It is estimated that there were at least 52 inventors who in different places, times and ways and independently of each other, created some type of typewriter. But we have a certain date, on 23 July 1829 it was the American William Austin Burt who received the patent for having invented the so-called “typographer”.
Operation was simple enough. A rotating lever allowed the letters to be imprinted on the paper which rotated as the different lines were written.
Burt conceived the idea of a writing device when he observed an office employee exhausted from having to make official documents by hand. Burt figured a typewriter would save a lot of energy. Burt’s prototype was improved later but was not a great commercial success. In fact, many complained about the extreme slowness of the writing system and the lack of practicality of its size.
This first original specimen was fundamental for the development of subsequent typewriters.
Another name to remember in the history of the typewriter is that of Ravizza who in 1846 perfected this technology for humanitarian purposes. What Ravizza created was called “scribe’s cymbal” and gave blind people the opportunity to write.
Another step forward was taken in 1867, when Sholes built the first machine suitable for commercial production.
Notably, the first successful typewriter was the Remington No. 1.
Sholes perfected the invention after understanding the difficulties of typography. To solve the problems he implemented a keyboard with letters and numbers in the machine and coined the name “Type-writing machine”.
Sholes is also responsible for the current arrangement of letters in the computer keyboard: it was he who created the arrangement called QWERTY. The name derives from the arrangement of the first six letters in the upper left. The strategy of positioning the most used letters so that they were easily reached by the fingers was designed so that typists could write faster. Although keyboards have evolved from the late nineteenth century to today, this detail has remained unchanged.
The turning point, however, were the electric machines produced subsequently: in 1950, in fact, Olivetti launched the famous Lettera 22 model. It was the first typewriter that was produced on an industrial level, based on a design by Camillo Olivetti, took its name. The promotional launch to the public took place with the famous poster by Teodoro Wolf Ferrari in which Dante Alighieri points his finger at the typewriter.
The Letter 22 model has become a status symbol for generations of writers and journalists, including Indro Montanelli.
Now replaced by personal computers that contain one or more word processing programs installed, the typewriter was one of the first widely used devices for the rapid drafting of documents in standardized formats, marking the beginning of a new era for writing. for example, its use gave rise to a new profession, typing, initially reserved for women.
Examples can be recalled relating to the evolution of some activities, such as the secretariat, where the introduction of video terminals has changed the activities carried out. Over time we have gone from secretarial tasks based on paper archiving (and relative indexing), manual writing or typing, to secretarial activities where the presence of VDT (video terminal operator) can allow to concentrate all activities (archiving, reporting, correspondence, etc.) on a single machine managed by a single person.