We walk a common road with those who came before us. The challenges of daily life remain constant: to work resourcefully, to communicate clearly, to rise to each occasion. Throughout history, the tools we have developed have reflected our attempts to ease the way. One such example was the typewriter, which met the tests of form and utility to become a universal symbol of efficient technology.
The device originally known as the Type-Writer clattered to life during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Fountain pens were put aside as the implications of the new invention became clear: There was now an alternative to handwriting, and to the printed word as well. What began as a cottage industry grew to one generating hundreds of patents. The pioneering Sholes & Glidden of 1874 was the first to feature both a circular arrangement of type bars and a cylindrical paper carriage. Manufactured by E. Remington & Sons, it was designed for assembly by the mass production techniques first developed for making guns and sewing machines.
As standardization progressed, the exotic became familiar. During the first half of the twentieth century the name Underwood dominated the field. U.S. typewriter production soared in the late 1930s, when the requirements of the looming war effort made the machine indispensable. It remained a fixture in the modern office until the 1980s, when the ascent of the personal computer foretold the end of the typewriter era. The legacy of this remarkable tool survives both in the layout of the computer keyboard and in the story of an invention which owed its longevity to thoughtful design.
(Above: The Oliver)