A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical machine for writing in characters similar to those produced by printer's movable type by means of keyboard-operated types striking a ribbon to transfer ink or carbon impressions onto the paper. Typically one character is printed per keypress. The machine prints characters by making ink impressions of type elements similar to the sorts used in movable type letterpress printing.
After their invention in the 1860s, typewriters quickly became indispensable tools for practically all writing other than personal correspondence. They were widely used by professional writers, in offices, and for business correspondence in private homes. By the end of the 1980s, and had largely displaced typewriters in most of these uses in the Western world, but as of the 2010s the typewriter is still prominent in many parts of the world, including India.
Notable typewriter manufacturer companies have included E. Remington and Sons, IBM, Imperial Typewriters, Oliver Typewriter Company, Olivetti, Royal Typewriter Company, Smith Corona, Underwood Typewriter Company, Adler and .
In 1714, Henry Mill obtained a patent in Britain for a machine that, from the patent, appears to have been similar to a typewriter. The patent shows that this machine was actually created: "he hath by his great study and paines & expence invented and brought to perfection an artificial machine or method for impressing or transcribing of letters, one after another, as in writing, whereby all writing whatsoever may be engrossed in paper or parchment so neat and exact as not to be distinguished from print; that the said machine or method may be of great use in settlements and public records, the impression being deeper and more lasting than any other writing, and not to be erased or counterfeited without manifest discovery."
In 1802 Italian Agostino Fantoni developed a particular typewriter to enable his blind sister to write.
In 1823 Italian Pietro Conti di Cilavegna invented a new model of typewriter, the 'tachigrafo', also known as 'tachitipo'.
In 1829, William Austin Burt patented a machine called the "Typographer" which, in common with many other early machines, is listed as the "first typewriter". The Science Museum describes it merely as "the first writing mechanism whose invention was documented," but even that claim may be excessive, since Turri's invention pre-dates it. Even in the hands of its inventor, this machine was slower than handwriting. Burt and his promoter John D. Sheldon never found a buyer for the patent, so the invention was never commercially produced. Because the typographer used a dial, rather than keys, to select each character, it was called an "index typewriter" rather than a "keyboard typewriter." Index typewriters of that era resemble the squeeze-style embosser from the 1970s more than they resemble the modern keyboard typewriter.
By the mid-19th century, the increasing pace of business communication had created a need for mechanization of the writing process. and could take down information at rates up to 130 words per minute, whereas a writer with a pen was limited to a maximum of 30 words per minute (the 1853 speed record). ξ1
From 1829 to 1870, many printing or typing machines were patented by inventors in Europe and America, but none went into commercial production.
Charles Thurber developed multiple patents, of which his first in 1843 was developed as an aid to the blind, such as the 1845 Chirographer. In 1855, the Italian Giuseppe Ravizza created a prototype typewriter called Cembalo scrivano o macchina da scrivere a tasti ("Scribe harpsichord, or machine for writing with keys"). It was an advanced machine that let the user see the writing as it was typed. In 1861, Father Francisco João de Azevedo, a Brazilian priest, made his own typewriter with basic materials and tools, such as wood and knives. In that same year the Brazilian emperor D. Pedro II, presented a gold medal to Father Azevedo for this invention. Many Brazilian people as well as the Brazilian federal government recognize Fr. Azevedo as the real inventor of the typewriter, a claim that has been the subject of some controversy. In 1865, John Pratt, of Centre, Alabama, built a machine called the Pterotype which appeared in an 1867 Scientific American article and inspired other inventors. Between 1864 and 1867 , a carpenter from South Tyrol (former part of Austria) developed several models and a fully functioning prototype typewriter in 1867.
Malling-Hansen developed his typewriter further through the 1870s and 1880s and made many improvements, but the writing head remained the same. On the first model of the writing ball from 1870, the paper was attached to a cylinder inside a wooden box. In 1874, the cylinder was replaced by a carriage, moving beneath the writing head. Then, in 1875, the well-known "tall model" was patented, which was the first of the writing balls that worked without electricity. Malling-Hansen attended the world exhibitions in Vienna in 1873 and Paris in 1878 and he received the first-prize for his invention at both exhibitions.
Some ribbons were inked in black and red stripes, each being half the width and the entire length of the ribbon. A lever on most machines allowed switching between colors, which was useful for bookkeeping entries where negative amounts had to be in red.
However, because the shift key required more force to push (its mechanism was moving a much larger mass than other keys), and was operated by the "pinky" finger (normally the weakest finger on the hand), it was difficult to hold the shift down for more than two or three consecutive strokes. The "shift lock" key (the precursor to the modern caps lock) allowed the shift operation to be maintained indefinitely.
In a conventional typewriter the type bars are decelerated at the end of their travel simply by impacting upon the ribbon and paper. So-called "noiseless" typewriters have a complex lever mechanism that decelerates the typebar mechanically and then presses it against the ribbon and paper in an attempt to render the process less noisy. It was not particularly successful; it certainly reduced the high-frequency content of the sound, rendering it more of a "clunk" than a "clack" and arguably less intrusive, but the grandiose claims of the advertising — such as "A machine that can be operated a few feet away from your desk — And not be heard" — were entirely without foundation.
James Fields Smathers of Kansas City invented what is considered the first practical power-operated typewriter in 1914. In 1920, after returning from Army service, he produced a successful model and in 1923 turned it over to the Northeast Electric Company of Rochester for development. Northeast was interested in finding new markets for their electric motors and developed Smathers's design so that it could be marketed to typewriter manufacturers, and from 1925 Remington Electric typewriters were produced powered by Northeast's motors.
After some 2,500 electric typewriters had been produced, Northeast asked Remington for a firm contract for the next batch. However, Remington was engaged in merger talks which would eventually result in the creation of Remington Rand and no executives were willing to commit to a firm order. Northeast instead decided to enter the typewriter business for itself, and in 1929 produced the first Electromatic Typewriter.
In 1928, Delco, a division of General Motors, purchased Northeast Electric, and the typewriter business was spun off as the Electromatic Typewriters, Inc. In 1933, Electromatic was acquired by IBM, which then spent $1 million on a redesign of the Electromatic Typewriter, launching the IBM Electric Typewriter Model 01 in 1935. By 1958 IBM was deriving 8% of its revenue from the sale of electric typewriters.
In 1931, an electric typewriter was introduced by Varityper Corporation. It was called the Varityper, because a narrow cylinder like wheel could be replaced to change the font.
Electrical typewriter designs removed the direct mechanical connection between the keys and the element that struck the paper. Not to be confused with later electronic typewriters, electric typewriters contained only a single electrical component: the motor. Where the keystroke had previously moved a typebar directly, now it engaged mechanical linkages that directed mechanical power from the motor into the typebar.
In 1941, IBM announced the Electromatic Model 04 electric typewriter, featuring the revolutionary concept of proportional spacing. By assigning varied rather than uniform spacing to different sized characters, the Type 4 recreated the appearance of a printed page, an effect that was further enhanced by a typewriter ribbon innovation that produced clearer, sharper words on the page. The proportional spacing feature became a staple of the .
Due to the physical similarity, the typeball was sometimes referred to as a "golfball". The typeball design had many advantages, especially the elimination of "jams" (when more than one key was struck at once and the typebars became entangled) and in the ability to change the typeball, allowing multiple fonts to be used in a single document.
The IBM Selectric became a commercial success, dominating the office typewriter market for at least two decades. IBM also gained an advantage by marketing more heavily to schools than did Remington, with the idea that students who learned to type on a Selectric would later choose IBM typewriters over the competition in the workplace as businesses replaced their old manual models. By the 1970s, IBM had succeeded in establishing the Selectric as the de facto standard typewriter in mid- to high-end office environments, replacing the raucous "clack" of older typebar machines with the quieter sound of gyrating typeballs.
Later models of IBM Executives and Selectrics replaced inked fabric ribbons with "carbon film" ribbons that had a dry black or colored powder on a clear plastic tape. These could be used only once, but later models used a cartridge that was simple to replace. A side effect of this technology was that the text typed on the machine could be easily read from the used ribbon, raising issues where the machines were used for preparing classified documents (ribbons had to be accounted for to ensure that typists did not carry them from the facility). ξ3
A variation known as "Correcting Selectrics" introduced a correction feature, where a sticky tape in front of the carbon film ribbon could remove the black-powdered image of a typed character, eliminating the need for little bottles of white dab-on correction fluid and for hard erasers that could tear the paper. These machines also introduced selectable "pitch" so that the typewriter could be switched between pica type (10 characters per inch) and elite type (12 per inch), even within one document. Even so, all Selectrics were monospaced—each character and letterspace was allotted the same width on the page, from a capital "W" to a period. Although IBM had produced a successful typebar-based machine with five levels of proportional spacing, called the IBM Executive, ξ4 proportional spacing was not provided with the Selectric typewriter or its successors the Selectric II and Selectric III.
The only fully electromechanical Selectric Typewriter with fully proportional spacing and which used a Selectric type element was the expensive Selectric Composer, which was capable of right-margin justification and was considered a typesetting machine rather than a typewriter.
In addition to its electronic successors, the Magnetic Tape Selectric Composer (MT/SC), the Mag Card Selectric Composer, and the Electronic Selectric Composer, IBM also made electronic typewriters with proportional spacing using the Selectric element that were considered typewriters or word processors instead of typesetting machines.
The first of these was the relatively obscure Mag Card Executive, which used 88-character elements. Later, some of the same typestyles used for it were used on the 96-character elements used on the IBM Electronic Typewriter 50 and the later models 65 and 85.
By 1970, as offset printing began to replace letterpress printing, the Composer would be adapted as the output unit for a typesetting system. The system included a computer-driven input station to capture the key strokes on magnetic tape and insert the operator's format commands, and a Composer unit to read the tape and produce the formatted text for photo reproduction.
Selectric mechanisms were widely incorporated into computer terminals in the 1960s and 1970s, as they possessed obvious advantages:
The IBM 2741 terminal was a popular example of a Selectric-based computer terminal, and similar mechanisms were employed as the console devices for many IBM System/360 computers. These mechanisms used "ruggedized" designs compared to those in standard office typewriters.
IBM produced a series of typewriters called Thermotronic with letter-quality output and correcting tape along with printers tagged Quietwriter. Brother extended the life of their typewriter product line with similar products. The development of these proprietary printing engines provided the vendors with exclusive markets in consumable ribbons and the ability to use standardized printing engines with varying degrees of electronic and software sophistication to develop product lines. Although these changes reduced prices—and greatly increased the convenience—of typewriters, the technological disruption posed by left these improvements with only a short-term low-end market. To extend the life of these products, many examples were provided with communication ports to connect them to computers as printers.