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Monday, November 27, 2023

History of Computer Keyboards

The story of the origin of the typewriter is obscure, as writing instruments have been invented before

The story of the origin of the typewriter(keyboard) is obscure. As writing instruments was invented before the keyboard. Many accounts the first writing instrument was invented around 1700 and patented by ‘Henry Mill’ of London in 1714. However, the first modern typewriter was invented by Christopher Latham in 1868. He also coined the term ‘typewriter’. In 1877, The Remington Company began marketing the first typewriter.

Evolution of the typewriter

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What was the first typewriter like? When we think about the typewriter, the image that pops up in our mind is not the same in reality. The Remington Company manufactured sewing machines, thus tracing the similarities between the sewing machine and the first typewriter. Typewriters made by Latham Sholes, Glidden and Soule also had paddles. Just as we had a long way to go before we arrived in today’s high tech computer and plastic era, so did the typewriter. 

A patent for Henry Mill’s typing machine was issued in 1714, but there is no evidence that the machine was built. Later in 1808, an Italian named Pellegrino Turi built another typing machine. His machine was designed for the blind. But with this machine came the innovation of carbon copy, which is still used in modern times. In 1829, William Austin Burt developed a machine called ‘Typowriter’ which used ‘dials’ instead of ‘keys’. It was also intended to be written for the blind. John Jones developed a new model of typowriter in 1852, but none of them met with much success.

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More models were made from 1829 to 1870 but were not considered for commercial production. However, two remarkable typewriters were produced: the homemade typewriter made of wood by the Brazilian João de Azevado in 1861, and the Hansen Writing Ball, produced in 1865. Brazilians claim to have invented the first typewriter, as Ezevador’s typewriter resembled later commercial typewriters.

Then in 1865, the writing ball made by Denmark’s Rajmus Meiling Hansen caused some response in Europe and England. This semi-circular typewriter was different from all others. Shortly after the invention of this writing ball, in 1867 Sholes (an inventor), Glidden (a mechanic) and Soule (a printer) came up with their ‘typewriter’, which revolutionized typing technology. Today’s QWERTY keyboard layout was created by Sholes. He patented it in 1878 with the help of his partner James Densmore. But this layout was far ahead of the technology of that time. The DVORAK layout was patented in 1936 (discussed ahead), but over time QWERTY gained popularity.

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Refinement of this typewriter model continued thereafter. The foot-operated pedal is removed, making it look more like the typewriter we know. By 1910, all typewriters were made on this same model. Then in 1961, IBM company’s ‘Selectric’ model brought a good change in the world of typewriters. Three models were released till 1980. The typewriter is a far cry from its era. However, its use can be seen in government offices. Much for the sake of tradition.

The rise of the computer keyboard

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By the 1950s and 1970s, when typewriters were in widespread use, computers were just beginning to prove their existence. World’s first digital computer ENIAC used punch cards for input-output. This is called teletype technology,  the teletype machine used to print the ‘key’. To input data. The card had to be punched particular keyhole the card reader and the data was obtained. In 1948, the BINAC computer used input-output in the electromagnetic teletype system. But it took us decades more to move away from punch cards. Meanwhile, the computer continues to increase its touch of modernity. The UNIVAC computer became popular at that time. It also used teletype technology.  

In 1964, Bell Labs and MIT jointly developed the MULTICS computer. Then everything changed. With this technology, typing was seen on the screen, making commanding, communicating and controlling computers easier and more affordable than ever before. From the 1970s all computers started using VDT and electric keyboards. All keyboards sold since 1970 were built from scratch, completely handmade with the man.

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In 1981, IBM unveiled their first PC. A Model M keyboard, was attached to this PC. This computer was a huge success. This is because it was easy to use. It was a mechanical, keyboard and was made of the highest quality of construction. As a result it was a satisfying feeling to use.

Membrane switches began to replace mechanical switches in the 1990s. Membrane switches were quieter and lighter, opening up new possibilities for use in laptops. Membrane keyboards also cost less to manufacture, which in turn lowered the price of keyboards. 

History of computer keyboards

Since then, keyboard designs have become more modern. Out comes all the weird keyboards. Various designs including mini keyboards, one-handed keyboards, mouse-keyboard combos. In 2014, Corsair launched the first RGB mechanical keyboard. RGB is everywhere in today’s computer world. Corsair adds a new dimension to keyboards.

DVORAK Keyboard

In 1932, Professor August Deverak wanted to create a keyboard that would be easier to use and time-saving than QWERTY. In its middle row were the 5 English vowels and the more commonly used consonants. Which are AOEUIDHTNS. This row is called home row. 70 percent of words use letters from this row. QWERTY’s home row is only 32 percent words. Another statistic shows that in an average eight-hour period, a typist’s hand travels about 16 miles on a QWERTY keyboard, compared to just 1 mile on a DVORAK. There are also two separate DVORAK keyboards for those who prefer to type with just one hand. One for left hand and one for right hand.

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Despite these advantages, it loses to QWERTY. Because people had already mastered the QWERTY layout, and typewriter companies weren’t interested in creating a new layout. A wise man’s craft is lost to habit and familiarity. Still some exceptional people use it. You can do it if you want. However, finding a DVORAK keyboard can be a bit of a hassle.

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