Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Computer/typewriter hybrids

It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Home computer.

It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Word Processor.
Towards the end of the commercial popularity of typewriters in the 1980s, a number of hybrid designs combining features of computer printers and typewriters were introduced.
These typically incorporated keyboards from existing models of typewriters and the printing mechanism of dot-matrix printers. The generation of teletypes with impact pin-based printing engines was not adequate for the demanding quality required for typed output. Newly developed, thermal transfer technologies used in thermal label printers had become technically feasible for 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. DEC meanwhile had the DECwriter.
The development of these proprietary printing engines provided the vendors with exclusive markets in consumable ribbons and the possibility to use standardised printing engines with varying degrees of electronic and software sophistication to develop product lines.
The increasing dominance of personal computers, the introduction of low-cost, truly high-quality, laser and inkjet printer technologies, and the pervasive use of web publishing, email and other electronic communication techniques have largely replaced typewriters.

Keyboard lay -

In 1874 Sholes & Glidden typewriters established the "QWERTY" layout for the letter keys. During the period in which Sholes and his colleagues were experimenting with this invention, other keyboard arrangements were apparently tried, but these are poorly documented. The near-alphabetical sequence on the "home row" of the QWERTY layout (a-s-d-f-g-h-j-k-l) demonstrates that a straightforward alphabetical arrangement was the original starting point. The QWERTY layout of keys has become the de facto standard for English-language typewriter and computer keyboards. Other languages written in the Latin alphabet sometimes use variants of the QWERTY layouts, such as the French AZERTY, the Italian QZERTY, and the German QWERTZ layouts.
The QWERTY layout is not the most efficient layout possible, since it requires a touch-typist to move his or her fingers between rows to type the most common letters. A popular story suggests that it was designed and used for early typewriters exactly because it was so inefficient; it slowed a typist down so as to reduce the frequency of the typewriter's typebars wedging together and jamming the machine. Another story is that the QWERTY layout allowed early typewriter salesmen to impress their customers by being able to easily type out the example word "typewriter" without having learnt the full keyboard layout, because "typewriter" can be spelled purely on the top row of the keyboard. The most likely explanation is that the QWERTY arrangement was designed to reduce the likelihood of internal clashing by placing commonly used combinations of letters farther from each other inside the machine. This allowed the user to type faster without jamming. Unfortunately, no definitive explanation for the QWERTY keyboard has been found, and typewriter aficionados continue to debate the issue.
A number of radically different layouts such as Dvorak have been proposed to reduce the perceived inefficiencies of QWERTY, but none have been able to displace the QWERTY layout; their proponents claim considerable advantages, but so far none has been widely used.

The Blickensderfer typewriter with its DHIATENSOR layout may have possibly been the first attempt at optimizing the keyboard layout for efficiency advantages.
Many old typewriters do not contain a separate key for the numeral 1 or the exclamation point, and some even older ones also lack the numeral zero. Typists who learned on these machines learned the habit of using the lowercase letter l for the digit 1, and the uppercase O for the zero. The exclamation point was a three-stroke combination of an apostrophe, a backspace, and a period. These characters were omitted to simplify design and reduce manufacturing and maintenance costs; they were chosen specifically because they were "redundant" and could be recreated using other keys. On modern keyboards, the exclamation point is the shifted character on the 1 key, a direct result of the heritage that these were the last characters to become "standard" on keyboards.
Many non-Latin alphabets have keyboard layouts that have nothing to do with QWERTY. The Russian layout, for instance, puts the common trigrams ыва, про, and ить on adjacent keys so that they can be typed by rolling the fingers. The Greek layout, on the other hand, is a variant of QWERTY.

Computer jargon
Several words of the 'typewriter age' have survived into the personal computer era. Examples include:
carbon copy – now in its abbreviated form "CC" designating copies of email messages (with no carbon paper involved, at least not until potential printouts);
cursor – a marker used to indicate where the next character will be printed
carriage return (CR) – indicating an end of line and return to the first column of text (and on some computer platforms, advancing to the next line)
line feed (LF), aka 'newline' – standing for moving the cursor to the next on-screen line of text in a word processor document (and on the eventual printout(s) of the document).
backspace – a keystroke that moved the cursor backwards one position (on a physical platen, this is the exact opposite of the space key), for the purpose of overtyping a character. This could be for combining characters (e.g. an apostrophe, backspace, and period make an exclamation point), or for correction such as with the correcting tape that developed later.
cut and paste – taking text, a table, or an image and pasting it into a document; originally used when such compound documents were created using manual paste up techniques.
tty, short for teletypewriter, is used in Unix-like operating systems to designate a given "terminal".
Shift – Today being a simple function key to make uppercase letters, different symbols, and whatnot, but in the age of typewriters it meant literally shifting the print carriage to allow a different stamp (such as a D instead of a d) to press into the ribbon and print on a page.

Effect on culture

When Remington first started marketing typewriters, the company assumed the machine would not be used for composing but for transcribing dictation, and that the person typing would be a woman. Flowers were printed on the casing of early models to make the machine seem more comfortable for women to use. In the United States, women often started in the professional workforce as typists; in fact, according to the 1910 U.S. census, 81 percent of typists were female. With more women brought out of the home and into offices, there was some concern about the effects this would have on the morals of society. The "typewriter girl" became part of the iconography of early-twentieth-century typography. The "Tijuana bibles" — dirty comic books produced in Mexico for the American market, starting in the 1930s — often featured women typists. In one panel, a businessman in a three-piece suit, ogling his secretary’s thigh, says, "Miss Higby, are you ready for—ahem!—er—dictation?"
The famous quote by Marcus Glenn, "Live by the typewriter, die by the typewriter!" also dates from this period.

Correction methods

According to the standards taught in secretarial schools in the mid-1900s, a business letter was supposed to have no mistakes and no visible corrections. Accuracy was prized as much as speed. Indeed, typing speeds, as scored in proficiency tests and typewriting speed competitions, included a deduction of ten words for every mistake. Corrections were, of course, necessary, and several methods were used.
The traditional method involved the use of a special typewriter eraser made of hard rubber that contained an abrasive material. It was in the shape of a thin, flat, disk, approximately 2 in (50 mm) in diameter by 1/8 in (3 mm) thick, allowing for erasure of individual typed letters. Business letters were typed on heavyweight, high-rag-content bond paper, not merely to provide a luxurious appearance, but also to stand up to erasure. Typewriter erasers were often equipped with a brush for clearing eraser crumbs and paper dust, and using the brush properly was an important element of typewriting skill (if erasure detritus fell into the typewriter, a small buildup could cause the typebars to jam in their narrow supporting grooves).
Erasing a set of carbon copies was particularly difficult, and called for the use of a device called an eraser shield to prevent the pressure of erasure on the upper copies from producing carbon smudges on the lower copies.
Paper companies produced a special form of typewriter paper called erasable bond (for example, Eaton's Corrasable Bond). This incorporated a thin layer of material that prevented ink from penetrating and was relatively soft and easy to remove from the page. An ordinary soft pencil eraser could quickly produce perfect erasures on this kind of paper. However, the same characteristics that made the paper erasable made the characters subject to smudging due to ordinary friction and deliberate alteration after the fact, making it unacceptable for business correspondence, contracts, or any archival use.
In the 1950s and 1960s, correction fluid made its appearance, under brand names such as Liquid Paper, Wite-Out and Tipp-Ex. This was a kind of opaque, white, fast-drying paint that produced a fresh white surface onto which a correction could be retyped. However, when held to the light, the covered-up characters were visible, as was the patch of dry correction fluid (which was never perfectly flat, and never a perfect match for the color, texture, and luster of the surrounding paper). The standard trick for solving this problem was photocopying the corrected page, but this was possible only with high quality photocopiers.
Dry correction products (such as correction paper) under brand names such as "Ko-Rec-Type" were introduced in the 1970s and functioned like white carbon paper. A strip of the product was placed over the letters needing correction, and the incorrect letters were retyped, causing the black character to be overstruck with a white overcoat. Similar material was soon incorporated in carbon-film electric typewriter ribbons; like the traditional two-color black-and-red inked ribbon common on manual typewriters, a black/white correcting ribbon became commonplace on electric typewriters.
The pinnacle of this kind of technology was the IBM Electronic Typewriter series. These machines, and similar products from other manufacturers, used a separate correction ribbon and a character memory. With a single keystroke, the typewriter was capable of automatically reversing and overstriking the previous characters with minimal marring of the paper. White cover-up or plastic lift-off correction ribbons are used with fabric ink or carbon film typing ribbons, respectively.

Typing speed records and speed contests
During the 1920s through 1940s, typing speed was an important secretarial qualification and typing contests were popular and often publicized by typewriter companies as promotional tools.
As of 2005, Barbara Blackburn was the fastest English language typist in the world, according to The Guinness Book of World Records. Using the Dvorak Simplified Keyboard, she has maintained 150 words per minute (wpm) for 50 minutes, and 170 wpm for shorter periods. She has been clocked at a peak speed of 212 wpm. Blackburn, who failed her typing class in high school, first encountered the Dvorak keyboard in 1938, quickly learned to achieve very high speeds, and occasionally toured giving speed-typing demonstrations during her secretarial career. She appeared on The David Letterman Show and was deeply offended by Letterman's comedic treatment of her skill. Blackburn died in April 2008.

Authors and writers who had unusual relationships with typewriters
Early adopters
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche used a typewriter in an attempt to stem his migraine headaches and his incipient blindness. Mark Twain was the first important writer to present a publisher with a typewritten manuscript (for Life on the Mississippi). Henry James dictated to a typist.

E.E. Cummings may have been the first poet to deliberately create poetic high jinks with a typewriter. His grasshopper poem is perhaps the most famous example.
William S. Burroughs wrote in some of his novels — and possibly believed — that "a machine he called the 'Soft Typewriter' was writing our lives, and our books, into existence," according to a book review in The New Yorker. And, in the film adaptation of his novel, "Naked Lunch," his typewriter is a living, insect-like entity (voiced by Burroughs himself) and actually dictates the book to him.
Ernest Hemingway used to write his books standing up in front of a Royal typewriter suitably placed on a tall bookshelf. This typewriter, still on its bookshelf, is kept in Finca Vigia, Hemingway's Havana house (now a museum) where he lived until 1960--the year before his death.
Jack Kerouac, a fast typist at 100 words per minute, typed On the Road on a roll of paper so he wouldn't be interrupted by having to change the paper, pushing him back into the world’s inauthenticity. Within two weeks of starting to write On the Road, Kerouac had a single, single-spaced paragraph, 120 feet long. Some scholars say the scroll was shelf paper; others contend it was a Thermo-fax roll; another theory is that the roll consisted of sheets of architect’s paper taped together. Another fast typist of the Beat period was Richard Brautigan, who said that he thought out the plots of his books in detail beforehand, then typed them out at speeds approaching 90 to 100 words a minute.
Tom Robbins waxes philosophical about the Remington SL3, a typewriter that he bought to write Still Life with Woodpecker, and eventually does away with it because it is too complicated and inhuman of a machine for the writing of poetry.
After completing the novel Beautiful Losers, Leonard Cohen is said to have flung his typewriter into the Aegean Sea.

Late users
Andy Rooney and William F. Buckley Jr. were among many writers who were very reluctant to switch from typewriters to computers. David Sedaris used a typewriter to write his essay collections through Me Talk Pretty One Day at least.

Typewriters in popular culture
In music
The composer Leroy Anderson wrote a short piece of music for orchestra and typewriter, which has since been used as the theme for numerous radio programs.
The Pulitzer Prize–winning musical comedy How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying (music and lyrics by Frank Loesser) is a satire set in the world of big business and features typewriter sound effects in the song "A Secretary Is Not A Toy."
The Winnipeg band Poor Tree incorporates typewriters into its music. Two to three members would type a poem while reading them at the same time, interlocking the lines, words and sounds.
The Dolly Parton song "9 to 5" features typewriter noises as percussion.
The Tom Tom Club used the clacking keys of a typewriter to open its 1981 single Wordy Rappinghood.
On the album "Taking Tiger Mountain By Strategy," Brian Eno takes a typewriter solo in the song "China My China."
Multi-instrumentalist and composer Yann Tiersen has used the typewriter as a percussion instrument in a number of his compositions, notably "Pas si simple" on his 1996 album Rue des Cascades.

In film
Typewriters in songs and ambient typewriter sounds are present throughout the 1985 movie Brazil.
Typewriters are foundational in the soundtrack for the 2007 film Atonement.
In the 1982 movie Tron, when the Master Control Program's defenses are destroyed, he reverts to his core form of an old man. The sound of typewriters is heard, associating him with obsolete technology.

Forensic identification
Because of the tolerances of the mechanical parts, slight variation in the alignment of the letters and their uneven wear, each typewriter has its individual "signature" or "fingerprint," allowing a typewritten document to be tracked back to the typewriter it was produced on. In the Eastern Bloc, typewriters (together with printing presses, copy machines, and later computer printers) were a controlled technology, with secret police in charge of maintaining files of the typewriters and their owners. (In the Soviet Union, the organization in charge of typewriters was the First Department of the KGB.) This posed a significant risk for dissidents and samizdat authors. This method of identification was also used in the trial of Alger Hiss. This was also a significant plot point in the Academy Award winning film The Lives of Others.
Leopold and Loeb were firmly identified with kidnapping after a typewriter they used to type up a ransom note was traced back to a typewriter they owned.
Black/white computer printers have their "fingerprints" as well, but to a lesser degree. Modern color printers and photocopiers typically add printer identification encoding—a steganographic pattern of minuscule yellow dots, encoding the printer's serial number—to the printout.
Other forensic identification method can involve analysis of the ribbon ink.

No comments: