Saturday, June 23, 2007

Why Writers and Women are Indebted to Christopher Latham Sholes

On this date in 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes was, along with two other men, granted a patent for a machine that he called a type-writer. According to many sources, Sholes didn't have the funds to properly develop his invention, so he ended up selling the patent to the Remington Arms Company.

One of the first problems Remington faced was that the letters on the keyboard were alphabetical, and therefore some of the most commonly-used letters would jam when the type bars came up in quick succession. Sholes addressed this problem by inventing what we now know as the QWERTY keyboard, which re-arranged the alphabet so that none of the commonly-used letters would be tapped in quick succession. People were trained in the QWERTY method, and now almost every keyboard in the world has the same basic structure.

Why are women indebted to Sholes? Because men still clung to the more "elegant" pastime of handwriting, it was women who were often sent to the training sessions to learn the use of the unwieldy typewriters; this gave women a valuable spot in the workplace which they had not been allowed before.

Sholes was born in Milwaukee, which is why that Wisconsin town claims it is the "birthplace of the typewriter."

To read more about Sholes, click here or here.

4 comments:

Lill said...

Boy, talk about the lattice of coincidence... My brother and I were talking, last night, about our experiences with typewriters and how wonderful we thought our first electronic typewriters were. Then we got computers and never looked back. But before that, when we went from writing everything to typing it on our first manual typewriters, we thought that it couldn't get any better. Remember whiteout? Now I know who to thank for typewriters.

Shine On,
Lill

Lill

Julia Buckley said...

The lattice continues, Lill!

And I refer you to an older blog I wrote: http://juliabuckley.blogspot.com/2006/11/another-nostalgic-indulgence-manual.html

I think you'll enjoy it. :)

Lill said...

Argh! Manual typewriters and typing class in high school. Don't take me back there. For some reason, I couldn't master touch typing in high school and was transferred to cooking class two months into the class. I kept getting the doodads that hold the letters stuck together and bending them when I tried to untangle them. It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I bought a used typing manual and taught myself in two weeks. I guess I was an unschooler even then. I was on a learning kick then and also got through Algebra I, which I'd almost flunked in school.I've been working on quantum physics for a decade now and it's getting clearer. Late bloomer, I guess.
Shine On,
Lill

Julia Buckley said...

Learning is forever. But quantum physics? I don't have the gray cells for that. :)