Chances are you're typing on a keyboard as you read this. But could you imagine typing on a set of keys like the ones above? The typewriter keyboard has a long and colorful history — and here are some eye-opening pictures of typewriters from the past two centuries.
Henry Mill (1714)
The first commercially produced typewriter: The Hansen Writing Ball
The pincushion-like Hansen Writing Ball was invented in 1865 by Rasmus Malling-Hansen, the reverend and principal of the Royal Institute for the deaf-mutes in Copenhagen. It was first patented and entered production in 1870.
The pincushion-like machine had 52 keys on a large brass hemisphere. Some models have been produced, but the most famous was the portable "tall model" (in the pictures), produced from 1875.
Some early models of the Writing Ball used a solenoid escapement to return the carriage which makes them the first electric typewriters.
John Pratt's Pterotype, 1867
Presented at the Society of Arts in London and the Royal Society in 1867. An article about it in the July 6, 1867 issue of Scientific American inspired many other typewriter inventors. Patented in August 11, 1868 in the United States.
The first commercially successful typewriter, the Sholes and Glidden (also known as the Remington No. 1)
Developed by Samuel W. Soule and Carlos S. Glidden from 1867. They have some short-lived atempts to manufacture a successful model, and only could place it on the market on July 1, 1874. The first model had a four-rowed QWERTY keyboard and could print only upper-case letters. It was a blind-writer, so the user couldn't see instantly what was being written.
A drawing from 1868, a concept from 1873
A wonderful example of a Sholes & Glidden Typewriter (Remington No. 1), c. 1876
(via Antikey Chop)
Remington No. 2, produced from 1878
It had 39 keys and it was the first typewriter that could type in both upper- and lower-case letters from the same key.
(via Typewriter Museum)
The first index typewriter: The Hall Type Writer (1881)
One hand selects a letter from an index while the other hand depresses a lever that writes the letter to the paper.
(via Office Museum)
The Caligraph 2 (1882)
It was the second American typewriter company on the market, after the Remington (or Sholes and Glidden) in 1880. The Caligraph 2, the second and lightweight model of the company was the first typewriter with a full keyboard in 1882. Well, it was a double-sized keyboard because the machine had separate keys for lower-case and upper-case letters.
Hammond 1 (1884)
The Hammond Typewriter had a semi-circular type-shuttle made of hardened rubber or light metal. The user could easily change them to use other fonts or languages with special characters. Over 100 of them were available. It was presented for public consumption in 1884.
The Crandall Typewriter New Model (1885)
(via Collectors Weekly)
The first daisy wheel typewriter: Victor (1890)
The wheel is made of thin brass, cut with narrow radial fingers, one for each character.
(via Office Museum)
Blickensderfer 5 or the Dactyle Typewriter (1893)
The first portable typewriter was invented in 1891 and introduced in 1893 by George C. Blickensderfer. It has a "Scientific" keyboard instead of the QWERTY, which was less efficient, according to Blickensderfer. Later the company also marketed typewriters with a QWERTY keyboard, but the buyer had to sign a really simple form stating that he knows that he chooses the inefficient keyboard type. The French Dactyle typewriter was based on the Blickensderfer 5, and the earliest ones are the same.
Oliver 5 (1894-1928)
More than a million were sold of the most successful three-bank typewriter between 1894 and 1928.
The first typewriter to use aluminum in its construction: The Ford Typewriter (1895)
Invented by Eugene A. Ford, patented in 1892 and the Ford Typewriter Company started the production in 1895.
It was sold in two versions, one with an all aluminum frame and carriage and the other with a cast iron, black enameled frame and aluminum carriage.
Jewett No. 4 (1897)
White keys are for lower-case and black keys for upper-case letters and numbers.
The Saturn was really complicated to use: first the user selected a row of printed letters on the index, then type on one of the nine keys of the keyboard.
(via Typewriter Museum)
Salter 6 Improved (1900-1907)
The first commercially produced electric typewriter: the Blickensderfer Electric (1902)
It was not a great success, because at the time electricity hadn't been standardized and voltage differed from city to city. It was driven by an Emerson electric motor that was switched on by turning a Yale doorlock key on the side.
It's unknown how many of these were actually built.
A portable Corona (c. 1920)
Remington Portable #1 (1920-1925)
More than half a million was sold from the first successful portable typewriter on the market.
Remington Portable #2 (1925-1928)
Probably the first typewriter available in black and a number of colors. 300,000 were made in three years.
IBM Electric Typewriter, the first successful electric typewriter in the United States (1935)
IBM Selectric typewriters (1961-1984)
This highly successful model line introduced in 1961 had a rotating and pivoting typeball (or "golf ball") instead of dozens of individual typebars.
Selectric once captured the three-quarter of the United States market for electric business typewriter line.