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Monday, September 20, 2021

Day 39

I spent some time today using my portable Remington typewriter, which I find to be a much more enjoyable method of typing than a computer. It’s a sensual experience (with the tune of the keys, the sound of the bell and the physical movement of the carriage) that removes all distractions - no web browsers, no messages popping up, no sudden desire to check on something only to find yourself reading three further articles and heading down yet another rabbit hole - and in my opinion allows you to connect with the content, helped by the continuous attention required to mentally formalise what is being written before placing it on paper (just like good old ink and paper). Interestingly, the earliest typewriter keyboard is said to have resembled a piano with an alphabetical arrangement of 28 keys. Not surprisingly this didn’t allow for ease of use, leading to the development of the QWERTY keyboard as we know it. I had always believed this was designed to ensure that the type bars didn’t jam. However, a study conducted by Koichi Yasuoka and Motoko Yasuoka, Kyoto University, in 2011 disproved the theory that the mechanics of the typewriter influenced the design of the keyboard. Rather, the QWERTY keyboard evolved over several years using the recommendations given by the first typists, telegraph operators, who were quickly transcribing messages from Morse code to full sentences. An example details: “[morse] code represents Z as ‘· · · ·’ which is often confused with the digram SE, more frequently-used than Z. Sometimes Morse receivers in [the] United States cannot determine whether Z or SE is applicable, especially in the first letter(s) of a word, before they receive [the] following letters. Thus S ought to be placed near by both Z and E on the keyboard for Morse receivers to type them quickly”. When the five largest typewriter manufactures - Remington, Caligraph, Yost, Densmore, and Smith-Premier - merged to form the Union Typewriter Company in 1893, the QWERTY keyboard was officially agreed on and adopted as the standard keyboard format.

📸: Typewriter on desk. 2021. Gift of J. Guppy.