The Typewriter

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They still teach typing in high school. A, S, D, F, J, K, L ; … the “home keys.” I think the term, QWERTY keyboard, is new though. Actually, today’s high school kids are really learning how to use Microsoft’s “Word” program, not how to type. They “cut and paste,” change fonts, check spelling and grammar. Are they really learning how to type? What would our typing teachers have thought if they knew their machines would be almost obsolete in less than fifty years?

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The typewriter was invented in the 1860s to be used extensively in offices and homes. Manufacturers included Remington, IBM, Oliver, Olivetti, Royal, Imperial, Smith Corona, Underwood and others.

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Other than adding electric models, very little changed regarding typewriters until IBM brought its innovative Selectric model to the marketplace in the early 1960s. That model, which dominated office typewriters for two decades, replaced type bars with a spherical mechanical ball. In today’s dollars, those models cost $3,000.

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In about 1972, I spent a relative fortune to buy the much cheaper Smith-Corona electric typewriter. It came with interchangeable ribbon cartridges that were fabric, film, erasing, and even colored. I think I used the erasing cartridge most often. It was marvelous unless I was also using dreaded carbon paper to make additional copies. For you youngsters, that’s because we didn’t yet have copiers. But we did have, and used, lots of soap to clean our hands from carbon paper smudges.

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In the 1970s, word processors arrived and that definitely was the harbinger of the typewriter’s demise. You can still find typewriters available for purchase, but the only place in the world where they’re still in significant use is in India.

Please click here to see a cute seven-minute video clip of today’s youth being introduced to yesterday’s typewriters.

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Also, add your comments about your typewriter memories, and share this with your Facebook friends. And if you’re interested in lots of memories about other things baby boomers experienced, Baby Boomer Reflections is now available in print, and it will be available for Kindle download (preorders being accepted) on May 25th.

6 thoughts on “The Typewriter

  1. Christopher Sholes, inventor of the typewriter was born outside Danville, Pa in the village of Mooresburg.

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    • My mother made my brother and sisters and I all take typing in high school. She’d taught in a business college and told us that if we went to college we shouldn’t be paying someone else to type our papers. Eaton’s Corasable (sp?) Bond paper was my greatest friend. It’s still fun to impress some of the younger generation with touchtyping on a computer keyboard.

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  2. I took typing in high school and used that skill extensively over the next several years to get jobs and promotions. I remember when I worked as an executive secretary typing from dictation, I would get upset when my boss would say “scratch that” while I was in the middle of typing the letter. I did learn to listen to the tape first but I was ecstatic when we got the first word processor. I learned Word and later Word Perfect inside and out and was soon called on throughout our company and the parent company to come and train others on it. I have always taken to the latest technology and still seem to do so as I usually have to have the newest iPhone and iPad, MacBook Pro with most of the best apps out there. I keep wondering when I will finally meet up with some new technology gizmo that I just can’t or don’t want to master because “I’m getting too old for that” but it hasn’t happened yet!

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