The end of the typewriter era
Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Godrej, the last manufacturer of typewriters anywhere in the world, has just 500 machines left for sale. Once these are gone the age of the typewriter will have been consigned to history - but its legacy lives on.

During its golden age in the 1990s, the Indian company Godrej used to produce 50,000 machines every year, but due to competition from computers, which started to dominate in India from early 2000, it stopped production in 2009. The Godrej typewriter plant at Shirwal, in Pune, was converted into a refrigerator manufacturing unit. However, the evolution of its typewriters over a period of almost 60 years is preserved in the company’s archives at Vikhroli in Mumbai.

India was relatively late to start manufacturing typewriters bit it was an important breakthrough for the newly independent nation. When the company started its operations in the 1950s, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru mentioned typewriters as a symbol of independent and industrialised India.

The typewriter has had a fairly long innings as an invaluable item of office equipment. Although machines similar to the typewriter had been invented as early as 1714, when Henry Mill obtained a patent in Britain for such a machine, it was the 1870s before the first commercial model started to be manufactured.

According to Wikpedia, this pioneering typewriter was invented in 1867 by C. Latham Sholes, Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The working prototype was made by the machinist Matthias Schwalbach and the patent (US 79,265) was sold for $12,000 to Densmore and Yost, who made an agreement with E. Remington and Sons (already famous as a manufacturer of sewing machines) to sell the machine as the Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer. This was the origin of the term typewriter and Remington began production on March 1, 1873, in Ilion, New York. Remington Rand went on to become one of the major typewriter manufacturers in the world joined by other companies such as Olivetti, Smith-Corona, Adler-Royal, Olympia, Nakajima and Godrej.

The Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer had a QWERTY keyboard layout, which because of the machine's success, was adopted not only by other typewriter companies but later by computer keyboard manufacturers. It is a legacy that users either love or hate - there really is no way of being indifferent to this layout which no longer has the imperative for which it was invented. The motivation for the adoption of this confusing and unintuitive arrangement was to stop keys clashing together on the circular layout of the rods or "typebars". Sholes deliberately separated letters that commonly occurred in pairs, such as t and h. Later innovations for the typewriter that are common to today's keyboards are the Shift key and the Caps Lock - and again they can be a source of frustration.

 

 

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Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 April 2011 )
 
 

   
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