As with the printing press, ink was applied to paper using pressure. While the typewriter couldn’t make multiple copies of an entire page, it simplified — and democratized — the typesetting process for a single copy with a system of reusable keys that inked the paper by striking a ribbon.

Within a couple of decades of the first Remington typewriter, big-press operations would begin using a modified, more sophisticated keyboard system, known as Linotype, for their typesetting needs. That little tweak helped make the mass production of newspapers possible.

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