June 23 – Typewriter Day

Posted on June 23, 2017

Today is the 149th anniversary of the patent for the first commercially marketed typewriter. (Or at least one of the first!) The typewriter was a wonderful invention that is now, thanks to computers / tablets / etc., pretty much defunct. 

(I'm sure that there are still some people, somewhere, who delight in pounding the keyboard on a machine that doesn't allow easy editing, saving, and sending to others... Maybe?)

One of the inventors, Christopher Latham Sholes, also invented the QWERTY keyboard - with which we seem to be still stuck today. You probably can guess that the name of this keyboard is the first six keys of the keyboard.

I know when I first learned to type (on a typewriter! Computers weren't everywhere back then!), I wondered how-oh-how we were supposed to learn where the keys were, the layout was so counter-intuitive. However, looking at the way typewriters work and reading about the history of the invention gives you a great explanation:

The QWERTY keyboard was designed to slow down typing!

You see, the typewriter keys were attached to little arms which would fly up, when their keys were pressed, causing the metal characters to strike first an inked ribbon and then a piece of paper. 

And if the typist was typing too fast, the little metal arms would clash with one and another and jam together!

The solution was to separate letters that were often found near one another, so that there would be fewer jams. Sholes did a lot of experimenting to find out a good keyboard layout, and he may have also consulted telegraph operators for their experiences.

Now that we no longer use keyboards attached to moving, jammable arms, it's hard to get rid of a keyboard that so many folks are used to. 

Here are two possible keyboard layouts.

But some suggest that we should let little kids learn with a better keyboard, and then slowly bring on more and more devices with that keyboard, until finally the QWERTY keyboard is has been phased out. 

Also on this date:

Anniversary of Antarctica being set aside for science

(First Friday after Father's Day U.S.A.)

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1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I was fascinating and its remarkable to see evolution of the typewriter to today's contemporary key boards. THanks a lot for sharing this with us.