typewriter, instrument for producing by manual operation characters similar to those of printing. Corresponding to each key on the instrument's keyboard is a steel type. Activated through a series of levers or an electronic impulse when its key is pressed, the type strikes the paper in the machine through an inked ribbon; the carriage holding the paper then automatically moves, providing space for the next character. The first recorded patent for a typewriter was taken out in England by Henry Mill in 1714. In the United States the typographer of William Austin Burt, patented in 1829, was the first practical writing machine. An improved French machine appeared in 1833. The early models were chiefly for the blind and produced embossed writing. A practical commercial machine invented in the United States in 1867 by Christopher Latham Sholes and his associates, Carlos Glidden and Samuel Soulé, was manufactured by Philo Remington and placed on the market in 1874. This early model had only capital letters. A shift-key model, permitting change of case, appeared in 1878. The electric typewriter, which allowed greater speed with less effort than a manual machine, came into use c.1935. The Selectric, introduced by International Business Machines (IBM) in 1961, replaced the usual type bars with a metal globe that moved across the surface of a stationary paper holder, replacing the moving carriage of the traditional typewriter; interchangeable globes provided a variety of typefaces and special symbols, allowing a single typewriter to be utilized for scientific writing, foreign languages, or other uses. The globe was later replaced by the daisy wheel, which spins the proper type into position. These innovations have allowed typewriters to become versatile printing instruments, capable of storing entire documents before printing, identifying and correcting errors as they arise, and connecting to computers. Nonetheless, the typewriter was almost completely superseded by personal computers using word-processing software and printers by the mid-1990s; the machines are still used for specialized printing functions. Other forms of typewriters included the stock ticker, which recorded its message on a narrow strip of paper, and the teletypewriter, which transmitted typing over an electric circuit such as the telephone or telegraph.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.