Click to viewThe next time you're feeling all smug and twenty-first century commuting into the office while using your laptop to catch up on emails or prep for a presentation, consider the following. Back in 1893, a publication called The Manufacturer and Builder hyped a new portable typewriter that could "readily be used on the lap, on the desk, on the train—in short, anywhere"—and showed a forward-thinking commuter doing just that. Click through for a closer look at the world's first laptop.


Measuring 12 inches long by 6-1/2 inches wide by 2 inches deep, and weighing a mere 3 pounds, the World typewriter was roughly the same size as many of today's laptop computers. Instead of a keyboard, however, the World used a dial; users chose a character with the right hand, then used the left to operate a lever that pressed it into the paper. Yet another lever was used to make spaces between words. Even so, the World typewriter was said to be

. . . readily mastered, so that after a month or two of practice any one of ordinary intelligence, by application, can acquire a speed of forty words per minute, or about twice the number that a rapid penman will write with the pen.

Of course, a fast typist on a QWERTY keyboard could reach speeds of 100 words per minute or more—a fact that may have helped contribute to the World typewriter's fade into oblivion.