The End of an Era as the Last Typewriter Factory Closes its Doors
If there has been one constant thing in my life it would be the craft of typing. From the moment I first set my fingers on the keys I felt at home. The year was 1972 and in preference to pursing the science and mathematics subjects I had chosen the commercial courses. Shorthand, bookkeeping and typing provided the basics for a study path in business studies. Almost forty years on and the one remaining typewriter factory, Godrej and Boyce has ceased production.
Still Making Typewriters in the 21st Century, Who Knew?
I’ll have to admit my surprise at finding out there is still, or at least was, a typewriter being made at the start of this century given the increased availability of computers at reasonable prices. It seems incomprehensible that anyone would still have a need for the click clack of a typewriter in the past twenty years. Yet in Mumbai, India there had been a market for the trusty keyboard as recently as 2009 with reports suggesting government departments, defence agencies and courtrooms opted for typewriters over computers.
A representative of the company, Godrej and Boyce claims they had orders for as many as 12,000 typewriters a year in 2009 but there has been a significant drop in numbers with only 200 machines available currently. To my mind, the only obvious benefit of using a manual typewriter over a laptop would be limited access to electricity.
Typewriters Changed the World
Since its introduction to the American market in 1893 the typewriter changed the way people worked with the production of a Sholes and Glidden typewriter. No longer reliant on pen and paper, letters, inner office memos and even lengthy reports could be produced in less than one third of the time it took to write out in long hand. The typeset could only produce letters in the capital version. It was Remington that took the concept one step further to the keyboard we are still familiar with today.
QWERTY What? Is That a Word?
The QWERTY keyboard, now recognised as the Universal keyboard, had little to do with speed for the operator and more to do with the way the keys hit the paper on a conventional typewriter. The QWERTY keyboard is named for the first six letters on the top of any modern typewriter or computer and was invented by Latham Sholes in 1878. He had previously experimented with the letters arranged in alphabetical layout but found the keys jammed together at a central point when hit with increasing speed. After much trial and error the original keyboard layout was designed with a similar theme to the one we use today. The numbers started at two and the letter ‘M’ was up in the middle (or home row) but the remainder of the keys are essentially in the same place.
Dvorak Keyboard Layout
Dvorak tried and failed with his layout of separated vowels and consonants. Not to say that Dvorak’s keyboard is necessarily a less workable option but by the time he put his ideas forward there were too many typists familiar with the QWERTY layout. It is hard to teach an old dog new tricks after all. This old dog struggles with the layout of the mobile phone keypad.
Copyright © 2011-2012 Karen Wilton
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