The Rise and Fall of Typewriters

Today in 1829, William Austin Burt, a surveyor from Mount Vernon, Michigan, received a patent for the typographer, the earliest forerunner of the typewriter. Fifty-one years ago this month (July 31), IBM introduced the IBM Selectric, replacing typebars and the moving carriage with a spherical printing element.

In 2006, a Boston Globe article described the fate of typewriters today: “When Richard Polt, a professor of philosophy at Xavier University, brings his portable Remington #7 to his local coffee shop to mark papers, he inevitably draws a crowd. ‘It’s a real novelty,’ Polt said. ‘Some of them have never seen a typewriter before … they ask me where the screen is or the mouse or the delete key.’”

In 2011, Dangerous Prototypes reported  on the “brainchild of Jack Zylkin, a Philadelphia-based electrical engineer who has designed a kit” with which anyone with a passion for hands-on projects can “repurpose old manual typewriters as keyboards for computers or Ipads, using an Arduino as the intermediary.”

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