The invention of the typewriter is an interesting tale that involves several inventors and a desire for more efficient and legible writing. Many inventions have more than one inventor throughout the progression of the invention process. This process also often spans more than one continent. This is the case with the typewriter.
Invention of the typewriter
The origins of the typewriter can be traced back to the early 19th century when inventors started exploring mechanical solutions for writing. The need for a more efficient method of writing was driven by the increasing demand for faster and more legible documents. This was especially true in business and administrative settings.
In 1808, an Italian named Pellegrino Turri created a machine known as the “tachigrafo” to help his blind friend, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzano, write letters. It used a system of levers and movable type, but the machine’s design was not widely known or adopted.
First commercial typewriter
Charles Thurber, an American inventor, patented the first commercially successful typewriter. Thurber’s typewriter, known as the “Thurber’s Chirographer,” was patented in 1843.
It was an early attempt at creating a practical writing machine, although it did not gain widespread popularity or commercial success. The Chirographer had a complex mechanical design. It wasn’t as efficient or user-friendly as later typewriters, but it played a significant role in the development of typewriter technology.
Fast forward to the 1860s, when Christopher Latham Sholes, another American inventor and newspaper editor, became interested in creating a device that could improve writing speed and legibility. Sholes partnered with Samuel W. Soule, a printer, and Carlos Glidden, a lawyer and amateur inventor, to develop a practical typewriter.
Their work began in 1867, and over the next several years, they experimented with various designs and mechanisms. They faced numerous challenges. These included the arrangement of keys, the movement of the type bars, and the mechanism for inking and transferring ink to paper.
One breakthrough came when Sholes devised the QWERTY keyboard layout, named after the first six letters on the top row. This layout was intended to prevent the jamming of mechanical type bars by separating commonly paired letters. The QWERTY layout is still used on most English-language keyboards today.
In 1868, Sholes received a patent for his typewriter design, which featured a piano-like keyboard and a printing mechanism. The first working model of the typewriter was completed in 1870, and it underwent several refinements over the next few years.
In 1873, Sholes sold his patent to the Remington Company, a prominent manufacturer of firearms at the time. The Remington Company recognized the potential of the typewriter and began mass-producing and marketing it. The Remington Model 1, introduced in 1874, became the first commercially successful typewriter.
The typewriter’s popularity grew steadily, and it revolutionized written communication by providing a faster and more legible alternative to handwritten documents. It greatly impacted business correspondence, journalism, administration, and eventually led to the development of modern keyboard-based input devices.
Contributions to the invention of the typewriter
Although Sholes is often credited as the primary inventor of the typewriter, it’s important to acknowledge the contributions of his collaborators, Samuel W. Soule and Carlos Glidden, who played vital roles in refining and improving the design.
The invention of the typewriter marked a significant milestone in the history of writing technology and set the stage for further advancements in communication devices. This lead to the development of modern-day computers and keyboards.
Innovation in typewriters
For those who love the idea of typing on a regular typewriter, now you can merge old technology with the new. The USB typewriter turns an old manual typewriter into a futuristic retro one.
Famous people who use typewriters
If you think all writers use a computer to write, think again. Danielle Steel, who has sold over 800 million copies of her books still uses a 1946 Olympia typewriter to write all of her 190 best-selling novels.
Cormac McCarthy has used a typewriter for almost 50 years. He typed his Pulitzer prize-winning novel “No Country for Old Men” on his Olivetti typewriter. Since 1963 he hasn’t used any other machine.
And I would bet that typewriter collector Tom Hanks probably typed up his latest debut novel on one of his many 120 typewriters he has in his collection.
The invention of the typewriter has enabled writers, students and business owners to communicate better through the years. And I’m sure there’s more innovation to come.