My Many Keyboards and Me

Evolving Keyboards

Over the years, you see,
many kinds of keyboards
have come to haunt me.

Because over the years, see,
keyboard changes by me
haven't been done with glee!

At the right is the keyboard of my Brother Word Processor/Typewriter, a big and bulky machine, for certain, but one that has come to be like a Mother. It sits at my left in my office working area, always ready to rescue me from the computer, at my right. But in the beginning, Brother Word Processor/Typewriter was a great and unmerciful dictator, who frightened the writer in me.

My much younger sibling brother told me for years that word processing was the new thing, and he was surprised by my hesitancy to learn to operate with the new wave, for didn't the writer in me call out for greater efficiency and ease at the typewriter?

Well, not exactly -- but only because, at first, the writer in me just didn't understand the grand illusions of the word processor's inventor.

From Old Royal to Brother Word Processor/Typewriter

It wouldn't be right, I harbored the thought, to mentally discard old friends like standup Old Royal. In my time, I had several of Old Royal, one of the long-ago, first edition, button keys kind, one of the more updated, finger-friendly, deep key kinds. Both required fairly hard hits on the keys to produce black type on white paper. But neither of them ran away with me, or my thoughts. They actually were writer-friendly and had taught me to type-write, rather than sit under a maple tree with my current canine and notebook paper and pen. (Although, in after thought, in my old age, I do still enjoy that maple tree on occasion, and my inside work place, above, still comes complete with a dog.)

I'm not as old as the old gadget to the upper right -- an early automatic typewriter -- and the old fella at the end of this Hub -- a "cold type" composing machine with no type bars -- but I am in the first Baby Boomer generation of 1946, born in the first month of that first year, and so I have, indeed, evolved myself as a type-writer.

At one point, I acquired an antiquated Remington with an over-sized carriage and a barrel-type copier that used stencil carbons. Upon those machines, I briefly, but ambitiously in the beginning, produced a small town newspaper. The Remington's keyboard evidently had had a storied past, as its "r" key always produced what looked like a printed "i".

A Bit of Typing History

English engineer Henry Mill is credited with the first patent for a typing machine. That was in 1714. William Austin Burt, from Detroit, took out the first American patent on a typing machine in 1829. It wasn't until 1868 that the first practical use typewriter in America was invented and patented by Christopher Latham Sholes, who lived in Milwaukee.

New York gun manufacturers took up the production of the typewriter in 1873. Their business in Ilion was known as E. Remington and Sons. Many facets of the Remingtons' version of the typing machine were retained in more modern machines, although they began with capital letters only on their typing ring. But their 44-keys-in-four-rows style of keyboard remained in use right through today's computer keyboard.

However, the foot pedal operation (attached to a sewing machine) is long gone. The pedal's pressure returned the typing carriage to the right and provided for the line spacing.

Typewriter keyboards themselves began to serve many purposes when attached for different functions and when combined with different machines:

paper tape perforating allowed for an automatic type-writing experience;
tape punch electric typewriters offered right hand margin alignments for copy reproduction;
accounting records could be kept more easily with card-perforating electric typewriters.

Typing inventions and accessories followed the influx of new type-writing machines, such as:

recording electronic computer output machines,
electronic language-translating machines;
carbon copy
paper typing;
inked ribbons and colored ribbon typing.

All these updates and accessories for the typewriter were accompanied by keyboard upgrades, as well, although the standard four rows remained the common look for the typewriter's manual, or electronic control panel.

From Word Processor/Typewriter to Computer

Word processing! Wow! The very term was outstanding. Imagine processing words, instead of just typing them! Brother showed me how when I finally joined the 20th Century with the purchase (from a friend) of a complete Brother Word Processor/Typewriter that could use 3.5 floppy disks and print the pages from the word processed screen. It had belonged to my friend's college student son, who had graduated and moved on to computers.

My Brother Word Processor/Typewriter keyboard had options that allowed automatic page insert, font and pitch choices, margin releases, automatic return which had eliminated the old faithful, but clumsy, carriage return lever. Wow!

Once I keyed into it, I loved my interchangeable Brother Word Processor/Typewriter and its versatile keyboard. My favorite feature of this wild new machine was its yellow words on a green screen background. That was so easy on the eyes that it made returning to black on white difficult.

While I was thrilling to being able to save my work on disks that controlled and recalled and printed out, the rest of the world was using the newest computer keyboard.

Along the way, I purchased a reconditioned Canon Starwriter desktop publisher, which also used word processing, and a Brother desktop publisher. Both produced printouts and were a temporary improvement over my beat up Remington and barrel stencil copier for the production of pamphlets, short story booklets, and other brainstorms.

The Canon keyboard was quiet, but the Brother desktop publisher's keyboard was foreign in its complete, eerie silence. I never knew if I was touching the keys with enough effective pressure.

It wasn't until 1997 that I first experimented with a home computer. In the time since then, three computers besides my current one have challenged me. Their operation included six keyboards altogether, one of which, donated by a friend, was an older model heavy "clicker", and I loved it for its click! Silent computer keyboards are aloof and sneaky aids that allow the fingers to slip into unwanted territory, as onto "delete" and "resolution" keys that hang at the edges of the board like lurking pests.

Computer technology continues to be my personal culture shock.

Letters Were Long Ago

It is beginning to seem like a lifetime ago that letter writers used things like paper weights, letter openers, pencils, pens, and desk mats. Hmmm...I guess that would be my own lifetime!

Now it's thumb texting and sharing in abbreviations and questionable grammar on Facebook and MySpace, etc.

If it's not progress, it is surely, and unequivocally, the latest in keyboard communications, and this old type-writer may be in a permanent holding pattern!

Partially Digitally Compatible

All the pictures in this Hub were taken by BarbaraAnne Helberg in December of 2012 and remain in her personal files.

(Okay -- they were taken on a digital, computer compatible camera, a Christmas gift from her son, who remains committed to continuing to drag her as far into the new technological 21st Century as he possibly can!)

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Comments 6 comments

drbj profile image

drbj 3 years ago from south Florida

I could really relate to this one, Barb, since for the most part, I've been there and done that. Though I may occasionally think about those ancient word processors I must admit I would not exchange my current computer and iPad for those relics.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane and the pleasant deja vu. Hope your Christmas was merry and wish you a delightful, happy New Year.


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 3 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA Author

@ drbj...Thanks so much for stopping by to read this Hub! I always appreciate your insightful comments and enjoy sharing Hubs with another former "relic" user!

I have to admit that I do still enjoy using my yellow-worded, green-screened Brother Word Processor, just for my own type-writing pleasure. While all the other oldies are out the window, it remains a steadfast friend!


aviannovice profile image

aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Typerwiters and computers have certainly evolved. A friend of my mother's had given me an old Remington with a high carriage, I think, made in 1928. I loved that thing!


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 3 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA Author

@aviannovice...Thanks for reading this Hub and sharing your type-writing history.

I'm sure there are a lot of Remington and Royal memories out there!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I remember those old clunky typewriters of yesteryear. I enjoyed it very much when the first word processors came out and even more when the computer keyboard was invented. Enjoyed the post and hope your New Year's is going well.


Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

Barbsbitsnpieces 3 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA Author

@teaches12345...Thanks for stopping by, teach.

As a teacher, you must have really appreciated the changes and improvements in type-writing technology. I've slowly joined the crowd since first admiring the typewriter, an old model that sat in my aunt's parlor many years ago.

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