Typewriters

The development of the portable typewriter created further opportunities for the writer. The production of a lightweight machine allowed typing to occur outside the normal workplace. One of the first portable machines was the Blickensderfer in 1893. The merit of such designs was realised during the First World War when forces recorded information in the trenches using portable typewriters.

Another advance in design and mechanics came with the development of the electric typewriter. The advantage of an electric machine was greater speed and legibility. Early attempts date back as far as 1871 when George Arrington and Thomas A. Edison (famous for inventing the light bulb) obtained a patent for an electrically driven typewriter. The public was slow to accept the machine, as many did not trust its reliability. It took until the middle of the 1950s for them to be successful, with some of the most popular being those produced by IBM.

Today the standard typewriter has disappeared from the office and the home. Instead the personal computer dominates. Writers are no longer desk-bound but free to work wherever they lay their laptops. This revolution has caused the typewriter to become a collectable rather than an indispensable product. An original Remington No.1 is now of considerable value.

Museums also collect these machines as they are examples of great design, scientific achievement and reflect the social development of the workplace. The Science Museum has a collection covering all the major phases of their development.

 

Recently the popularity of typewriters has undergone a resurgence. Many people have become nostalgic for a bygone era of journalists reporting in remote areas of the world or poverty-stricken authors working away at their greatest novel. From its slow beginnings the typewriter has become an icon of these times.