This Day in History (23-Jul-1829) – William Austin Burt patents “typographer” (typewriter)

The development of the typewriter was the result of a desire both to speed up this process and to produce an aid for the blind in reading and writing. Gradually a machine emerged that revolutionised the work of the writer. Painstaking tasks that were normally carried out by hand could be carried out in minutes on the machine, leaving time to enjoy the ‘finer things in life’. As the first Remington adverts declared; ‘To save time is to lengthen life.’ The invention of the typewriter has never received worldwide acclaim. This may be because the product is one associated with work rather than social life. Initially typewriters were slow sellers. When first shown to the public at an industrial fair, the machines attracted little interest. One reason given was that many professionals felt typing would appear rude to potential clients, as there would be no personal touch.

The first patent for a ‘writing machine’ was given to Henry Mill in 1714. Sadly there are no surviving details to prove its existence as a working machine. The first known typewriter was invented in the United States of America by William Burt in 1830. This was called a Typographer and printed one single letter after another. From this point on there was a flood of designs both in the United States and Europe, causing some dispute over who invented what components. These machines were usually one-offs and it was not until 1874 that a typewriter became a commercial success. This was achieved by the inventors Christopher Sholes and Carlos Glidden, who made an agreement with the Remington company to have their model, the ‘Type-writer’, manufactured in quantity. The first machine produced wrote in capitals and was heavily influenced by the workings and appearance of the sewing machine, which was also produced by Remington. Sholes was also famous for introducing the layout of the letters on a keyboard, QWERTY, which is still in use today. It was this machine which eventually began to inspire the public and started appearing in offices around the USA and Europe. With its growing popularity came a new source of employment, typing.



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