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A Journey through Aesthetic Realms

The Typewriter: A Revolutionary Invention of Its Time, Part 1 of 2

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With the development of computers and the internet over the past several decades, communication and written language have undergone drastic transformations. Until a couple of decades ago, typewriters were commonly seen in business offices, schools, libraries, and bookstores. Although they are less efficient than today’s digital writing devices, they nonetheless played an important role in human history. On today's program, we’ll explore some of the early machines that led to the development of the modern typewriter.

In 1779, Wolfgang von Kempelen, court councilor in Vienna, Austria, created a typing machine for the godson of the Habsburg ruler, Her Majesty Empress Maria Theresa. In 1808, in response to a friend’s request, an Italian inventor named Pellegrino Turri built a typing machine equipped with a source of ink and carbon paper.

A significant step forward towards the modern-day typewriter was achieved by the Italian lawyer Giuseppe Ravizza, whose “cembalo scrivano” (scribe harpsichord) had keys resembling those of a piano, and allowed the user to see the writing as it was being typed. After his first machine was completed in 1846, Mr. Ravizza devoted the rest of his life to making continuous improvements and produced 16 additional models.

The Hansen Writing Ball, the first commercially produced typewriter, was invented by the Reverend Rasmus Malling-Hansen, a Danish minister and principal at the Royal Institute for the Deaf in Copenhagen, who wished to help his pupils “speak with their fingers.”

In 1872 the first electric typewriter with a printer wheel was invented by Thomas Edison. Edison’s typewriter eventually developed into the ticker-tape printer, which allowed stock prices to be printed on a moving tape by means of a telegraph. In 1920, James Smathers invented the modern electric typewriter for office use.

As the industrial revolution coincided with the production of the commercial typewriter, great social changes came to pass. Many businesses and jobs benefited from this new invention including newspaper agencies and offices. Additionally, the typewriter afforded many women job opportunities and greater economic independence.
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