AskDefine | Define typewriter

Dictionary Definition

typewriter n : hand-operated character printer for printing written messages one character at a time

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Pronunciation

Etymology

-er typewrite

Noun

  1. A device, at least partially mechanical, used to print text by pressing keys that cause type to be impressed through an inked ribbon onto paper.
  2. One who uses a typewriter; a typist.

Synonyms

Related terms

Translations

machine used to print text by pressing keys
one who uses a typewriter
Translations to be checked

See also

Extensive Definition

A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical device with a set of "keys" that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. For much of the 20th century, typewriters were indispensable tools in business offices and for many professional writers. By the end of the 1980s, word processor applications on personal computers had largely replaced the tasks previously accomplished with typewriters. Typewriters, however, remain popular in the developing world and among some niche markets.

History

Early innovations

No single person or nation can be credited with the invention of the typewriter. As with the light bulb, automobile, telephone, and telegraph, a number of people contributed insights and inventions that eventually resulted in commercially successful instruments. In fact, historians have estimated that some form of typewriter was invented 52 times as tinkerers tried to come up with a workable design.
In 1714, Henry Mill obtained a patent in Britain for a machine that, from the patent, appears to have been similar to a typewriter, but nothing further is known. Other early developers of typewriting machines include Pellegrino Turri, who also invented carbon paper. Many of these early machines, including Turri's, were developed to enable the blind to write.
In 1829, William Austin Burt patented a machine called the "Typographer." Like many other early machines, it is sometimes 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 machine is well known. Even in the hands of its inventor, it was slower than handwriting. Burt and his promoter John D. Sheldon never found a buyer for the patent, and it was never commercially produced. Because it used a dial to select each character rather than keys, it was called an "index typewriter" rather than a "keyboard typewriter," if it is to be considered a typewriter at all.
By the mid-1800s, the increasing pace of business communication was creating a need for mechanization of the writing process. Stenographers and telegraphers could take down information at rates up to 130 words per minute, but a writer with a pen was limited to about 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 production. Charles Thurber developed multiple patents; his first, in 1843, was developed as an aid to the blind. See Charles Thurber's 1845 Chirographer, as an example.
In 1855, the Italian Giuseppe Ravizza created a prototype typewriter called "Cembalo scrivano o macchina da scrivere a tasti." 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. D. Pedro I, the Brazilian emperor, in that same year, 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 real inventor of the typewriter, a claim that has been the subject of some controversy.
Between 1864 and 1867 Peter Mitterhofer, a carpenter from South Tyrol (then Austria) developed several models of a typewriter and a fully functioning prototype in 1867.
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. In addition, Malling-Hansen used a solenoid escapement to return the carriage on some of his models and was a responsible candidate for the first "electric" typewriter. From the book Hvem er Skrivekuglens Opfinder?, written by Malling-Hansen's daughter, Johanne Agerskov, we know that, 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 placement of the letters so that the fastest writing fingers struck the most frequently used letters, made the Hansen Writing Ball the first typewriter to produce text substantially faster than a person could write by hand.
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 and it 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. At both exhibitions, he received the first-prize medals for his invention.
The first typewriter to be commercially successful was invented in 1867 by Christopher Sholes, The 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 German QWERTZ layouts.
The QWERTY layout is not the most efficient layout possible, since it requires a touch-typist to move his or her fingers between rows to type the most common letters. A popular story suggests that it was designed and used for early typewriters exactly because it was so inefficient; it slowed a typist down so as to reduce the frequency of the typewriter's typebars wedging together and jamming 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 learnt the full keyboard layout, because "typewriter" can be spelled purely on the top row of the keyboard. The most likely explanation is that the QWERTY arrangement was designed to reduce the likelihood of internal clashing by placing commonly used combinations of letters farther from each other inside the machine. This allowed the user to type faster without jamming. Unfortunately, no definitive explanation for the QWERTY keyboard has been found, and typewriter aficionados continue to debate the issue.
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 efficiency advantages.
Many old typewriters do not contain a separate key for the numeral 1 or the exclamation point, and some even older ones also lack the numeral zero. Typists who learned on these machines learned the habit of using the lowercase letter l for the digit 1, and the uppercase O for the zero. The exclamation point was a three-stroke combination of an apostrophe, a backspace, 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. On modern keyboards, the exclamation point is the shifted character on the 1 key, a direct result of the heritage that these were the last characters to become "standard" on keyboards.
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.

Computer jargon

Several words of the 'typewriter age' have survived into the personal computer era. Examples include:
  • carbon copy – now in its abbreviated form "CC" designating copies of email messages (with no carbon paper involved, at least not until potential printouts);
  • cursor – a marker used to indicate where the next character will be printed
  • carriage return (CR) – indicating an end of line and return to the first column of text (and on some computer platforms, advancing to the next line)
  • line feed (LF), aka 'newline' – standing for moving the cursor to the next on-screen line of text in a word processor document (and on the eventual printout(s) of the document).
  • backspace – 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), or for correction such as with the correcting tape that developed later.
  • cut and paste – taking text, a table, or an image and pasting it into a document; originally used when such compound documents were created using manual paste up techniques.
  • tty, short for teletypewriter, is used in Unix-like operating systems to designate a given "terminal".
  • Shift – Today being a simple function key to make uppercase letters, different symbols, and whatnot, but in the age of typewriters it meant literally shifting the print carriage to allow a different stamp (such as a D instead of a d) to press into the ribbon and print on a page.

Effect on culture

When Remington first 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. Flowers were printed on the casing of early models to make the machine seem more comfortable for women to use. In the United States, women often started in the professional workforce as typists; in fact, according to the 1910 U.S. census, 81 percent of typists were female. With more women brought out of the home and into offices, there was some concern about the effects this would have on the morals of society. The "typewriter girl" became part of the iconography of early-twentieth-century typography. The "Tijuana bibles" — dirty 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 for—ahem!—er—dictation?" Blackburn died in April 2008.
Tom Robbins waxes philosophical about the Remington SL3, a typewriter that he bought to write Still Life with Woodpecker, and eventually does away with it because it is too complicated and inhuman of a machine for the writing of poetry.
After completing the novel Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen is said to have flung his typewriter into the Aegean Sea.

Late users

Andy Rooney and William F. Buckley Jr. were among many writers who were very reluctant to switch from typewriters to computers. David Sedaris used a typewriter to write his essay collections through Me Talk Pretty One Day at least.

Typewriters in popular culture

In music

  • The composer Leroy Anderson wrote a short piece of music for orchestra and typewriter, which has since been used as the theme for numerous radio programs.
  • The Winnipeg band Poor Tree incorporates typewriters into its music. Two to three members would type a poem while reading them at the same time, interlocking the lines, words and sounds.
  • On the album "Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy," Brian Eno takes a typewriter solo in the song "China My China."
  • Multi-instrumentalist and composer Yann Tiersen has used the typewriter as a percussion instrument in a number of his compositions, notably "Pas si simple" on his 1996 album Rue des Cascades.

In film

  • Typewriters in songs and ambient typewriter sounds are present throughout the 1985 movie Brazil.
  • Typewriters are foundational in the soundtrack for the 2007 film Atonement.
  • In the 1982 movie Tron, when the Master Control Program's defenses are destroyed, he reverts to his core form of an old man. The sound of typewriters is heard, associating him with obsolete technology.

Forensic identification

Because of the tolerances of the mechanical parts, slight variation in the alignment of the letters and their uneven wear, each typewriter has its individual "signature" or "fingerprint," allowing a typewritten document to be tracked back to the typewriter it was produced on. 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 organization in charge of typewriters was the First Department of the KGB.) This posed a significant risk for dissidents and samizdat authors. This method of identification was also used in the trial of Alger Hiss. This was also a significant plot point in the Academy Award winning film The Lives of Others.
Leopold and Loeb were firmly identified with kidnapping after a typewriter they used to type up a ransom note was traced back to a typewriter they owned.
Black/white computer printers have their "fingerprints" as well, but to a lesser degree. Modern color printers and photocopiers typically add printer identification encoding—a steganographic pattern of minuscule yellow dots, encoding the printer's serial number—to the printout.
Other forensic identification method can involve analysis of the ribbon ink.

Gallery

's typewriter

External links

typewriter in Afrikaans: Tikmasjien
typewriter in Arabic: آلة كاتبة
typewriter in Bulgarian: Пишеща машина
typewriter in Catalan: Màquina d'escriure
typewriter in Czech: Psací stroj
typewriter in Danish: Skrivemaskine
typewriter in German: Schreibmaschine
typewriter in Estonian: Kirjutusmasin
typewriter in Modern Greek (1453-): Γραφομηχανή
typewriter in Spanish: Máquina de escribir
typewriter in Esperanto: Tajpilo
typewriter in French: Machine à écrire
typewriter in Korean: 타자기
typewriter in Indonesian: Mesin ketik
typewriter in Inupiaq: Aglaksruutit
typewriter in Italian: Macchina per scrivere
typewriter in Hebrew: מכונת כתיבה
typewriter in Georgian: საბეჭდი მანქანა
typewriter in Hungarian: Írógép
typewriter in Malay (macrolanguage): Mesin taip
typewriter in Dutch: Schrijfmachine
typewriter in Japanese: タイプライター
typewriter in Norwegian: Skrivemaskin
typewriter in Polish: Maszyna do pisania
typewriter in Portuguese: Máquina de escrever
typewriter in Romanian: Maşină de scris
typewriter in Russian: Пишущая машинка
typewriter in Simple English: Typewriter
typewriter in Slovak: Písací stroj
typewriter in Slovenian: Pisalni stroj
typewriter in Finnish: Kirjoituskone
typewriter in Swedish: Skrivmaskin
typewriter in Tamil: தட்டச்சு
typewriter in Thai: เครื่องพิมพ์ดีด
typewriter in Vietnamese: Máy đánh chữ
typewriter in Turkish: Daktilo
typewriter in Ukrainian: Друкарська машинка
typewriter in Urdu: ٹائپ رائٹر
typewriter in Yiddish: שרייבמאשין
typewriter in Chinese: 打字机
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