The good ole typewriter may seem archaic now, but imagine how it felt to write out War and Peace or the King James Bible by hand. While various typing machines had been in the works since the 1700s — and Gutenberg invented the printing press back in the 1400s — it wasn’t until the late 1800s that printing was essentially brought to the masses through the typewriter.
Its invention is attributed to several people — Americans Latham Sholes, Frank Haven Hall, Carlos Glidden, and Samuel W. Soule. The company that brought it to market is the Remington Standard Typewriter Company (the same company behind Remington guns).
Early versions of it forced people to type ‘blind’, with the paper tucked into the machine so that you couldn’t read what you’d typed until you were finished.
It eventually was improved, and in the early 1900s, electrified models began to appear.
A century later, we can see countless examples of how the typewriter changed the way we work — and became a fixture in popular culture.
Ode to the Typewriter This fun little montage zips through some great movie (and cartoon) clips showing typewriters in action. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wG-6GOalIfY (3 min, 15 sec)
California Typewriter Did you know Tom Hanks loves typewriters? He actually wrote a book about them — called Uncommon Type — and he’s one of the celebrities featured in this documentary about a business called California Typewriter that fixes typewriters (Serving California since 1949). This is the trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l53MPBjCDpY (1 min, 27 sec)
The Typewriter concerto Yes, an actual concerto with a full symphony — and a typewriter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jinGW7ZDGPM (4 min, 23 sec)
Jagged Edge: the typewriter scene If you’ve seen Jagged Edge, you know this scene. Consider yourself spoiler-alerted if you haven’t seen it. I apologize in advance for this version of the movie — dubbed in (rather squeaky) Italian. Luckily, the scene in question has no dialogue. A quick set-up: Glenn Close is an ambitious attorney in San Francisco defending newspaper tycoon Jeff Bridges in the brutal murder of his wife. Over the course of the trial, Close falls in love with Bridges, and eventually gets him acquitted. It’s now the morning after the verdict, and while an elated Bridges is at home outside tending to his horses, Close is inside tending to last night’s bed sheets. She ventures into the linen closet looking for fresh ones, when she finds, tucked at the back of a shelf, a vintage Smith Corona. Which is interesting, because during the trial, she received typed notes from the killer — notes in which every ‘t’ was slightly raised. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JumTiVsy_ao (Fast-forward to 1:18:50)