Wednesday, April 27, 2011


The last typewriter manufacturer in the world has ceased production, with 500 models in its inventory and no plans to produce additional machines. The manufacturer, Godrej Prima, is located in India--where, the Business Standard relates, early national leaders like Nehru once promoted typewriter manufacturing as a step toward an industrialized India.

While the concept of a typewriter dates to the early 1700s, the first working typewriter was created in 1808 by an Italian inventor. American inventor Christopher L. Sholes introduced a more "modern" machine with the first QWERTY keyboard in the 1870s. (See this site for images and additional background on the invention of typewriters.)

By the twentieth century, of course, typewriters were a fundamental component of business operations, as "pools" of predominantly female secretaries typed carbon copies of important documents and countless generations of academics and college students agonized over the particularities of aligning footnotes in an age before Word. As recently as my own college application days I was typing words into my admissions forms, and when I first came to UCLA in 2001 there was still a room housing a typewriter for similar purposes in the history department.

From symbol of modernity to obsolescence in 60 years... such is the story of technological progress in our fast-moving age. The legacy of typewriters lives on, from the QWERTY keyboard I type this upon to children's books (Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type, anyone?) and amusing YouTube monuments to a bygone age.

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