The History of the Typewriter

A photo of a woman's hands using an old typewriter.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Did you know that February is International Typewriter Appreciation Month? What better way to kick it off than with a brief history of the typewriter!

It may sound boring at first, but believe it or not the typewriter is an icon of modern day industrial design. Sure, the earliest models were limited in functionality, full of glitches, and ugly as all hell. But they paved the way for future technological advancements. In fact, George Kravis, author of 100 Designs for a Modern World, lists the typewriter as one of the most of revolutionary inventions of all time.

The very first typewriter dates all the way back to 1867 when Christopher Latham Sholes of Milwaukee engineered the initial prototype. Shortly after patenting his invention, he sold it to Remington & Sons of Ilion, New York. You may recognize the name “Remington” as the name of a famous gun manufacturer. Yep, it’s the same company. Who knew that guns and typewriters would go hand-in-hand?

At first, the machines didn’t sell very well. Remington & Sons had a hard time marketing it to the public due to how expensive they were. However, the company eventually convinced people that it was a lot faster than writing by hand. Once people realized how much quicker and more efficient they were, the machines became much more popular.

That’s not to say that there wasn’t room for improvement. As mentioned earlier, the earliest models were quite the eyesore. They were bulky and only came in black. Consumers began to demand a sleeker and more appealing design. But it wasn’t until the 1930s that a whole new look was unveiled. The typewriter now came in a multitude of colors, and it was much more compact than its predecessors.

But 1961 was the year when things really took a turn. That’s when IBM introduced the Selectric Typewriter. It was the first typewriter to have no typebars. On top of that, it was faster and more accurate than any other typewriter in history. Because of that, demand for the machine soared.

IBM initially only planned to produce 20,000 in the first year. But by the end of 1961, more than 80,000 orders had been placed. It remained the most popular typewriter for more than 25 years.

And there you have it—the history of the typewriter! Did you find this information just as fascinating as I did? Let me know in the comments below!


About Alex Holt

I am a local artist from Brooklyn, NY. I love art, design, books, photography, gardening and blogging.
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