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Almanac: The first commercially-successful typewriter

Almanac: Typewriters
Almanac: Typewriters 02:16

On March 1, 1873, the Remington company started making the first commercially-successful typewriter, marketed as the Sholes and Glidden (or Remington No. 1) typewriter.

Remington's first typewriter with a "QWERTY" keyboard. Beth Komisarek/Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Unlike other attempts at a typing machine, this one used the now-familiar "QWERTY" keyboard, designed to keep the most frequently-used letters from jamming up. 

Even so, it could only type in UPPER CASE.

Other typewriter makers also struggled with the upper- and lower-case conundrum.

When our Bill Geist visited the Mesa Typewriter Exchange in Mesa, Arizona back in 2012, owner Bill Wahl had a case in point:

Wahl: "This is a Caligraph.  This is a very interesting machine.  There's no shift key. So, you had your lower case keys, you had your upper case keys. And this machine also has an upstrike.  … You could not see what you were typing as you were typing on this machine."
Geist: "Bad idea!"  

From 2012: A typewriter renaissance 05:16

Over time, the shift key became standard – a CAPITAL improvement, you might say.

And typewriters became a fixture of the modern office, not to mention a part of our popular culture, as in Jerry Lewis' comic pantomime to composer Leroy Anderson's "The Typewriter":  

Typewriter by DIAZEpam+ on Vimeo

But for true devotees, there's nothing funny about the near-total replacement of the clatter of typewriters by the soft hum of computers.

Still, in his travels eight years ago, Geist found signs of a typewriter renaissance, including among young people learning, for the first time, the truly tangible satisfaction of typing on a genuine nuts-and-bolts machine. Said one young lady, "You feel like a real writer!"

See also:

Tom Hanks, typewriter enthusiast 08:22

For more info:

Story produced by Robert Marston. 

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