From the Wild West to the invention of the computer, the typewriter has left its mark in modern history

It’s a little mechanical rumble that shook the twentieth century. That’s from typing on typewriter keyboards. From the American Wild West to women’s liberation, through the two world wars or the birth of computers, the typewriter has been involved in all battles and in all stories, big and small. It is now seeing a certain return to enthusiasts despite the overwhelming dominance of computers. Or maybe because of that specifically. Naturally for her, we thought of creating our first batch of NFT membership cards for 20 minutes.

Jacques Perrier – Francois Graf Straits Agency

“I like this phrase from Bismarck: If we don’t know where we come from, we don’t know where we’re going,” admits Jacques Perrier. Many young people who come to repair their machines in my workshop tell me about this need to connect with their origins. » A specialized typewriter for forty years in Lausanne, he took over his father’s business and is one of the last typewriters employed in Europe.

Merchants of War and Peace Machines

In his small associative museum, “without any backing” specifying, there are more than a thousand models. “The first typewriter to be marketed was the famous Remington typewriter, which came out in 1874.” Its inventor, journalist and publisher Christopher Latham Schulze has already collaborated with the arms factory to mass-produce his invention. A unique opportunity for an industrialist when the Civil War just ended. “Actually, it is difficult to determine who was the inventor of the typewriter, because there are dozens of patents and many inventors, including the Englishman Henry Mill from 1714,” recounts Jacques Perrier.

In any case, we owe Mr. Schulze and his device the QWERTY keyboard, which is still used on English-speaking keyboards and which is the French version of AZERTY invented at the end of the 19th century. “His goal was to slow down the writing and prevent frequently linked letters from seeing the hammers intersect,” the mechanic explains. Because on a typewriter, keystrokes mechanically drive tiny metal rods at the end of which letters are attached, which strike the ink strip, leaving behind a footprint on the paper. Among these keys, we also surprisingly discovered the “@” symbol, which was used in the 19th century for accounting.

radial strike or grasshopper

Despite the fragile and capricious mechanisms, the typewriter has enjoyed commercial success since its launch. “We can thank Mark Twain, who was perhaps the first journalist and author to use Remington that he made on all his travels,” says Jacques Perrier. Many companies are embarking on the design and marketing of increasingly ingenious typewriters, with index, barrel, radial strokes or even “locust” mechanics.

But it is Underwood 1, in 1895, that will finally allow the author to see what he is writing and determine the standard of form as we know it. Inspiring its competitors such as Oliver, Hammond and Mignon or later Hermes in Switzerland and Japy in France.

Writer and feminist

Jacques Perrier asserts that the greatest revolution in the typewriter is probably a social revolution, because it allowed women access to the labor market. Indeed, handwriting scribes are rapidly being replaced by high-throughput printing machines. Manufacturers even go so far as to organize speed contests among these young women to gain publicity. In the movie pluralWith Romain Doris and Deborah Francois, who I was a consultant to, Rose exclaims, “Being a writer is an adventure, a journey!” And for women in the post-war period, this was already the case and the opportunity for social ascent outside the factory or the fields,” emphasizes Jacques Perrier.

Throughout the twentieth century, the mechanics of typewriters were to be improved, in particular, with the arrival of the electric motor in 1914, which made it possible to avoid the physical and repetitive gestures of returning carriage by pressing a simple key. Lighten, as with the legendary Hermes baby bestowed by Kerouac or Hemingway. And to be even more flexible, with IBM’s Selectric ball machine, which allows you to change typefaces and was produced in more than 13 million copies from 1961 to 1986. Surprisingly all models are silent or offer more practical keyboards than the Qwerty or Azerty standards fail commercial. Blame it on old habits!

mexican tape

The decline of the typewriter did not finally begin until after the democratization of computers in the 1980s. Steve Wozniak had the idea for his first Mac by seeing his machine crowned in front of his TV. We know the rest of the story…

However, in the 21st century, the typewriter did not say its last word. “Fortunately, the 13mm tape made in Mexico is still available. The same standard since World War I. I receive orders for parts from Japan to the United States,” notes Jacques Perrier. Buyers profile? “There is everything. From 7 to 77 years old. From the little kid who wants to fix a broken machine to his grandmother who wants to rediscover the joy of writing.”

slow typing back

Because if computers allow us to access global knowledge and communicate in real time, some resistant people still prefer slowness and the fun of disconnecting. If he could not name his clients, then the computer printer claims to have among them many famous French authors. Even after he repaired Johnny Depp’s machine during his visit to Switzerland two years ago!

“When you write, you first have to think about what you want to say. There’s no copying, pasting, undoing, or notifications to distract you. It’s mental gymnastics that I compare to shooting movies. Take 50 photos with your phone and sort them afterward, it’s a process. And the enthusiast concludes knowing how to adjust the aperture.” And the shutter speed to take a perfect picture the first time is the best.” As for writing that press article all at once on a typewriter, you won’t really be able to manage it. Evidence may be that in addition to fine antiques, there is a certain way of thinking that it is a matter of preservation.

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